Why You Should Pick Up A Book Before Bed

“No matter how busy you may think you are, you must find time for reading, or surrender yourself to self-chosen ignorance.” – Confucius 

 

According to Andrew Perrin of Pew Research Center, 27% of adults have not read a book in the past year. Whether it’s paperback or electronic, the results stay the same. Leisure reading is not popular among American individuals anymore. The cause? According to Peter Toohey Ph.D of Psychology Today, we can blame television. That sentence alone makes one sound like a crotchety grandparent blaming everything they don’t understand on technology, but there is valid support for it. 

Think about it, higher education is full of mandatory reading materials, whether it’s books, textbooks, newspaper articles, or scholarly resources. Reading is work plain and simple--especially when the writing is long, the language is confusing, or subject is not something you want to be reading about in the first place. When reading academic articles, one must highlight important topics and remember them for class discussions and/or exams. Nobody would consider this a leisure activity. On the other hand, electronics (mostly streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, etc) provide an outlet for the much needed break. All people want to do at the end of a stressful day is to turn their brain off and not think. It shows in the statistics too, Peter Toohey points out that reading time among adults declined between 1955 and 1995, just as electronics were becoming more prevalent. 

While television shows are fun breaks that can inspire creativity and keep us up-to-date with the world, we must remember the benefits of reading books, especially before bedtime. Over the past few weeks, I have decided to replace my bedtime binging routine with a book instead. I did this after realizing that it had been almost a year since I had read a book outside of an academic setting. My bedtime routine used to always consist of a good book before I entered high school and already had enough reading on my plate. That had to change. 

Bedtime reading does not have to be long. You could read one chapter a night, or just 10 pages depending on your mood and sleepiness. Any genre counts! Below are four ways reading a book before bed can benefit you in the long run. 

1. Better Sleep

The National Sleep Foundation recommends having a ritual before going to bed to prepare your body for sleep. Reading in bed helps relax your muscles which is essential before shifting into deep sleep. Using electronic devices before bed creates a higher chance of sleep deprivation as the light shining from the screen activates brain activity. Slowing down your bedtime routine with reading material will yield a higher quality of sleep.    

 

2. Develops Memory, Concentration and Patience

According to Matt Berical of Business Insider, studies have shown that those who read display greater memory, concentration and cognitive skills as well as mental abilities. They are shown to be better public speakers and critical thinkers. Media has a role in reducing people’s attention spans. Since this is the case, people’s minds may wander when reading books. This is common when you start reading leisurely again, just take your time and slowly ease your way into a routine. You will develop stronger focusing abilities soon enough.  

 

3. Stress Reduction

Reading helps separate your mind from stressful daily activities. It releases muscle tension and creates a slower heart rate. The only key is to be reading a book you can thoroughly engross yourself in. When you are engaged, you are relaxed.  

 

4. Makes You Smarter!

Fun fact: Elon Musk learned to build rockets through reading books and Bill Gates reads up to 60 books a year. Reading develops your ability to take in new information. According to Ken Hugh, Ph.D of Haskins Laboratories, the parts of our brains that control vision, language, and associative learning are connected by a neural circuit for reading. This means that reading is a work out for our brains. 

In lieu of Confucius's quote and my final reason to take up reading, here are six (mostly) modern nonfiction books that make you think! 

 

1. The Newcomers by Helen Thorpe: The Newcomers follows the author, Helen Thorpe, as she sits in on a high school english language class in Boulder, Colorado. The class has over twenty students. All of whom speak a variety of languages and have varying degrees of English understanding. Over the course of the school year, she journals the teaching style of the passionate Mr. Williams who aims to help each student continue their education no matter their background. In the process, she interviews three families, learns what they have experienced in their homeland, and is welcomed into their worldview of America.  

2. Educated by Tara Westover: Educated is a memoir of the author, Tara Westover’s, radical upbringing and her education experience when she first steps onto Brigham Young College. Westover was the youngest of seven in a survivalist, mormon family living in mountainous Idaho. Her family was fueled with political paranoia of government and medicine. By doing well on the ACT, she gains admittance to university but quickly learns she has been denied the knowledge other students have (for example: she asks what the holocaust is in one of her classes). The book does a great job looking at the rural/urban America divide of values and how it relates to the overall theme of education liberation.    

 

3. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman: One of the older books between these six recommendations, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down tells the story of a Hmong immigrant family from Laos featuring the youngest member, Lia Lee. Lia has seizures almost daily due to a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. However, the cultural differences and miscommunications between the Merced, California hospital and Lia’s parents prevent treatment. Lia’s parents greatly mistrust the doctor’s and prefer the spiritual treatments practiced in their homeland. The doctor’s have trouble being culturally empathetic. This book explores the importance of intercultural doctor/patient relationships and lets the audience question each sides uncompromising views on medicine.   

 

4. Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in School by Monique W. Morris: In Pushout, Monique Morris takes an analytical look at how the secondary education institutions judge and misinterpret the behaviors and lives of young African American girls. She interviews girls in various life situations, many of which are dangerous and/or abusive. Most have given up on the ideology that education can lift you out of poverty. Intersecting themes of cultural, racial, and sexual identity are explored as the audience learns (through surveys, statistics, life stories, and experiments) how schools deploy practices that push girls out the doors and into threatening situations.    

 

5. On the Rez by Ian Frazier: Another older book, On the Rez offers a look into the Modern lives of American Indians, specifically those of the Oglala Sioux nation who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Pine Ridge is one of the largest Indian Reservation. However, it is also one of the poorest places in America. Frazier immerses himself in the life on the rez with his friend, Le War Lance, and provides a realistic overview of their ancestry, culture, beliefs, and grievances. Since the book was published nearly 20 years ago, it makes you wonder what has changed on the reservation, if anything. 

 

6. All I Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung: Coinciding with the birth of her child, Nicole Chung wrote All I Can Ever Know searching for the parents that gave her up for adoption in Korea. Raised by a white family in Oregon, she went through instances of prejudice and isolation her family could not understand. Nicole’s adoption story always centered around her parents making the ultimate sacrifice. Now in adulthood, she questions what was true and what wasn’t. Complicated thematic questions of trans-racial adoption, identity, and family are raised as the author digs deeper towards the secret of her biological family.  

 

Sources: 

Andrew Perrin of Pew Research Center

https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/26/who-doesnt-read-books-in-america/

 

Peter Toohey, Ph.D of Psychology Today

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/annals-the-emotions/201807/don-t-people-enjoy-reading-anymore

 

Matt Berical of Business Insider 

https://www.businessinsider.com/the-surprising-benefits-of-reading-before-bed-2015-8

 

Ken Hugh. Ph.D

https://www.dreams.co.uk/sleep-matters-club/what-does-reading-before-bed-do-to-an-adults-brain/

 

National Sleep Foundation 

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/healthy-sleep-tips