If you want to improve your sleep, switch off your screens well before bedtime and pick up a real book. That means no TV and no iPad, Kindle or smartphone reading.

Reading before bed is actually beneficial but generally only if you read from an old-style book ... the kind with paper and ink! Let's take a look at why reading is good for you and how screen time can play havoc with your sleep.

Bedtime reading benefits

  • The routine is healthy - Having a regular bedtime routine is a good way to send a message to your body that it's nearly time to sleep. That wind-down time while you read will prepare your brain for rest and to switch off.
  • Reading is escapism - Losing yourself in a great story or a fascinating non-fiction book can be very therapeutic. The distraction takes your mind off the day's worries, what you need to do tomorrow and other concerns. Stress is a major cause of insomnia and reading something you enjoy can be a fantastic way to reduce it.
  • Inspire your dreams - Reading before you go to sleep can provide your brain with dream fodder. If you're making your way through an epic romance novel, you'll hopefully have sweet dreams about love and passion. Just be careful though; it's probably not a good idea to choose pre-bedtime to read Stephen King!
  • More engaging than TV - If you need to watch a TV show, YouTube or other content on your iPad or TV before you fall asleep, you're really just choosing disengagement. Passive entertainment can keep you awake whereas engaging, absorbing material like an enjoyable book can help the tension to dissolve and the body to relax. (Just make it a book, not a screen.)

Screen time is the enemy of sleep

Increasingly, the world's population is sleep-deprived. And those complaining of tiredness and not getting enough sleep are not just shift workers and parents of newborns! The problem goes right across the board, from very young children through to people in their more mature years. We are overdosing on screen time!

Our screens are compulsively distracting. The mere ding of a notification is enough to make us want to stop whatever we're doing - including dozing off - and check it. Also, the blue light emitted from screens is preventing our brains from switching off. The later in the day you are exposed to blue light such as from device screens or TV screens, the more difficulty you will have falling asleep.

Choose books and keep screens out of the bedroom

Keep a stack of books you love by your bed. Make your bedroom a tech-free zone. And sometimes, don't even read. Simply lay your head down on the pillow and count your breaths. You might be surprised how effective that is!