How To Keep Reading When You’re Too Tired To Read

Anna Gooding-Call

Staff Writer

Anna Gooding-Call is a librarian and writer originally from rural central New York. She got her BA in the city that inspired "The Twilight Zone" and confirms that the hitchhikers really are weird there. Today, she lives in Massachusetts with her wife and two cats.

If a good book has ever sucked you into a truly fantastic plot twist, then you know the struggle of wanting to keep turning pages long past your bedtime. It’s not a great idea to make a habit of this, especially if you prefer to read on work nights. If you’re prone to insomnia, then you’d be better off seeing a doctor. That said, once in a while, it doesn’t hurt to pull an all-nighter in the name of some good literature. Here are a few strategies for soldiering on even when you’re too tired to read.


Of all the substances that keep people awake and alert, caffeine is the most effective. If you don’t believe me, then believe the U.S. military, which long ago figured out that an army actually runs on thousands and thousands of gallons of coffee. In case you’re new to the wonderful world of stimulants, there’s caffeine in coffee, tea, chocolate, and energy drinks.

In general, chocolate is a poor vehicle for caffeine. There’s not much there, and eating something that sugary at night can mess up your system. Coffee can be a pain to brew, but the brewing process can also be a good wakeup ritual. If it’s 2:00 a.m. and you have three hours to go on your book, it might not be a bad idea. Energy drinks constitute an efficient option when you’re too tired to read but determined to try. But be sure that book is worth it! Slamming a can of that stuff can lead to a fast high and a sharp crash. These products also cause some health problems that should give anyone pause.

My happy medium is black tea. It’s not as labor-intensive as coffee or as brutal as an energy drink. It won’t mess up my nighttime sugar levels like a bar of chocolate either.

Bright Lights

The circadian rhythms that govern your sleep cycle generally respond to light. This is why you feel logy and irritable when you encounter an overcast day. Luckily, humanity has engineered a solution that’s as effective as it is questionable: bombarding the brain with light at unexpected times!

Light at night can contribute to insomnia. Luckily for you, you have a book to finish, so you don’t want to sleep anyway! (For a little while, at least.) When you’re too tired to read, just fish out a nice strong book light (or a book light app) and mess up your poor little noggin.

Not In The Bed

If you read in the bed, you’re just going to end up drifting off. Go read in a chair! Standing and walking can also stave off sleep. That said, if the book you’re reading isn’t thrilling enough to keep your eyes open while you’re 100% comfy, then maybe you’re actually too tired to read. Get some shuteye already!

Want to know why you fall asleep when you read? Click here and learn!