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The Benefits of Reading Before Bed (Plus our Bedtime Reading List!)

Woman sitting up in bed and reading a book

Rewind six months … it’s summer, and a single sunbeam slips through your window from a bright morning sky. You feel energized, refreshed and ready to take on the day. Why? A big reason for your sunny mood may be the high-intensity blue light coming from the sun.

Blue light: it’s a hot topic in the field of sleep science. Among the visible light spectrum, blue wavelengths have the most powerful effect on your sleep-wake internal body clock. It’s a beautiful thing when the sun shining through your window is all you need to feel alert in the morning. However, it isn’t so cheery when blue light from your phone makes it tough to fall asleep at night.

Blue light filtering lenses, night mode on your iPhone, the general push to cut down on screen time – most people know by now that blue light isn’t great for your sleep. So, what can you do for a little entertainment before bedtime rolls around?

One healthy, relaxing option is reading before bed. Not only is it an excuse to log off your social media for a bit, but reading before bed actually has sleep-improving qualities of its own. Here’s why you should stop scrolling and start reading before you try to get some shut eye. (And a couple recommendations from us to you for the best books to read before bed!)

Does reading before bed help you sleep?

Woman lying on a comfy bed with a book over her faceWoman lying on a comfy bed with a book over her face

It’s true: reading before bed can help you sleep. In fact, studies show that reading before bed can improve a variety of sleep-related troubles by helping you to:

Surely, most of us have experienced a rough night of sleep due to situational anxiety – say an upcoming presentation at work or an important final exam. Reading can provide a positive distraction from distressing or nervous thoughts that disrupt sleep.

Consistently incorporating reading into your nightly routine can also help you sleep by inducing drowsiness. If you read in bed at the same time every night, just before sleeping, your brain will begin to recognize that as cue to start producing melatonin, the sleep hormone, and winding the body down for sleep.

More benefits of reading before bed

For many, reading is a pleasant source of entertainment. And everyone knows that reading is a way to gain knowledge, too. But did you know that reading can also strengthen your brain’s abilities? This includes:

  • Boosting empathy
  • Increasing your vocabulary
  • Protecting against age-related cognitive decline

Dedicating time to reading is also dedicating time to unplugging, even if just for a little. Our constant connectivity can wreak havoc on our mental health, attention spans and, again, our sleep schedules. Reading, on the other hand, has been shown to improve all of these areas.

Reading reduces stress (even more so than listening to music or drinking tea) by pulling you outside of your own life and worries for just a little. Reducing stress not only boosts your mood, but it nurtures your overall mental health. And reading a book means being focused on a single plot or topic for a longer period of time than, say, watching a TikTok or scrolling through 280-character Tweets. This allows us to improve our attention spans in the rest of our daily activities, too.

Stack of hardcover books on a bedside tableStack of hardcover books on a bedside table

6 Picks! Best books to read before bed

Want to get into reading, but not sure where to start? We get it – so we’ve compiled a short list of books focused on sustainability, greener living and our planet. (You know, the things we hold near and dear to us here at Happsy!) Check it out. 

Indigenous voices: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer

In Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants, author Robin Wall Kimmerer draws on her own experiences as a botanist and an indigenous woman. This meticulously crafted book of essays addresses the importance of nurturing ecological awareness and developing a relationship with the natural world – and how Indigenous knowledge can function as a complementary approach to Western mainstream scientific methodology. It’s beautiful, it’s poignant and it’s important.

Two kids with bunny sleep masks, reading together before bedTwo kids with bunny sleep masks, reading together before bed

For families: Little House in the Suburbs by Deanna Caswell and Daisy Siskin 

Do your kids tease you for your “crunchy” or “granola” ways? Read this book. Because, believe it or not, it is possible to have chickens and a little garden growing in the backyard … and still live close enough for a Target run (because who doesn’t love a good Target run?) Little House in the Suburbs: Backyard farming and home skills for self-sufficient living is full of useful recipes and tips for beginners and beyond – and it will make you laugh, too!

Women in history: Silent Spring by Rachel Carson 

Inspiration for a generation of climate activists and mother of modern environmental science writing, Rachel Carson authored the trailblazing Silent Spring to warn the public of the dangers of pesticides back in 1962. Yet, its conservationist message feels just as relevant today as it did then, if not even more urgent. For organic livers and Earth lovers, this classic book is an absolute must-read.

For organic newbies: Easy Green Living by Renée Loux 

Whether you’ve decided to fully commit to the organic life or you’re just trying to live a little more sustainably, knowing where to start can be tricky. But it doesn’t have to be! In her book Easy Green Living: The Ultimate Guide to Simple, Eco-Friendly Choices for You and Your Home, Renée Loux outlines exactly what you need to do to green-ify your home, room by room. The best part? Her suggestions are actually quite simple.

Gen Z man reading in bed with his feet up on the headboardGen Z man reading in bed with his feet up on the headboard

For fiction lovers: The Overstory by Richard Powers 

Who else loves a good story? If you’re looking for a work of fiction that also inspires sustainable living, this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is a great place to start. The Overstory: A Novel tells the story of how trees and humans have coexisted throughout history, focusing on nine vastly different people with vastly different (but equally memorable) experiences with trees in their lives.

Gen Z for the Earth: No One is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

As Gen Z transitions from teenagers to young adults, one message is becoming clear: many are stepping up to fight climate change. If you want to read something that inspires on the topic of fighting climate change, check out this collection of speeches by viral youth climate activist Greta Thunberg: No One is Too Small to Make a Difference. You might just find a renewed sense of hope for the future.

Whether you’re looking for more sustainable ways to relax, how to create a planet friendly sleep environment or simple ways to get better sleep, Happsy’s got you covered. Check out our blog for tips on organic living, sustainability and more. Happsy sleeping!