Have you ever gotten so wrapped up in an engaging book that hours passed by in what seemed like minutes? Maybe you even felt like your life went on pause as you stepped into the world of the page. This captivation is one of the many joys of reading.
However, there is one place you may not want to take this mental journey to lands near and far, real and fictional–and it’s your bed.
Why reading in bed can make it harder to fall asleep.
Limiting the number of activities you do in bed is thought to make it easier to doze off when the time comes. In essence, it trains the body and mind to associate the bed with sleep. “You don’t want to spend a lot of wakefulness time in bed because that will lead to negative conditioning. Your brain won’t know if you should be awake there or asleep there,” Daniel Rifkin, M.D., the Medical Director of Sleep Medicine Centers of Western New York, tells mbg.
Circadian rhythm specialist David Kennaway, Ph.D. of The University of Adelaide in Australia agrees that most engaging activities should be kept out of the bed itself–including reading.
Now, that’s not to say reading can’t be a great way to unwind and get ready for sleep. Books–especially physical books that aren’t too mentally stimulating or distressing–can help separate us from the stressors of the day that can keep us up at night. But ideally, Rifkin says, you’ll be able to read them outside of your bedroom.
“Try to find another comfy place to do the reading. When you feel tired and your eyes get heavy, that’s when you want to go to your bedroom so that your brain subconsciously associates that place with sleep,” he says. This way, “you kind of let that drowsiness occur outside the bedroom so that when you go to bed, you put your head to the pillow and you fall asleep quickly.”
To make your reading time even more relaxing, turn on some soft, warm lighting. While bright lights that have a blue tint tend to send an energizing signal to the body, dimmer, warmer lights are better for winding down. (For this reason, some experts recommend designating one light in each room for daytime use and one for nighttime.)
Feel free to light a candle or run your diffuser, throw on a cozy blanket or put on some relaxing tunes–any non-stimulating activity that will help make this all-important transition period between wakefulness and sleep more enjoyable. Carving out this wind-down time for yourself nightly will benefit your sleep, and ultimately your mental health and stress levels, too.
The bottom line.
Sleep experts agree that we should reserve our beds for sleeping and not much else. If you read in bed often and never have trouble falling asleep, go forth! But if fictional worlds tend to keep you up at night, it might help to keep your reading out of the bedroom and tack it onto your nighttime routine instead. Who’s ready to cozy up with a good book on the couch tonight?