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How reading can help you get a good night's sleep

Nicola Morgan, author of The Awesome Power of Sleep, explains how reading before bed can improve the quality and quantity of your sleep,
Age group: Adults

Last updated: 11 January 2021

The Awesome Power of Sleep(this will open in a new window) dives deep into the science, psychology and behaviour of sleep and offers lots of practical advice for everyone, including how reading can help you get a good night's sleep. Obviously, a book could bore you to sleep but reading and sleep are far more interestingly linked than that.

Escape the worry cycle

Probably the most common sleep-wrecker is worry or anxiety. Everything seems worse at night. The darkness becomes a worry-go-round, with every small anxiety from the day swelling and looming over us like monstrous shadows.

Diving into a book helps us escape that worry cycle and sets our thoughts on calmer tracks. Fiction and non-fiction are equally good for escapism: any book that engages the brain and doesn't leave space for the worry.

Calm down, the commercial is over

Another sleep-wrecker is excitement. I know I’ll sleep badly after giving an evening talk. I’m high with adrenalin, going over the things I said or didn’t say, the moments when someone asked a brilliant (or impossible) question. It’s the same after parties, too.

Just as with worry, a rattling good read can bring me down from that excited place and into the sleep zone.

Sleep and reading are deeply linked in your brain

Most people have a habit which began in their earliest years or months. The habit goes like this: get into bed, read or be read to, light off, sleep. I think my parents started bedtime stories when I was nine months old (they could have started in week one but I won’t hold it against them!) so I reckon I’ve had bed/story/dark/sleep 21,535 times. It’s not surprising that nowadays, as soon as I get into bed and open a book, my brain says, “Ah, book… zzzzz”.

Reading triggers your brain to sleep because it’s been doing it all your life.

You can read about sleep

Especially if you read The Awesome Power of Sleep(this will open in a new window)! I write for teenagers but this book is for everyone. Yes, it has some special bits about adolescence but sleep is sleep and lack of sleep feels the same for anyone. Except that teenagers get told off when they fall asleep at their desk, whereas adults are often treated with more sympathy.

Sleep benefits reading

Yes, you read that right. Sleep helps us read and process. A good night of sleep helps us concentrate more in the first place, so we’re more likely to take in what we read. But sleeping after we’ve read something also makes it more likely that we’ll remember it. Sleep benefits all aspects of learning, whether that’s what we read or physical skills we’re trying to perfect.

Why not read The Awesome Power of Sleep before going to sleep tonight. Reading will help you sleep and sleep will help you remember what you read. That’s what I call a double win! For more information visit nicolamorgan.com(this will open in a new window).