Is Reading Good Before Bed? An Exhaustive (and Exhausting) Analysis

Ah, sleep—the elusive mistress of the night, dodging us like a shy date when we desperately swipe right. While some can drift into dreamland effortlessly, others toss and turn, reciting the alphabet backward or counting an infinite herd of insomniac sheep. If you’ve laid in bed for hours and can’t sleep, you might wonder, “Is reading before bed a good idea?” Here’s the scoop, the low-down, the bedtime story you didn’t know you needed.

The Battle for Bedtime: Netflix vs. Novels

There’s a showdown happening in bedrooms worldwide: On one side, the glaring screen of Netflix, tempting us with one more episode of “Just Five More Minutes.” On the other side, a dusty bookshelf of unread literature, whispering tales of adventure and wisdom. Why does choosing between the two feel like picking a favorite child?

Why Reading Helps You Sleep (Or Does It?)

Before we delve into the labyrinth of science-speak, let’s get one thing straight: Reading helps you sleep, but not all reading material is created equal. If you dive into a nail-biting thriller, chances are your adrenaline will be pumping faster than a caffeine-fueled espresso machine. On the other hand, the gentle embrace of a lighthearted novel or self-help book can work wonders for your weary eyes.

Research has shown that reading before bed can help you relax and reduce stress, making it easier to catch those elusive Zs. But it’s not just about what you read; it’s also about how you read it. Reading from a bright screen full of those dreaded blue lights can have the opposite effect, telling your brain it’s party time when it should be winding down. So, if you want a bedtime story, go old-school and grab a physical book or an e-reader with a non-illuminated screen.

Is Reading Good Before Bed?

You’ve probably heard that reading is an excellent way to relax and unwind before bed. But is it true? And if so, why?

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the science of reading before bed and see if any evidence supports the claim that it can help you sleep better.

Does Reading Help You Sleep?

There is some evidence to suggest that reading can help you sleep better. One study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that people who read for 30 minutes before bed fell asleep faster and had better sleep quality than those who did not read.

The study also found that people who read before bed had lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone, and higher levels of melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep.

Another study published in the journal Pediatrics found that children who read for 20 minutes before bed had better sleep quality and fewer sleep problems than children who did not read.

The study also found that children who read before bed had higher melatonin levels and lower cortisol levels.

Is Reading in Bed Bad for Sleep?

There is debate over whether reading in bed is terrible for sleep. Some people believe reading in bed can lead to sleep problems, while others think it can help you fall asleep.

Some evidence suggests that reading in bed can lead to sleep problems. One study published in the journal Sleep Medicine found that people who read in bed were more likely to have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep than those who did not.


The bottom line is that there is no definitive answer to whether reading in bed is terrible for sleep. Some people find it helps them fall asleep, while others find it more complex.

If you need to figure out whether or not reading in bed is good for you, try experimenting and see what works best for you.

Why Does Reading Help You Sleep?

There are a few reasons why reading may help you sleep better.

First, reading can help you relax and unwind. When you read, you focus on the story, and your mind is not racing with other thoughts. It can help you relax and let go of the day’s stress.

Second, reading can help to distract you from your worries and concerns. When reading, you’re not thinking about your problems or what you must do the next day. It can help you to relax and fall asleep more easily.

Third, reading can help to lower your heart rate and blood pressure. This can also help you to relax and fall asleep more easily.

The Dos and Don’ts of Bedtime Books for Adults

The Dos

  • Choose Calming Material: Consider reading poetry or philosophical musings that invite contemplation rather than cliffhangers.
  • Limit the Duration: You’re reading, not running a marathon. Try reading for just 20-30 minutes to ease into slumber.
  • Go for Paper: The tactile sensation of turning a page can be soothing, unlike swiping on a screen that whispers, “Keep going, the next chapter is just a tap away!”

The Don’ts

  • No Screen Time: Seriously, we can’t stress this enough. Electronic devices emit blue light that disrupts your sleep hormone, melatonin.
  • Avoid Stimulating Content: War epics, suspense thrillers, and existential crises in text form should be saved for daytime.
  • No Self-Improvement Books: You’re perfect as you are—no need to reevaluate your life choices at bedtime.

How Long Should You Read Before Bed?

Ah, the million-dollar question, or the question that could save you from a million sleepless nights. As alluring as it might be to polish off a novel in one sitting, moderation is key. Try to aim for 20-30 minutes of reading time. This will help you unwind without getting so engrossed that you’re flipping pages when the sun rises.

Is Reading in Bed Bad for Sleep?

While reading before bed is generally a fantastic idea, there’s a little hiccup. For some, reading in bed can make it harder to sleep. The mattress should be a sanctuary for sleep and other bedtime activities (wink, wink), but not for reading. If you find that reading in bed is keeping you up, designate a “reading chair” in another part of the room or house for your nightly reading ritual.

What Kind of Books Should You Read Before Bed?

Not all books are created equal when helping you fall asleep. Some books are more stimulating than others, and these books may make it harder to fall asleep.

Suppose you’re looking for a book to read before bed; choose a calming and relaxing book. An excellent book to read before bed might be a novel, a biography, or a self-help book.

Short Stories to Read Before Bed for Adults

Are you looking for a quick read that will only take up part of the night? Try short stories. These compact tales offer a complete narrative without the commitment of a full-blown novel. Consider works from writers like Anton Chekhov for timeless lessons or modern authors like Roxane Gay for poignant, contemporary tales.

To Read or Not to Read: The Verdict

Reading before bed is for more than just children waiting for the Sandman. Adults can significantly benefit from this ritual, too. From helping you relax to encouraging better sleep quality, reading ticks many bedtime boxes. However, be mindful of what and how you read. As the saying goes, “You are what you read,” or was it, “You sleep how you read?” Either way, pick up that book, limit your time, and prepare to cozy up to some quality shut-eye. Happy reading and even happier dreaming!


Reading can be a great way to relax and unwind before bed. If you want to improve your sleep, try reading for 15-30 minutes before bed. Choose a calming and relaxing book, and avoid books that are too exciting.


  • Nora J. Wilson

    Say hello to Nora J. Wilson, a spirited blogger whose heart beats for storytelling and connection. Nora J. Wilson is the owner and chief editor of Hailing from the vibrant streets of Brooklyn, Nora brings to life the pages of her blog with a degree in English Literature from Yale University. Contact her via e-mail

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