I used to be an Eastenders watcher. People were horrified when I told them. But it was my way to relax, to switch off from my day and world for a bit and zone into someone else’s world. I’d catch it on iPlayer each day before heading to bed where I would then do a final check of Instagram and then try and nod off, sometimes nodding off would happen straight away but sometimes it would take me a while. But if I was to mark down my level of relaxation out of ten before I dozed off it would probably of clocked in around five or six.
My love affair with Eastenders ended abruptly with a scene where the Carter’s stood around laughing at someones story about getting a goat drunk and how funny it was the poor animal was distressed. I mean.. WTH? But, that’s probably another blog post. So something amazing happened… I rediscovered my love of reading. As a child I was a real bookworm - I’d read books all time. I grew up in a very frugal household and we were lucky if our little black and white TV picked up a stable channel through the bent indoor aerial - books were an affordable way to exercise my imagination. I have such fond memories of being cocooned in my duvet keeping warm and reading books, everything from The Worst Witch to Judy Blume.
Since rekindling my love with books I’ve noticed a real shift in my evening habits - I have always struggled getting to bed at a decent time, deeming myself a night owl and procrastinating about bedtime. But since I’ve been reading in bed I don’t get many urges to flip on the TV on an evening and find myself looking forward to bedtime so I can check in on my literary world. I grab early nights thinking I’ll read a good few chapters of my book and find my eyes going after one. So, in turn, this has meant earlier mornings where I just seem to get so much done.
A study by The University of Sussex found reading before sleep for just 6 minutes helped to reduce stress by two thirds. Let’s just take a moment to take in the enormousness of that! Just 6 minutes of your day with such huge effects. It was found the transportation into another world through printed word relaxed muscles and the heart. Furthermore, it was found that reading was the most effective at combatting stress over other forms of relaxation such as listening to music or taking a walk.
My tips for reading before bed for aiding with sleep is to read fiction - non fiction gets my brain cogs going too hard and I get so inspired from it that I get all sorts of ideas that keep me awake if I don't journal them. And I try and keep my before bed fiction fairly easy to read - save political stories or fiction covering harsh topics for daytime/commuting/weekend reading.
Transporting yourself to another world through someone elses eyes helps increase your empathy in your day to day life. It also increases your creativity and sharpens your brain. Keith Stanovich, a leading professor at the University of Toronto, has conducted extensive research on the benefits of reading and said ‘Certainly, our data demonstrate time and again that print exposure is associated with vocabulary, general knowledge, and verbal skills even after controlling for abstract reasoning abilities’.
I should add, I’m afraid lit screens are out if you want to improve your sleep and you ability to get off to sleep so if you want to read books electronically, opt for a non lit screen. The bonus of this is, the devices tend to be the lower priced ones! Unless I’m reading a physical book, I use the basic Kindle that I read until my Lumie clock starts to fade, if I haven’t fallen asleep by then.
Check out my Ears & Eyes series for book recommendations. If you have recommendations on books to ease someone back into reading please add them in the comments below.
Formally Emma Gutteridge