Read Before Bed to Boost Your Brain Health
Dozing off in bed with a beloved book in hand has been a bedtime ritual for centuries. Aside from dedicated bookworms, though, most adults these days scarcely pick up a book, let alone read them at bedtime. Newer technology has replaced them, and now most of us stare at screens and scroll through articles before falling asleep.
Yet for those who continue to read at bedtime, this ritual has several cognitive and mental health benefits. The likes of Elon Musk and Warren Buffet swear by this habit. Here’s why you should, too.
In our body, the stress response is activated by a brain chemical named cortisol. It helps us stay awake, sharpens our reflex, and allows us to respond quickly in threatening situations. But if the cortisol levels become higher than usual, it produces a chronic state of survival response, weighing on your mind and not letting you sleep.
Reading has been long known as a de-stressor, for the way it allows us to lose ourselves in a different world and let go of our worries and anxieties. A new study has found that only 6 minutes of immersive reading can reduce stress by 68%. Reading before bed, therefore, helps you de-stress better after a day’s work and prepares you for healthy sleep.
Mitigates the blue-screen effect
We are surrounded by screens, and the blue LED light of a smartphone screen is the last thing we look at before going to sleep most days. This habit is bad for the brain in innumerable ways. It interferes with our circadian rhythm, tricking our brain to think it’s still daytime and hence it refuses to fall asleep. The blue light of mobile and laptop screens can delay sleep onset by almost an hour.
A physical book, on the other hand, does not disturb your eyes and allows your brain to naturally tire out. It also helps counteract the effect of all the screen light you have been exposed to all day. Stop looking at screens at least 30 minutes before you intend to fall asleep and pick up a book.
Helps in learning
Our brain does not sleep, it just has a different set of functions to perform when we have drifted off. Chief among them is deep processing of information and long-term memory formation. Things we learn every day get consolidated at sleep time. So if you are reading before going to sleep, you stand a better chance to retain its content and ideas for a long time.
Establishes a bedtime ritual
The brain is a slave to habit, and it will turn anything into a habit if it is performed repeatedly and consistently. By making reading the last thing you do before falling asleep, you are giving your brain a cue to start preparing your body for sleep. So when you go to bed and open the book, your body has already started to unwind for the day. Many struggle to fall asleep at night because they are too strung-up from the events of the day. This ritual can help them gain a healthy sleep.
Helps you read more
Reading in itself is a healthy habit and has numerous benefits for your brain. But it often becomes tough to make time for reading in our busy lives. When you make reading before bed a ritual, you are also scheduling a time for getting your daily dose of reading exercise. Your mind stays agile and you get way more reading done than you normally would.
Helps with Anxiety and Sleep disorders
a book can draw you in and let you take refuge in its narrative. A lot of anxiety and sleep-related disorder stems from overthinking. By forcing you to concentrate on a narrative that is not your life, it trains your brain to shut down recurring and spiraling thoughts at will. Reading won’t cure these disorders, but it can offer significant relief and is often prescribed as a supplementary therapy by medical practitioners.
Reading before bed is one of the best ways to boost your brain health effectively. The book can be anything — fiction, non-fiction, learning materials, magazines — whatever works for you. The only thing to consider is how engrossed are you in the book. Need to tire out your brain? Pick the most boring book you can find. Need to relax a bit? Choose a breezy novel. Your brain will start showing results pretty soon.