Why is it so important to get enough sleep? Getting enough good quality sleep on a regular basis is good for brain function, memory, healing, mood, skin, immune system and weight control. During sleep the heart heals and repairs itself. Youngsters need enough sleep for proper growth and development. On the other hand, insufficient sleep can lead to safety issues when driving, using machinery and doing work that requires good concentration. Regularly failing to get enough sleep can increase the likelihood of depression and suicide.
A good nights sleep benefits both body and mind and is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Some people find it easy to fall asleep and will sleep through the night unless woken by a child or an unusual noise. Others have difficulty falling asleep and if they wake during the night have trouble getting back to sleep. A regular routine before going to bed can be helpful for falling asleep. Reading an old fashioned book made of paper before turning out the light can be a beneficial part of the routine.
Research has shown reading last thing at night can be a helpful strategy for falling asleep. It has been found reading in general (not just in bed) helps reduce stress levels more rapidly than other frequently practiced methods of stress reduction such as listening to music or taking a shower or bath.
A study conducted by the Sussex University in 2009 showed within six minutes of starting to read, stress levels will drop. How much can reading reduce stress levels? For some people their level of stress may drop by as much as 68%. Reading slows the heart rate and reduces tension in the body’s muscles. It also calms the mind.
The more quickly a person’s stress level drops, the more quickly they will be ready to fall asleep. One of the reasons reading is so effective is the reader is distracted from the worries of their day. They will become absorbed in another world if they are reading fiction and if it is non fiction, they will be concentrating on something different from the events of the day.
Reading fiction helps the reader feel a connection with one or more of the characters. There will be more connection than when watching television because a deeper level of concentration is required to follow the story. Often the thoughts and feelings of at least one of the characters are put in words for the reader to empathise with. This doesn’t happen with television. Research has shown people who frequently read fiction empathise more deeply with others in real life. This will help them establish close friendships, making them happier and less stressed.
Some people prefer to read a magazine or a non fiction book and these can also be helpful ways of relaxing. Some of it depends on personal preference.
Does it make any difference if a person reads a physical book or uses an e-reader or similar electronic device? The answer is yes. Electronic devices are likely to keep the reader awake longer rather than helping them sleep. Light from screens can suppress melatonin levels by over 50%. Melatonin is the hormone which helps prepare the body for sleep. A drop in melatonin results in the person being less sleepy and feeling more alert at night. The next morning they are likely to feel tired and find it more difficult to become alert.
Reading at bedtime helps many people relax and fall asleep more easily. However, if you just can’t put the book down and continue reading into the small hours of the morning, a less engrossing book would be a better choice. If the story is so exciting you feel overstimulated, again it may keep you awake and you need something more relaxing. Also, you need enough light so you don’t strain your eyes but over bright lights should be avoided.