Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

The benefits of reading before bed

Picture this: it’s ten o’clock at night, it’s been a busy day, and you’re just settling down for the night. Your first port of call is to reach for your phone, to spend one final hour scrolling through social media, watching cute cat videos, or checking the news. It’s easy, and it doesn’t require too much brain power, which is exactly what you’re after when you’re tired, but the chances are it’s not that good for you. It seems perfectly sensible to think that when you’re in bed, no matter what you’re doing, you’re somehow winding down and preparing your brain for sleep.

In actual fact, however, looking at your phone, or even a TV screen, immediately before turning in for the night can lead to less effective sleep and futher exhaustion. In the crudest, most unscientific terms I can muster, staring at the light of a screen makes your eyes act as if you’re trying to stay awake, which, if you’re doing so in a darkened room just before bed, is the complete opposite of what you’re aiming for.

Instead of staring at your phone when you’re trying to get to sleep, why not read a book?

Rest assured, because there is an alternative: instead of staring at your phone when you’re trying to get to sleep, why not read a book? I know it sounds dusty, boring and nowhere near as exciting as scrolling past your cousin’s holiday photos for the 45th time, but give it a shot. Reading in bed is relaxing and calming, and also provides you with an opportunity to disconnect from the general hustle and bustle of daily life.

It’s not easy to switch off, and with more and more people relying on their mobile phones to wake them up each morning, turning your phone off and leaving it in another room may be a tall order. If you take half an hour to read a book instead of Twitter, you’ll instantly feel more relaxed and ready for sleep, so if you can tear yourself away from your phone for even a few short moments, you won’t regret it.

Even if you end up going to bed later than normal, a couple of pages of a book can work wonders for your tired brain

The only issue is that, when you’ve been studying hard all day, the last thing you want to do is more reading. We all know the feeling: it gets to ten o’clock and you’ve spent your entire day trawling somewhat aimlessly through unnecessarily long PDFs, all you want to do is sit there and watch Netflix into the early hours, anything but more reading. It’s completely understandable; TV is easy entertainment and a welcome break from reading for your course, but if you can, try to read for a few minutes after you switch off your computer to calm your brain. Your sleep will be much more effective if you do. Even if you end up going to bed later than normal, a couple of pages of a book can work wonders for your tired brain. On the flipside, there are those of us who don’t spend our days reading for class, in which case ten minutes with a book will come as a welcome relief.

No matter how busy you may be, sleep is important – especially during exam season when you really need to maximise your time. It may seem impossible to find the time for anything that isn’t studying, but try taking a moment to flick through a book before you turn in for the night. Whatever it is you choose to read, and however long you can spare, it can be a relaxing and fun way to see out a busy and stressful day.

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