Why Reading Before Bed Makes You Tired

Having trouble drifting off to sleep each night? Reading before bed might be the answer.

By Alesandra Woolley

Jun 13th, 2022

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If you’ve ever had trouble falling asleep at night, someone has probably suggested you try reading before bed. While a good idea in concept, many people wonder if reading before bed actually makes you tired.

Spoiler alert: it does – and for a number of reasons. Follow along to find out a few reasons why reading before bed can make you calmer, sleepier, and lead to a far better night of rest.

Reading before bed helps you relax

There’s no denying that reading is a calming activity that helps us wind down before nodding off for the night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends spending the hour before bed reading or doing some other calming activity as a way of easing the body and mind away from the stresses of the day and toward rest. (By the way, reading on your phone or scrolling through social media doesn’t count.)

Reading before bed lowers cortisol levels

Cortisol is a stress hormone that helps regulate blood pressure, blood sugar, and other bodily processes and tends to be released in high amounts when the body is stressed. Unfortunately, when cortisol levels remain high for too long, sleep, mood, and other functions can be disrupted. In these situations, reading before bed can actually help lower cortisol levels and allow you to experience a calmer and more sound sleep.

Reading helps us reduce anxiety

Among people with mild or moderate anxiety, reading before bed can sometimes help induce calmness and alleviate anxiety by taking your mind off of troubling thoughts, which can then lead to a better night of sleep. In fact, reading is said to be a more effective way of minimizing stress than listening to music or drinking a cup of tea.

Reading before bed can help you reduce screen time

In the battle for a good night of sleep, our present-day screen habits (need we say addictions?) aren’t doing us any favors. The artificial blue light that’s emitted by phones, televisions and other electronics is known to disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm, lower the total amount of REM sleep, and suppress the release of melatonin, which is a hormone that controls our sleep and wake cycles and actually encourages sleep.

Technology use before bed acts as somewhat of a stimulant, increasing alertness and making it far more difficult to fall asleep than it should be. Even if you’re in serious need of rest, the blue light can trick your body into staying alert and awake for hours past you normally would.

Reading is a good way to combat our screen addictions and say goodbye to the sleep disruptions they contribute to. Besides being an extremely relaxing activity, reading can act as a mini digital detox simply by providing us with something to do in bed that doesn’t involve mindlessly scrolling through our phones. Keep in mind that your book of choice doesn’t need to be a paperback or hardcover—e-readers are totally fine as long as they don’t emit blue light.

Reading can help you get back to sleep

If you wake up in the night and can’t fall back asleep, it may not be the greatest idea to stay in bed anxiously worrying about the total amount of sleep you’re going to get and how tired you’ll be in the morning. In cases where you find yourself endlessly tossing and turning, the National Sleep Foundation recommends moving to another room to read or do another relaxing activity until you feel ready to nod off again. Just a few minutes of reading can be all it takes to reduce stress and combat sleeplessness.

Curious if some nighttime reading will positively impact your sleep routine? Grab a good book and try making a routine of reading before bed for at least a week. If you’re experiencing better sleep, it might be in your best interest to make a reading list. This could be your new habit for 2018.

Have a favorite book that’s helping you drift off to slumber? Tell us about it in the comments below.