Did you know that six minutes of reading before bed can help you sleep, dream and live better?
No? Well, neither did I but that’s not the reason why I read-before-my-bedtime routine anyway. I read because it helps me to relax and eases the day’s stress off my mind. But if you ask me, though, six minutes of reading is not enough. If I could, I would go for a whole day’s worth of thumbing through the pages instead!
Ever since my husband and I moved to a place of our own, for many months now we’ve fallen asleep to the sound of traffic zooming back and forth along the highway. It is rather unfortunate that our master bedroom window faces the highway. I’ve gotten quite used to falling asleep and waking to the noise; the growl of the motorcycles zipping by lull me to sleep, while the blaring honks of the trailers jolt me awake. It is quite a dilemma, really. But I’ve been having a problem that’s been occurring for quite some time now. I always feel tired when I’m out or getting ready to leave work and go home. But when I’m home, the sleepiness eludes me. I end up sleeping too late and waking up early, having to live out the rest of the day with less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep. I take naps, exercise regularly and keep myself hydrated at all times, yet I’m still tired.
That’s when I decided to make a resolution to leave the electronics for weekends and spend at least an hour reading before bedtime. And you know what? I realised that it works! How is that possible? Can reading really help you sleep better? I didn’t know that.
What I do know is that a decent night’s sleep will be a great boost for my skin, mood, brain function and health. Applying magical lavender-scented sprays on our pillows and downloading meditation apps may be wonderful ideas, but the trick of reading before bedtime is both easy to pull off AND requires little to no effort on my part. All I need is 6 minutes of reading to ease the tension of stress in my body. It is the quickest method to calm my nerves down compared to listening to music and/or brewing a pot of chamomile tea. Even psychologists believe the distraction of entering another fictional world can ease the pressure in our muscles which, in turn, helps to slow our heart rates down.
Of course, the sooner I de-stress, the faster my body can go to sleep. It makes sense then, I suppose, that reading Little Women results in better sleep and sweeter dreams than the stomach-churning plot twists of Sherlock Holmes. Instead of carrying around all the stress of the day, pick up a book before crawling into bed. It will assist you in letting go of the things hindering our minds and bodies from relaxing and sleeping well. It’s a way to forget about the stress of the day without completely zoning out of existence (athough reading does that to me anyway). You even get to kill two birds with one stone with reading. You get to relax and calm down while still getting an intellectual workout for your brain! So the more you read, the better your cognitive skills become and the more likely you are to retain information and have longer-lasting memories.
A research carried out by P. Matthijs Bal and M. Veltkamp titled How Does Fiction Reading Influence Empathy also found that reading fiction helps us to empathise with other people better, thus improving our social interactions. Reading forces us to put ourselves in the minds of others so we can understand their actions, sufferings and feelings better. Stories have a way of stimulating the same social interactions we have in reality, and they help to develop our interactive skills as well. Not bad for a simple activity like reading, eh?
So if you want to sleep, dream and live better, put down that TV remote, switch off your laptop, leave your smartphone on silent outside the confines of your bedroom and take a spot of fiction to bed with you.