Bedtime Reading Recos to Fall Asleep
“Reading can be very soothing and transport us to another time and place,” says social worker and poetry therapist Sherry Reiter, director of The Creative Righting Center in Brooklyn. “The book becomes an understanding friend, reassuring us that we are not alone.”
In a study commissioned by UK-based Galaxy chocolate, reported in the Telegraph newspaper, cognitive neuropsychologist David Lewis of the University of Sussex found that as little as six minutes of reading before bed can help reduce stress by up to two-thirds, which in turn will help improve your sleep.
Bibliotherapy, the use of the written word to promote good mental health, has long been recommended by medical professionals for patients who suffer from emotional disturbances or need help solving personal problems. According to the National Association for Poetry Therapy, literature used to encourage “growth and healing through written language, symbol, and story” can include a variety of genres, from poetry to journals, novels, memoirs and even songwriting.
The concept of bibliotherapy is not a recent development, though it has received increased attention since the growth of creative arts therapies in the 1960s and 70s, according to the National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations, Inc.
Aristotle and the ancient Romans believed in the healing power of literature. By the 18th century, most of the more prominent mental hospitals in Europe had established libraries, and hospitals in the U.S. followed suit by the middle of the 19th century, with many physicians recommending books for emotional ailments.
Reiter finds poetry especially helpful in falling asleep. “The reading of specific poems — especially those that are closest to the rhythm of the human heartbeat — has a calming effect,” she says. In her book, Writing Away the Demons: Stories of Creative Coping Through Transformative Writing, Reiter relates the story of a client suffering from extreme anxiety about an upcoming medical procedure, which was causing her to lose sleep. Reiter suggested that the client repeat a peaceful poem of her choosing prior to going to sleep. The client’s selection, Let Evening Come, by Jane Kenyon, was successful in helping her relax and get to sleep.
Reiter particularly likes reading poetry about nature for its sleep-inducing qualities and suggests works by poets Mary Oliver, Mark Nepo or John Berryman. However, other genres might be more to your liking, from books that make you laugh, such as comedian Jim Gaffigan’s lighthearted memoir Food: A Love Story, to classics such as Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, to Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, with its perspective on living a more simple life.
In recent years, the concept of bibliotherapy outside the therapeutic setting has also become popular, with the rise of bibliotherapy classes, “virtual” bibliotherapy sessions, blogs and books that include reading “prescriptions”—from novels such as The Little Paris Bookshop to self-help books like The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You.
Like diet and exercise, quality sleep is essential for optimal health and professional performance. Because everyone’s sleep needs are different, Sleep Number® beds adjust to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support. Find your Sleep Number® setting for your best possible night’s sleep.