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So what can you do for 6 minutes before bedtime that will help you fall asleep? Drinking a soothing cup of tea helped 54% of the people who tried it. Maybe walking in the evening? Maybe but that helped only 42% of the people who did so fall asleep. No it is not drinking a warm glass of milk, or even taking melatonin, or counting sheep. 68% of the people who did this one thing reported falling asleep quicker than those who didn’t. Give up? It is reading a book.

Every night and I mean every-night before my wife falls asleep she has to read, she has been doing so since she was old enough to read. Reading a book for only 6 minutes begins the process of relieving us of the day’s stress.

Reading Before Bed Reduces Stress:

Reading before you sleep could relax you significantly. A study highlighted in the Telegraph by the University of Sussex raised a number of participants stress levels and then attempted to reduce them. Cognitive Neuro-psychologist Dr David Lewis found that ‘reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent’. It was better than listening to music (61%), drinking tea or coffee (54%) and taking a walk (42%). It only took 6 minutes for participants’ stress levels to be reduced.

This is because, when reading a good book, your mind is distracted from daily stresses and worries that causes tension. Stories give your mind the option to be somewhere else for a little while. This means you can leave your own troubles behind. Reading also allows your muscles to relax and slows down your breathing, leaving you feeling calmer.

Scientists believe that by reading before bedtime we transport ourselves  into another world which takes our minds off our stressful one. University of Sussex, researchers put this hypothesis to the test and gave subjects either a book to read, music to listen to, or tea to drink, and then measured their stress levels and heart rates before and after performing their assigned activity.

Out of all the activities performed reading a book showed greater reduction of stress, 68%, than all the other activities. So what book do you read? A spy novel? A thriller? Maybe Stephen King? According to researcher Dr. David. Lewis, “It really doesn’t matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world.”

So how does this affect your sleep? The National Sleep Council say ‘39% of people who are in the habit of reading before they go to sleep, sleep very well’. It makes perfect sense that an activity that reduces stress is beneficial before bed. Reading is also a better alternative to watching TV or scrolling through your phone. These emit blue light which tricks your brain into thinking it’s daytime. This is why 49% of people prefer to read a book than watch TV before bed and couldn’t go to sleep without a chapter of their current book.

Other Benefits

As well as opening your eyes to a million other worlds, reading can boost your brain power. Your brain is a muscle too, and just like the rest of the body, it needs a work out to keep it healthy. Reading is more neurologically challenging than speaking or processing images. Ken Hugh, PhD, president and director of research at Haskins Laboratories says ‘parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions—such as vision, language, and associative learning—connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging’. This means that reading is a great way to work out your brain whilst doing something enjoyable simultaneously.

So tonight before you go to sleep pick up something to read. Relax in bed and enjoy the comfort of a good book. The only recommendation is make it a real book or an audio book,but not an e-book. The light of an e-book may in fact keep you from falling asleep.

Do you have an idea for an upcoming article? We would love to hear from you. Contact me, Eli, at [email protected] Breathe well sleep tight.

 

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