People who do THIS before bed tend to sleep better

New survey uncovers a technique that's more effective than prescription sleep aids

Man asleep in bed
(Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels)

Reading before bed could be the key to a better night's sleep, according to new research. As part of its Read to Sleep Initiative, Penguin Random House commissioned a national survey into the role reading plays in bedtime routines, and found that those who read as part of their bedtime routine tended to sleep better, and longer, than those who didn't. Reading was also rated as one of the most effective sleep aids (outperforming prescription sleep aids, white noise, and yoga).

So if you're looking to upgrade your nighttime wellness regime, expanding your literary horizons could the way to do it. And to help on that front, PRH also released a list of the best books to read before bed – scroll down for more on that. 

In the survey, conducted in November 2020, those who read before bed were more likely to rate their quality of sleep 4 stars or higher, compared to those who didn't (not quite as reliable as a sleep tracker, but we'll take it). Pre-bed readers tended to sleep longer, too: an extra 25 minutes compared to those who didn't.

There were also some interesting findings in terms of using reading as an aid to help you fall asleep faster. 67% of people who read before bed say reading is somewhat or very effective in helping them fall asleep – making it a better bet than prescription sleep aids (61%), meditation or white noise (57%), and stretching/yoga (54%). Only a quarter of those who read before bed say they often have difficulty falling asleep. See the full results and methodology here.

Penguin Random House Read to Sleep campaign - illustration of a woman reading

(Image credit: Penguin Random House)

There's a bit of a cause-and-effect question here (if the non-readers are substituting an hour of doom-scrolling news on Twitter, that might be having an impact, for instance), but its interesting to see that overall, pre-bed reading tends to be a common feature in better sleep. Perhaps embracing reading is the gateway a healthier wellness-focused bedtime in general? 

The best books to read before bedtime

This is PRH's second Read to Sleep, and the initiative will run until the end of March – National Sleep Awareness Month. As part of the event, it has also put together a list of over 100 of the best books to read at bedtime, including mysteries for those who don't scare easy, and fantasy / sci-fi picks to transport you to new worlds. There are also audiobooks, so you can be lulled to sleep by one of the most soothing narrators (or your celebrity of choice), via your sleep headphones. These picks are all designed to help boost your mood, reduce stress and ease you into the land of nod. 

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Ruth Hamilton

Ruth is a lifestyle journalist specialising in sleep and wellbeing. She has tested more mattresses than her small flat can handle and will talk at length about them to anyone who shows even a passing interest, and has had to implement a one-in-one-out pillow policy for fear of getting smothered in the night. As well as following all the industry trends and advancements in the mattress and bedding world, she regularly speaks to certified experts to delve into the science behind a great night's sleep, and offer you advice to help you get there. She's currently Sleep Editor on Tom's Guide and TechRadar, and prior to that ran the Outdoors and Wellness channels on T3 (now covered by Matt Kollat and Beth Girdler-Maslen respectively).