How Reading Before Bed Can Improve Your Sleep

Jonathan Warren

Author: Jonathan Warren



You might be mistaken in thinking that reading for bed is reserved only for those wide-eyed toddlers who refuse to bed down for the night. But how wrong you are! Research shows that there are a whole plethora of benefits for adults who read a book before sleeping, from stress relief to improved quality of sleep and better concentration in waking hours.

In fact, according to a survey by Sleep Junkie (which consisted of in-depth results from 1,000 people), had participants split into two groups – those who regularly practised reading before bed and those who rarely or never picked up a book before sleeping. Sleep Junkie found that 80% of bedtime readers found the habit relaxing, with 65% reporting that they found their daily stresses had reduced considerably and a further 50% of those surveyed said they enjoyed a better sleep. Interesting…

Here, we consult the science and take a look at the benefits of reading before bed and what they mean for you. Spoiler: it may be time for you to invest in a good nightlight and a bookmark.

Benefits of Reading Before You Sleep

1) Promotes sounder sleep

Guys, we’ve been telling you for a long time now: scrolling through Twitter, Instagram or even BBC News on your phone before bed isn’t doing you any favours. We repeat: blue light is not your friend. Instead, why not pick up a book? Research shows how reading makes you sleepy, so if you’re a frustrated insomniac, the Harry Potter seven-part series could be just the tonic!

When we read in bed, the act itself requires regular eye movement and a certain level of brain power as we decipher the text before us. As your brain ticks over and our eyes tire, it’s only natural that the eyes start to close and a restful sleep takes over. But be warned! Don’t choose a real page-turner that grips your attention. Opt for a non-fiction book or a novel you’ve read a million times before if you really struggle to drift off as your mind is much more likely to wander straight into the land of nod.

Most of all, the act of reading is a relaxing nightly ritual. Your mind has a chance to rest, you’re cosy in bed and the lights are low: the mood is quite literally set for a sound sleep. The more you practice this mindfulness and work bedtime reading into your nightly routine, your body and brain will recognise that it’s time for beddy-byes and your kip will run like clockwork.

2) Relieves stress

There’s no denying that 2020 raised the old stress levels, and what with the usual trials and tribulations of everyday life as well, it’s no wonder a lot of us feel stressed come bedtime with racing thoughts keeping us awake.

But before you start stressing over tomorrows to-do list, reach for that book on the bedside table. Research has found that just six minutes of reading can reduce stress by up to 68% as you swap your troubles for those of your protagonist. No matter your choice of topic, reading before bed provides you with some much-needed escapism from your day to day, allowing your brain to stop whirring and enter a calmer stage of relaxation to help you drop off.

3) Improves brain functionality

Did you know that, on average, CEOs read 60 books per year? In fact, Warren Buffet has revealed he reads 500 pages a day because ‘that’s how knowledge works.’ So, what are you waiting for!? Get down your local book store and stock up on hardbacks for some bedtime reading – you could be just a few reads away from rocking Dragon’s Den.

But, seriously: reading before bed really does improve brain function. In fact, many researchers have confirmed through the use of MRI scans, that reading involves a complex network of circuits and signals in the brain. And as your reading ability improves, these brain networks get stronger and more sophisticated.

Plus, the more you read, the more you’ll expand your knowledge and vocabulary. (And the more answers you’ll be able to get right on University Challenge, you big show off!)

Our Favourite Books to Read at Bedtime

Obviously, what you choose to read at night it a highly personal affair. But if you’re a page turning novice, why not take at our list of the best books to read in bed below?

Classic Fiction:

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabrial García Márquez
  • To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Contemporary Fiction:

  • Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney

Business Non-Fiction:

  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries
  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight
  • Get Over Your Damn Self by Romi Neustadt

Wellness Non-Fiction:

  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  • Atomic Habits by James Clear
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying by Marie Kondo

Looking for a top-quality bed from which to do all your bedtime reading? Explore our Advice section for our complete set of bed and mattress buying guides. It’s time for you to secure your happily forever after.