Books are Best

I love to read. I always have. I love to read biographies, historical fiction, fantasy, science fiction, and even the occasional nonfiction scholarly work. 

Many people, I have found, don't seem to read very much anymore, though. I find this kind of odd. It is part of my bedtime routine to read until I feel sleepy (which may take anywhere between 5 minutes and 2 hours--I usually cut it off after about 30 minutes though, so I can make sure I'm getting enough sleep). I have a couple of books that I keep next to my bed for the occasional night when I wake up at 2am and for whatever reason, can't seem to get back to sleep (it happens occasionally). Sometimes I have a nightmare that causes me to have trouble falling back to sleep and that's the perfect time to pull out a book of short stories or essays which then takes my mind off those disturbing thoughts and helps me to fall back to sleep quickly.

Science seems to back me up on this one. I read this article recently that talked about reading before bed as one of the best ways to relax--even better than some things one would think would be very effective like taking a walk, drinking a cup of tea, or listening to music. Don't get me wrong, all of those things tend to be relaxing but, reading was even more relaxing! I have to agree with the study cited from which the results were published (I tried to locate the original article but was unable to do so.)

The benefit of reading, though, is best when its the "old fashioned" variety--that means an actual book, not an e-book. Actual paper, not an e-reader. Actual light from an outside lightsource... you get the idea. Books! The old fashioned things we used to all read before the advent of tablets and smartphones! Full disclosure--I have a tablet from which I occasionally read at night but I tend to use it more during the day since its a lot lighter than lugging around a book. So I'm not telling you to trash your e-reader, rather just to pick up an actual book when it comes time to wind down and get to sleep. Otherwise, your sleep may be even more disrupted, as this article shows.

Thanks to our smartphones, tablets and computers, we seem to have forgotten about books. We get such entertainment from our devices that books are not the first thing we think about to "escape". This is unfortunate because of the wonderful stories and worlds that are just waiting, with an infinite battery life, to unfold for us. Also, using our devices has the effect of shortening our attention span. So, if you find that it is hard to maintain focus, try reading (a book) to help retrain your brain to focus! The only thing you need is a good recommendation of a book that will capture your interest and hold it until the end (and perhaps even beyond!)  

Part of the reason I love reading in bed before sleeping is because that is the time that the house is quiet, my day is through, I'm all comfortable and cozy and its just a nice way to enter into a different world for a few minutes--its unlike playing a video game where you're fully aware that you're not IN that world doing those things. Reading allows you to imagine the voices, the costumes, the scenery, everything much better than a movie or video game can ever do. It allows your own creativity to take hold and create the universe that the author is describing and make it your own.

So, if you are struggling with sleep and you've tried abdominal breathing, mindfulness, and journaling, try reading! You might remember that you really enjoy reading! Better yet, make it part of your own bedtime routine. Plan to go to bed 20 minutes earlier than you normally do and spend that time reading!