Reading before bed is a practice that’s older than you might think, and was something of a staple before smartphones and other electronic devices came about. Reading is great for the brain, and in a recent study, reading fiction was actually found to increase a person’s empathy. I think we can all agree that the world could use a bit more of that.
Reading and storytelling are as old as humanity. We’ve passed information, traditions, and so much more through stories and reading, and there are billions of stories out there. Of course, when we say “reading”, we’re also including things like audiobooks. Some people can’t see well, don’t actually like to read out of a book, or simply enjoy storytelling in an audio format.
Whether you’re reading the latest fiction or listening to online Bible stories for adults, reading/storytelling before bed offers several benefits. Here are five.
1. Increase Focus
We’ve seen a serious decrease in the attention span of people in general, not just children, since electronic devices like smartphones became the norm. The use of smartphones has been linked to poor concentration and focusing skills, and the inability to “unplug”, so to speak.
Smartphone use is, in its own way, addicting. Using a smartphone or electronic device offers instant gratification in that you can pull it out at any time, connect to the internet, and pretty much see/watch/listen to anything you want. Your brain is hardwired to take the path of least resistance, so naturally, it gravitates towards that instant gratification.
Reading before bed helps combat that loss of attention span by forcing you to focus on something else. You’ll be focusing on characters, events, and dialogue that help you “unplug” from the digital realm and embrace the power of storytelling.
Remember when I mentioned empathy earlier? Reading fiction can increase empathy and understanding, according to Discover Magazine. It’s believed that people learn to empathize with others by reading fictional stories in which they relate to certain characters. When you read fiction, you’re reading an account of someone’s adventures, which means you’re viewing them from an outside perspective. This allows you to fill the shoes of that person, empathizing with their struggles and emotions.
Reading every night before bed is a great way to gain a more thorough understanding of different people’s perspectives. When you look at things from someone else’s point of view, it’s far easier to truly understand their struggle, not just sympathize with their suffering.
Sympathy and empathy are often mistaken for one another, but there’s a clear difference between the two. Sympathy comes from someone outside looking in, feeling bad for the sufferer, but not truly understanding their depth of feeling. Empathy comes from truly seeing the problem/struggle through the sufferer’s POV and identifying with them that way.
3. Increased Vocabulary
Reading helps increase your vocabulary, which can make you not only a better reader, but a better writer and speaker as well. There’s a misconception that once you finish school, your learning days are over. The truth is, you should always be learning new things, and learning new words can be fun and exciting. You might find a new word for your favorite phrase or learn the meaning of a word you’ve been stuck on for years.
Increasing your vocabulary can make you a more confident speaker, as well. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt you weren’t as well-spoken as everyone else? Or maybe you were trying to say something, but couldn’t find the words? You need to read more!
4. Reduce Stress
Reading has been proven to reduce stress, and that’s definitely something you need before bedtime. How many nights have you gone to sleep stressed out? You probably didn’t sleep very well during those nights. Stress is one of the most common causes of poor sleep, but reading can help.
Reading helps you focus on something other than your stress, and for some, it acts as a sort of escape from the rigors of daily life. If you can get away to a fictional place with dragons and magic and other things for a while, why wouldn’t you?
Ok, so not everyone enjoys magic and dragons, but the point remains that reading can reduce stress. Looking at Facebook just before bedtime certainly isn’t stress-reducing!
5. Increase Your Creativity
Have you ever been so inspired by a book or article you read that you wanted to take on a new hobby, or even write one of your own? Books can be inspiring, motivational, and educational. You can boost your creativity, your skills, and your knowledge of the world simply by stepping into a story or educational book.
The Bottom Line
Reading before bed has several benefits, not the least of which is increasing your empathy and vocabulary. You don’t have to read, per se, as there are alternatives like audiobooks; but the bottom line is that listening to or reading a story before bed is good for the soul and the brain.