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reading before bed

How Reading Before Bedtime Impacts Your Health

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Nov. 12 2019, Published 6:05 a.m. ET

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After a long day how many of us will grab a phone, tablet or computer in order to unwind?  Time passes without you realizing that you are exhausted. The only problem is that you just can’t fall asleep. All that screen time has messed with your bodies circadian rhythm. “It may seem harmless to knock out a few emails before bed or unwind with a favorite movie, but by keeping your mind engaged, technology can trick your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake.”  So, instead of grabbing your phone as you lay in bed reach for a book instead.

If you’ve never made it a habit to read before bed, let me inform you of things you may not know. If you read before sleeping, it “promotes relaxation, reduces stress, induces sleep, centers the mind, and improves sleep quality.” Those benefits alone are worth taking an extra twenty minutes every night to crack open a book. Another trend found from those who took time to read prior to sleeping were healthier life choices, a better outlook on life and surprisingly are even recorded to make a higher income than those who do not.

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In 2016, 68% of Americans were recorded to have issues falling asleep at least one night every week. People with sleeping problems were recorded in 2015 to have spent an estimated $41 billion on sleep aids, mattresses, noise machines and sleeping pills. The market has become saturated with these products with the hopes of consumers being able to fall asleep with ease. If these consumers were to embrace reading before bed it might help them since many over-the-counter remedies do not work as intended.

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Melatonin targets brain receptors, but does not help build a habit. Benzodiazepines (Ativan) does assist with building a habit, however causes daytime sleepiness and according to Dr. Epstein, “There is concern that using benzodiazepines may contribute to the development of dementia. It’s under investigation.” Nonbenzodiazepines (Ambien) does not stay in the body like Ativan causing less problems, but has also been recorded to cause daytime sleepiness and sleepwalking. Majority of people using assisted sleeping products become dependent upon them. About 48% of people were recorded using sleep aids every single night of the week, which is concerning since misuse of sleeping drugs can be dangerous.  

Upon visiting my primary care internist doctor, I had asked her about whether reading helps before your bedtime. Dr. Nancy F. Kahn, MD of Columbia Doctors said, “It often depends on what exactly you’re reading. If you read something that’s relaxing, you’ll most likely fall asleep at ease. However if you’re reading a thriller or something of adrenaline rush or jump scare like, it’ll be harder for you to fall asleep.”

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This was interesting to me as I reflected on when I was reading Stephen King’s It: A Novel.  I did not sleep as smoothly that night since I wanted to continue the thriller to see what would occur next. I felt the goosebumps and chills down my spine all throughout the night. “However if it’s something you enjoy and helps you sleep, by all means, continue the thriller reads,” says Dr. Kahn.

bedtime reading for relaxation benefits

As much as we sometimes enjoy scrolling through social media, watching TV or doing errands before bed, sometimes a good book is all that’s needed to ease into a great night’s sleep. Reading can lead to creativity, relaxation and increased critical thinking skills for the next day.

So hey, if there’s a book you want to read up on — shut off your TV and leave your phone face down — pick up that book you’ve been wanting to check out. Get warm and cozy under the blankets with your favorite pajamas. Allow yourself to dive deep into a good read and even greater night sleep.

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