Reading in Bed: How to Read Comfortably (Sleep Benefits and Tips)

Sleeping.com Editorial Team

book and reading glasses in bed

Many people find reading in bed one of life’s most relaxing pleasures. At the end of a long day, when work and responsibilities are put to the side, you can escape into the world of a book while propped up on soft pillows in the cozy confines of your bedroom. 

Reading has many benefits, but reading in bed can cause some negative issues like any other activity. Thankfully these are usually relatively easy to fix or avoid entirely in the first place. 

So, what is the best way to read in bed? To get the most out of your nighttime reading, you’ll need to address several factors, including the correct lighting, body support, reading material, etc.  

This article will look at some expert sources with advice on what you should or shouldn’t do while reading in bed. We’ll find out the pros and cons of reading before bed and how you can enjoy your bedtime hobby without sacrificing your comfort or your sleep.  

What Are the Benefits of Reading Before Bed? 

Here is a list of the most prominent pros of reading before bed. 

Relaxation

In today’s busy world, it’s not uncommon for the average person to collapse into bed exhausted and stressed out, with maybe a scroll through social media as their only unwinding ritual before nodding off. 

These before-bed scenarios can be terrible for the brain. They can hijack our sleep patterns, leading to excessive night waking, restlessness, bad dreams, and an unsatisfying night’s sleep. 

Reading before bed can be a welcoming relief from that overstimulated state, bringing relaxation and calm to a racing mind. It helps you focus on something other than your worries and cares, allows you to lower your heart rate, and produce fewer stress chemicals.

Learning and Retaining Information

Books get you thinking! We all know that reading is one of the best ways to learn new information and gain new perspectives on life. 

You don’t have to study heavy materials to get this benefit. Even a novel or other forms of fiction can help you learn about new cultures, history, events, and the human experience. 

The effects are even more pronounced when you read at night right before bed. Sleep is when your brain rejuvenates itself and processes the events and thoughts of the day, both conscious and subconscious. 

That means that what you take in at bedtime through reading is more likely to stay in your memory. 

Better Sleep 

The calming effects of a book can help you fall asleep in a more healthy way and could help you stay asleep. Reading is somewhat similar to meditation in that it puts the brain into a focused, peaceful state that’s conducive to sleep. 

Improved Focus

Studies show that reading improves concentration. In addition, reading in bed right before sleep provides you with an even more focused experience because you can get lost in a book while you’re free of outside distractions. 

Difficulties With Reading Before Bed 

With every good reason to read in bed comes a bad reason. Here are a few of the cons to reading before bed. 

Reading on an Electronic Device

It used to be easy to tell a night reader by the stacks of books on their nightstand, but nowadays, it’s more convenient than ever to hold hundreds of books in a tiny device. 

So, while paper books still have a special allure, e-reading opens up many new opportunities for a book lover and provides a built-in light source for those who enjoy reading at night. 

Unfortunately, there is some evidence that electronics of any kind before bed might not be the best choice. Those classic studies that showed the effects of TV’s blue light on sleep still hold for all our up-to-the-minute devices, including e-readers. 

TVs, computers, tablets, and smartphones – pretty much anything with a display screen – emit blue LED light that can disrupt our natural melatonin production. 

Melatonin is a hormone our bodies produce that regulates our sleep cycle. When melatonin is suppressed, sleep schedules go off the rails, so experts have been advising people to abstain from screens for at least an hour before bedtime. 

Not willing to make the switch yet? The obvious and most effective solution is to forgo electronics and stick to traditional paper books at bedtime. 

However, some newer reading devices like the Kindle Paperwhite offer adjustable light settings to have a “warmer” screen for nighttime use. If you enjoy the convenience of e-readers, you can try one of these models and see if you notice any improvement in your sleep. 

Positional Discomfort 

When you’re reading a good story, you get caught up in it and forget the passing of time. But, sometimes, your back – or neck or hips – will remind you exactly how long you’ve been stuck in the same position. 

When reading in bed, people will situate themselves in all manner of positions. Some people lie on their side with the book next to them, while others sit cross-legged with the book on their lap. Others still may prop their head upon the pillow and hold the book above their face. 

There’s a lot of pressure on specific body parts in these positions. Being in these positions for extended periods can mean stiffness and pain, making it more difficult for us to fall asleep and stay asleep after our reading session. 

To avoid these annoying aches, the first thing you should do is choose the correct reading position. In general, the best choice is to prop yourself against the headboard or wall with your legs straight on the bed. And, of course, make sure your neck is supported.

However, every individual body is different, and ultimately you can read in whatever position feels good to you. 

Next, you’ll want to get some items that make you more comfortable when reading in bed. For example, if you like to read sitting up, you’ll need a good quality back support pillow. 

A back support pillow is thicker and is shaped to cradle your back so you can relax against the wall or headboard without pressure or tension, which is not the same as your typical bedroom pillow. 

Some of these pillows are also outfitted with luxuries like plush armrests, pockets for your extras, and charging ports for the devices you will not be looking at until tomorrow! 

If you like to read on your side, a long body pillow provides some pressure relief for your hips. Prefer to read while lying flat? Get a good neck support pillow that prevents your head from pushing forward. You can also get a book holder so that your arms can rest. 

Eye Strain 

When avoiding body pain while reading, don’t forget about your eyes. So many of us suffer from eye strain because most of our work and play involve screens. While paper books don’t cause as much eye strain, extended reading can affect our eyes, especially if they’re tired. 

The first line of defense against eye strain is giving your eyes frequent rest periods. Take short breaks to shut your eyes, open them and exercise them in different ways from the side-to-side motion of reading. Always read in adequate light. 

A candle may be cozy, but you’re not a medieval scholar. Your eyes will thank you for investing in a good reading light, even if it’s a small book light. 

Most importantly, see your eye doctor for frequent checkups and wear your reading glasses if you are prescribed them. 

Choice of Reading Material

As mentioned earlier, the brain retains and processes information that it receives right before sleeping, so it’s a good idea to be picky about your bedtime reading material. 

Books that contain graphic, violent content, spooky supernatural themes, or descriptions of illness are all common triggers for nighttime anxiety. 

Not to suggest that anyone give up their favorite true crime story if it doesn’t seem to be having any ill effects. If you like the story and you’re sleeping fine afterward, enjoy! 

However, if you feel tense and fretful or have nightmares after certain types of books, you may want to try lighter, more relaxing options for bedtime reading. 

Set The Mood 

Ideally, you shouldn’t fall asleep while reading, but you can read yourself into a sleepy state that will help you drift off as soon as the lights go out. You shouldn’t have to get up for anything once you settle in to read in bed. 

You should have everything you need set up near you before you read. Your drink, snacks, phone, and other bedtime must-haves should be right on your nightstand for convenience. 

Set the ambiance with a cozy blanket and quiet room. The lights should be low or off except for the one you used to read. 

Get the room’s temperature and airflow the way you like it before settling down. Some people also want to use aromatherapy scents like lavender to help them relax while reading. 

Wrapping Up 

The benefits of reading in bed are many. It can help you relax, sleep, learn and focus. If you follow some common-sense steps to make reading in bed more comfortable, you can enjoy your bedtime routine without any of the typical inconveniences. 

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