Snuggling up with a good book right before bed can be one of the best ways to settle down to sleep. However, if we aren’t careful, voracious readers can seriously impede our snoozing. Insomnia due to having our minds racing right before bed can be a big problem. If you have other things on your mind as well, it can be even more difficult to get a good night’s sleep. When this occurs, our sleep habits become incredibly important.
So what’s a reader to do when bedtime comes calling and you want your best, least-interrupted sleep? Try these habits to make your dreams as sweet and book-filled as possible.
Know Your Screen’s Light Influence
The research is piling up that the blue-wavelength light in screens we use signals to our brains that it is day time and thus time to be awake. One good way to start creating a consistent sleep routine is to leave all backlit reading devices outside the bedroom; having your phone handy for an alarm is fine if you aren’t secretly using it to dig back into your favorite ebook! The goal is to make the bedroom a soothing space where the light you see tells your brain that it’s time to wind down, not wake up.
Pick Books For Bedtime that Quiet You Down
Everyone knows what kinds of books activate their imaginations and which kinds calm them. If anything, the bedtime book shouldn’t be that wonderful thriller, but instead something positive and perhaps even informational. You know your mind best, though, so just start noticing how you feel when you are reading a book before bed. Does this make me want to keep reading all night long, or can I happily take a chapter or two and settle down? Honestly, bedtime might be perfect for those books that have been in your stack for a while, books that aren’t incredibly enthralling but you want to know about anyway. A little slightly-boring fare may make it easier not to stay up half the night!
For High-Stress Days, Bookmark Your Most “Happy Place” Passages
Sometimes, however, just a calm book isn’t going to cut it for sloughing off the day’s stress and finding a centering space from which to ease into dreamland. One strategy for nighttime reading on stressful days is to have one or two of your favorite books handy. Place bookmarks for a particular passage that you find calming and lovely, like a happy place. For me, the best chapters to read before bed tend to be moments in my favorite YA novels. The characters are temporarily out of perilous circumstances, getting to share a meal or activity and grow closer together. For others, it might be the scene where their favorite two romance characters finally admit their mutual attraction. You could even read a spectacular discovery in a mystery book. By finding those passages—even if you mostly have them memorized by now—you give your brain a comforting “known quantity” that can absorb you and calm you for sleep.
Put The Book Down (For Now): Creating a sleep Schedule
One factor that seems to affect sleep is schedule. Those who have a more consistent schedule for sleeping tend to get more of it. If there is a way to set a “bedtime range,” it is a good idea to do so. Likewise, limit yourself on how late you let yourself sleep in. Waking up late can also make it hard to sleep the following night, continuing the cycle. This is part of why it is a good idea to read something less engaging in the moments right before bed. If you start something enthralling, you may want to shift your sleep schedule. While it isn’t the end of the world if you have one late night, a long-term erratic pattern can be tough. Your body relies on the signals that a regular sleep schedule provides.
Listen to Your Audiobooks While Getting In Some Exercise
The Sleep Foundation suggests that exercise can help you sleep better. What better way is there to get in some walking, running, rowing, or lifting than by using a good audiobook for motivation? Audiobooks can be a frustrating choice for the hour before bed. A “successful” calming book will have you falling asleep and missing parts of the story. At least with a physical book, you usually fall asleep with the right page smushed in the bedclothes, right? Audiobooks, however, are a great way to motivate a little exercise during the day, and if it hasn’t been your practice in the past, it might be a great way to make your night’s sleep less interrupted.
Combine the Bedtime Book With a Good Decaffeinated Tea
Experts tend to recommend no caffeine or alcohol right before bed if you struggle to get to sleep. While they have opposing effects of stimulating and depressing your nervous system, neither effect is good for sleep. Instead, try a habit of a cup of decaffeinated tea with your bedtime book time; chamomile is a popular choice, but most tea brands have some kind of tea specifically marketed for nighttime. This may not be your favorite flavor, but trying it out might make it easier to sleep through the night.
No matter which bookish sleep habit works best for you, all of these strategies can help you fit your reading in while also getting the shut-eye that will sustain you through the next day. Want some more reads related to sleep to combine these two pursuits? Check out our list of Books About Insomnia and our guide for How Not to Fall Asleep While Reading.