EXPLAINER

The reason reading makes you sleepy

The book didn't stand a chance

By Ellen Gutoskey
Published August 15, 2021 8:00PM (EDT)
Woman reading in bed (Getty Images/Luis Alvarez)
Woman reading in bed (Getty Images/Luis Alvarez)

This story originally appeared on Mental Floss.

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You've finally tucked yourself into bed and cracked open the detective novel you've been waiting all day to get back to. Three pages later, you're fighting a losing battle against two suddenly very heavy eyelids.

You were wide awake mere minutes ago, and the protagonist just uncovered a promising new lead in the case. So, what gives?

As the BBC's "Science Focus" explains, the coziness of your covers could be working against you. People usually try to read in a quiet, comfortable atmosphere, and those conditions happen to be ideal for sleep. Reading also eases your mind and draws its focus away from whatever preoccupations might otherwise keep you awake.

"For many [people], reading can be relaxing and enjoyable, which can put your mind and body in the appropriate mindset or mood to go to sleep," Dr. Raman Malhotra, a neurologist and member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine's board of directors, told Refinery29. "The main reason reading may help some fall asleep is that it allows your mind some time to rest and relax before turning out the lights to fall asleep."

The concentration required to process every word can be pretty exhausting, too, especially if your chosen tome is dense. And reading line after line of anything can make you feel like giving your eyes a break.

These factors all make reading a great activity to add to your pre-sleep routine if you're looking for ways to fall asleep faster. But if your body's snoozing impulse is continually keeping you from enjoying a good book, there are some tricks to thwart it. Book Riot suggests reading in the morning, or trying an audiobook instead. Reading in a spot that isn't your bed — preferably one where you're sitting up, rather than lying down — can help, too. Reading in a public place like a coffee shop or park can also discourage dozing.

[h/t Refinery29]

Do you love reading? Are you eager to know incredibly interesting facts about novelists and their works? Then pick up our new book, The Curious Reader: A Literary Miscellany of Novels and Novelists, out now!


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