A good night’s sleep is essential to your well-being but can be difficult to achieve. Developing healthy bedtime habits, such as reading, or removing digital distractions from your room, can go a long way in improving the quality of your rest. In fact, some of the best books to read before bed can keep you feeling calm, prime you for more enjoyable dreams, and even reduce the amount of time you spend tossing and turning before you go to sleep each night.
If you’re looking to improve the quality of sleep, understanding what to read before bed and why bedtime books can play such a powerful role in your nighttime routine is important. Here’s everything you need to know about why you need to pick up the habit, from the studies discussing reading benefits to the best books to read before bed.
If you struggle to get a good night’s rest, it might be useful to try and develop a bedtime routine to help you with this. Though you might associate a bedtime routine with being a child, it can help establish habits that help improve your sleep hygiene and are well worth investing your time into.
A few examples of steps you might choose to include into your own bedtime routine include:
Reading before bed has proven benefits for your well-being and mood. In one study conducted by researchers in the UK, participants reduced their stress levels by 68% simply by reading before bedtime. The activity proved to be more calming than sipping a cup of tea and even listening to music.
Another study published in Neurology, a scientific journal, shows that picking books to read before bed also advances your mental and memory abilities at all stages of life. This isn’t the only study that has proved a link between reading and an extension on life quality: researchers at Yale also took a closer look at the habit and came to the conclusion that people who read more than 3½ hours each week were 23% more likely to live longer than those who did not.
If all this isn’t proof enough that you should start that nightly reading habit sooner rather than later, according to one report published by Harvard Medical School, reading before bed actually has the power to reduce symptoms and side-effects of insomnia altogether.
In our search for the best books to read before bedtime, we scoured thousands of Goodreads lists and reviews to find what people around the world love to read before going to sleep. We deliberated over some of the best-reviewed and rated books on the platform. Using keywords related to sleep, stress-relief, and relaxation, we’ve managed to narrow down hundreds of books down to the creme de la creme of sleepy-time reads.
Here’s what made the cut:
Author Liz Gilbert travels through Italy, India, and Bali after an early mid-life crisis in this memoir about love, friendship, and hope. Her year-long journey is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming and is a great way to wrap up your evening. Published in 2006, Gilbert’s memoir was an instant hit and stayed on the New York Times Best Seller list for 187 weeks.
Learn more about Elizabeth Gilbert
The perfect introduction for anyone who’s been curious about using mental imagery and affirmation to bring about positive changes in their life, Shakti Gawain’s best-selling guide might just be right for you. A huge proponent of personal development, Gawain’s work has been featured in TIME magazine, and her famous fans include Oprah and Larry King.
Learn more about Shakti Gawain
Have we always thought about sleep the same way? Author Kat Duff takes a closer look at the history of sleep to bring us closer to understanding what happens when we close our eyes each night. With a close look at shifting cultural attitudes towards sleep, Duff paints a fascinating image of our relationship with sleep and emphasizes just how important it can be.
Learn more about Kat Duff
Set in the glamorous 1950s during Grace Kelly’s whirlwind romance to Prince Rainier of Monaco, take a trip down the French Riviera for a tale of star-crossed lovers, friendship, and second chances. Co-written by authors Hazel Gaynor and Heather Webb, the perspective changes provide an entertaining and gripping read that’ll keep you looking forward to bedtime.
This is a novel with a particularly interesting point of view - the titular Dalai Lama’s cat, but it is also a tender take on some of the valuable lessons Buddhism has to offer all of us. The perfect balance of humor and wisdom for bedtime, this philosophical look into Buddhism is a great way for anyone who wants a simple breakdown of this complex way of thinking.
Learn more about David Michie
A powerful meditation on what it means to live in the present, Eckhart Tolle’s book is the perfect refresher to making the most of the life you’ve been given. One of the best-selling books of the spiritual genre, the book has been translated into 33 different languages, including Arabic.
Learn more about Eckhart Tolle
This transformative guide to meditation is great for anyone who feels like they’ve tried mindfulness to no avail. Using tried and tested techniques, Dr. Martz provides an illuminating crash course to meditation. After working as a clinical psychologist for over 25 years, Martz’s study is informed by his experience, creating a more holistic approach to his practice.
Learn more about Kenneth J. Martz
Based on the popular podcast of the same name, Kathryn Nicolai offers the perfect solution to sleepers who want something pleasant but dull enough to nod off to. A yoga and meditation teacher, Kathryn first found success through her podcast of the same name and has since built a loyal fanbase of sleepers who rely on her stories to get a good night’s rest.
Learn more about Kathryn Nicolai
If you’ve ever tried to meet a fitness goal that seems impossible, this is a great book for you. Shawn Stevenson uncovers the relationship between sleep and fitness in this fascinating read. Diagnosed with degenerative disc disease at the age of 20, Shawn began to research human health and found with the right approach, he could get his well-being back.
Learn more about Shawn Stevenson
Matthew Walker’s cutting-edge research provides a unique and deep look into the breakthroughs involved in a good night’s sleep. A great motivator when you’re tucked into bed contemplating pulling a late night, Walker’s TED talk has over six million views on YouTube. The book has many famous fans, including Bill Gates, who writes about it on his website.
Learn more about Matthew Walker
So how do you know which books to read before bed, and which are best for daytime reading? Focusing on books with positive messages and soothing stories is often the best way to guarantee a good night’s sleep.
You’ll want to ensure you’re able to get a print version of your bedtime reading list where possible since most e-readers emit blue light that can be harmful to your sleep cycle. That being said, a few devices, such as the Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, have relatively inconsequential amounts of blue light.
Avoid books from thriller/horror-type genres, since the natural amount of adrenaline these books produce can actually cause you to become more alert and awake than before. This same theory applies to books that end in cliff-hangers, or books that are part of a series, since they’re written to keep you hanging on for just one more chapter.
The benefits of reading before bed are all lost if the end results in you feeling more alert or awake than ever. When choosing which books to read before bed, be sure to avoid overly stimulating books and stick to lighter reads for the evening to ensure you’re going to be able to catch up on a good night’s sleep after.
Learning how to fall asleep fast is a process of trial and error. If you’re thinking of implementing a bedtime routine of your own, reading can be an engaging and entertaining activity to include in the mix. Start by reading twenty minutes a night, and try to observe whether you’re sleeping better after your new bedtime habit - you can add or take away from this amount of time accordingly.
Keeping your bedroom as comfortable as possible for bedtime reading is also an important part of making sure reading becomes a staple of your sleep routine. Use a wedge pillow to prop yourself up while sleeping, and try to keep the lights as dim as possible without interfering with how well you’re able to read. You may wish to read alongside a warm cup of herbal tea or water, or on days when you’re feeling especially indulgent, a cup of hot chocolate.
Reading has a profoundly positive impact on our well-being, and so does sleep. Combining these two habits so that one enables the other can thereby help you feel less stressed and generally calmer for the day. By picking out the best books to read before bed, you not only improve your chances of a good night’s sleep, you also improve your well-being. With your new reading list at the ready, get ready for a good night’s sleep like you’ve never experienced before.