Reading before bed can help you sleep longer

On the left a woman is lying in bed reading.  On the right a woman with curly hair is lying on her front reading.  The background is pink and purple clouds.

40% of people already read before going to bed (Picture: Getty/Metro.co.uk)

Rather than scrolling through your phone, reading before bed could help you have a better night of sleep.

A new study has found that reading is the most effective activity to do before bed to aid seven or more hours of sleep each night.

This is because, when we read, our mind has the chance to get lost in the words, and this gives our body the chance to rest. When our bodies are more relaxed, it’s easier for us to fall asleep.

The research, conducted by GetLaidBeds.co.uk, found that one in every five Brits gets less than five hours of sleep a night – so finding ways to make falling asleep easier is essential for promoting better bedtime routines.

According to the data, 40% of people already read before going to bed, with 11% meditating and 7% going for a long walk.

However, data shows that taking a walk before bed is seven times less effective for sleep than reading.

But we need to be realistic when changing up our evening routines, and we need to form habits and make manageable changes that are easy to maintain.

The research found that turning off all tech items before trying to sleep was twice as effective as drinking a cup of tea, so this may be a worthwhile habit to implement.

Based on a survey of 2,000 people, the data found that 33% already turned their phones, and other electronic devices, off before getting into bed.

Preparation is also thought to help some people sleep, with 20% of people laying out their work clothes the night before and 14% making a to-do list for the next day. These tasks can help reduce anxiety and stress by allowing people to switch off from daily tasks once they are ready to sleep.

‘Establishing a good sleep routine revolves around not overstimulating the brain,’ says sleep expert Katherine Hall. ‘Whether that’s removing menial tasks from the next day to avoid overthinking in bed or relaxing the muscles through hot water therapy – rather than working them through exercise.

‘Identifying sleep rituals will be a case of trial and error for many of us. What is evident, however, is that some habits we adopt can be significantly more effective than others if practiced correctly.’

The study also found that nine in 10 people who work from their bedroom admit to struggling to sleep at night, compared to one in every 10 who say they work outside their bedroom.

‘Keeping work out of your bedroom will strengthen the mental association between your bedroom and a good night’s sleep,’ says Kathrine.

‘If you work from your bedroom, even on a separate desk away from your bed, your mind will still associate that space with work, making your mind run through all of your work stress while trying to relax.’

However, it is important to note that working from bed is essential for some people, so creating habits, such as reading before bed, will be extremely important in order for people to switch off.


How can we get into the habit of reading before bed?

  • Try to turn off your devices before you get into bed. If it’s not possible to have them off completely, put them on ‘Do Not Disturb’ so that notifications won’t tempt you.
  • Not everyone is a fan of reading, so start with an easier/less daunting book. Kathrine recommends finding a genre that interests you, but isn’t too difficult to process or follow. This could be your favorite childhood book, a title you have read before or one with fewer pages.
  • Don’t force yourself to read a book you are not enjoying. This will not motivate you to read before bed, and it’s likely you will get out of the habit and start reaching for your phone again.
  • Don’t place strict rules on yourself. Read for however long you would like to, don’t feel pressured by a timer or page numbers. ‘Opt for slightly less time than you initially think just to be safe,’ Katherine says. ‘This way there’ll be no burnout and the enjoyment factor will still be present.’
  • Turn off your main light and use a bedside lamp. That way, you won’t need to get back out of bed once you are ready to sleep.
  • If reading starts to become a chore, stop, take a break and come back to it another day.
  • And if reading isn’t for you, try audiobooks.

‘Reading before bed is an incredibly powerful component to add into your bedtime routine,’ Katherine tells Metro.co.uk.

‘It centers the mind on a specific story, idea or subject which essentially is what meditation is based around, another very useful sleep ritual.’

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