Why You Should Always Read Before Bed

Before you decide to scroll through your phone or binge-watch a show in bed tonight, read this.

It’s no secret that the pandemic has had a negative effect on our sleep, leading many Canadians to look for simple solutions—tea, melatonin, a new mattress and everything in between. The most effective fix, however, might also be the most useful. Enter: reading before bed.

In 2020, reading surged in popularity among Canadians, with 58 per cent of readers indulging in the activity as a direct result of the pandemic. But as it turns out, reading before bed is more than just another way to induce some much-needed shut-eye.

Find out what the experts have to say about this overlooked bedtime ritual.

Reading before bed reduces stress

Heightened senses due to stress make it difficult for us to fall asleep, says Jennifer Kwong, a psychological associate in Markham, Ont. who specializes in sleep and insomnia. With reading comes relaxation, which leads to slower breathing, lower blood pressure and a lower heart rate.

Researchers at the University of Sussex reported that reading for as little as six minutes before bed can decrease your stress by 68 per cent. “Relaxation removes your day-to-day pressures and distractions,” says Kwong. “It is telling your mind to quiet down and focus on whatever you are reading.”

Reading before bed helps you break up with your screen

Watching videos or browsing the Internet on your phone while in bed seem relatively harmless, but it may just be the culprit behind your inconsistent sleep patterns. Exposure to your phone’s blue light overpowers the body’s melatonin production—key to producing healthy sleep—and may also contribute to the causation of long-term health issues like depression, diabetes and heart disease.

If you absolutely must be entertained before bed, stick to one of the oldest mediums of all: paper books. Unlike with smartphones, reading print keeps you away from that pesky blue light and offers limited eye movements as you flow back and forth between words in black ink, resulting in lower brain activity—and a better, healthier sleep.

Reading before bed strengthens the brain

Just like other parts of your body, the human brain needs to work out to stay healthy—and reading before bed is truly one of the best ways to exercise the mind. One 2013 study found that people who read later in life have a 32 per cent lower rate of declining mental abilities. (Alzheimer’s disease is often linked to patients who have limited brain activity.)

Reading is also a way to muscle up your short-term memory. While reading a novel, for instance, you are forced to remember small details about each character and their plot lines. Every time another level is added to the story your brain creates new synapses—in other words, these new memories toughen up your existing ones.

Next, check out the best sleeping positions for a good night’s sleep.

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