Riot Headline The Most Read Books on Goodreads This Week
Our Reading Lives

How Not To Fall Asleep While Reading

Patricia Thang

Senior Contributor

Patricia Thang is an educator located in Los Angeles. Though a native Angeleno through and through, her heart also belongs to Tokyo, where much of her family is from. Besides books, she is an enthusiastic devourer of many things, including podcasts, television, and J-pop. She realizes there’s not enough time in the world to consume all of that content, but she’s trying anyway. Other endeavors to which she has dedicated herself include cuddling her dogs until they’re annoyed and taste-testing every vegan ice cream she can find. Twitter: @aintnopthang

I don’t know about you, but lately, reading puts me to sleep. Gone are the days when I could stay up until the wee hours of the morning marathoning books without my eyelids falling shut. I don’t understand why this is. It’s not that I’ve lost my fervor for reading or that I’ve found the latest books I’ve read uninteresting. I could be reading the most gripping novel in existence and still drift off inexplicably.

It seems that the very act of sitting and facing downward to look at a page has become a signal to my body to shut down. In order to fight this, I’ve come up with a few strategies to stay awake while reading. If you are also the type of reader who runs into this problem, please try these out for yourself (but be warned: I’ve discovered downsides of each, so choose carefully)!

Start Reading When You Wake Up

You’ve just gotten up from a full night’s sleep (hopefully). What better time could there be to read without any fear of fatigue?
The downside: This is probably more of a weekend or holiday thing. If you need get ready and go to work or school, settling in with a book instead is the last thing you should do.

On the one hand, audiobooks are a great way to get through your reading list while driving, doing things around the house, etc. And if you’re doing other activities while listening to an audiobook, the chances of falling asleep certainly dissipate!
The downside: On the other hand, if you’re not doing something else while listening, your chances of falling asleep to an audiobook are just as high, if not higher, as your chances of falling asleep reading with your eyes.

Eat or Drink Something
Back in college, this was the strategy I used when my classmates and I pulled all-nighters in the library working on various lab reports and papers. Caffeine has never really been my friend, so without coffee or energy drinks as an option, I simply used food and Gatorade to keep my body busy and awake. Obviously, we don’t have to be as extreme just to get through a book, but I do find it helps me not nod off if I have something to slowly munch or sip.
The downside: I don’t have tips on how to avoid getting crap on your book or ereader, so if you’re accident-prone this is a bad idea.

Make a Game Out of It
Sometimes I will have the TV or music playing on a low volume in the background as I read, and play a game with myself trying to see how much I can read during one commercial break or song. Seriously. It’s weirdly fun and breaking up reading into these short
The downside: If you’re the type that can’t focus with multiple things going on, this is very much not for you. Even if you ARE a multitasker, I can’t recommend this if you need to be reading critically and carefully.

Walk Around While Reading

This is the method I have been using most as of late to keep from falling asleep while I read. Standing up and strolling around the house has been 100% effective for me. Since you’re upright and moving around, you’re in pretty much no danger of becoming too relaxed and falling asleep.
The downside: When I was about three, I was reading/looking at a book (some giant thing about half the size of my entire toddler body) while hopping down the stairs. Needless to say, I was not looking at where I was placing my feet, so I made a misstep and proceeded to tumble down the remaining four or five steps and land in a heap at the bottom. Luckily, the place was carpeted so I got away with nothing more than some minor rugburns. Unluckily, I now get legit panic attacks if I try to descend unfamiliar or unusually long flights of stairs too quickly. So, try not to involve stairs and proceed at your own caution.