You love reading books, but at the same time, you struggle trying not to fall asleep at the same time? Then, we are in the same situation. I’ve been reading books since I was a little kid. And I love to read right before going to sleep. That’s why I mostly read in bed. And that’s where the problem hits. How can you not fall asleep while reading a book in bed?
I’ve tried to find out what you can do about it and tested everything myself. In this post we’re going to cover these topics:
- Why do you become tired when reading a book?
- What keeps you awake at night?
- How to not fall asleep while reading a book? – The Strategy
- The Hardcore Stay-Awake-Strategy
After reading this guide you will be equipped with a step-by-step “stay-awake-while-reading-at-night”-strategy you can make use of every day. You will be able to simply copy this strategy and solve your late night reading struggles.
Why do you become tired when reading a book? – 5 Reasons
When reading a book in bed, there are several factors that do cause you to become really tired. That’s why I always recommend (if you can’t fall asleep at night) to read a book before sleep. But in this article, we’re going to take a look at everything from the other side: How not to fall asleep while reading a book?
So let’s simply take a look at why you become so tired while reading.
Reason 1: You dim your lighting while reading books
There are a lot of studies showing that lighting at night decreases our sleep quality and sleep duration (this study). For optimized sleep, sleep scientists, therefore, recommend that you should block off all light before going to bed. Most people still suffer from the most sleep-disrupting and wide-spread habit of using their cellphone right before going to bed. If you belong to the group of people grabbing a book at night and read with dimmed lighting, you are doing everything right. Same applies to all of you who read ebooks on a paper-like display (like the amazon kindle) at night. By reading books in dimmed lighting conditions you are enhancing your melatonin production. Melatonin is the hormone that makes you tired. Basically, you tell your body to prepare for sleep. And he follows your command.
Reason 2: You stop using social media and your TV while reading
In a lot of cases, you have massive problems falling asleep if you spend your evening with social media or watching TV. While this might not sound any sleep harming at first, you are actually exposing yourself to a lot of stimulation. This keeps your body and brain awake to be aware of what might be the next surprise in your Instagram feed. And then you get a small endorphin stimulation (the hormone that makes you feel lucky) once you found something interesting. This behavior is proven to cause sleeplessness and by reading a book, you avoid it. While reading a book can be exciting as well, you aren’t exposing yourself to nearly as much stimulation as when watching TV or browsing social media. Again, you are doing everything right by grabbing a book at night! Your body wants to thank you, by making you fall asleep.
Reason 3: You are calming down while reading (mostly)
Some people like to clean their rooms, cook something or even work out right before going to sleep. By raising your heart rate with these activities at a time where you should be quiet and calm, you prevent yourself from becoming tired. In contrast, reading books is extremely calming for you and your body (even if you are reading something exciting). The lowered heart rate signals your brain that you are not active right now and therefore improves your sleep quality. While working out is great for sleep in general, working out right before sleep is often connected to worse sleep quality.
In the title, I included the word “mostly”, because even if you are reading something exciting (like a thriller) your body is in an inactive state (even if your brain is not). Most of the times when I read something scary, I still fall asleep while reading somehow. Even though I want to know how the story goes on.
Reason 4: You built a night time routine and ritual
Reading every night is an extremely good habit to have. Not only is it good for just calming down, but you are also training yourself at the same time. By reading every night you build a solid sleep schedule that you will adapt to after 2-3 weeks. Therefore your day and night rhythm will be well-balanced. This causes you to not only fall asleep much faster, but also you are waking up much more refreshed and energized in the morning. In some cases, you will even experience grabbing a book and not even being able to read more than two pages before you can’t keep your eyes open anymore.
Reason 5: Reading a book at night is a form of meditation
As you read, you often get lost in your book. Your thoughts drift off. Everyday worries are not present anymore. Personally, sometimes I experienced something really strange while reading in bed. I was absorbed in the book that even though I fell asleep while reading, the story continued in my dreams. This is not always a good thing. Especially when you read something complex, your brain can’t really relax during sleep because it processes so much information. Mostly I woke up being really tired in the morning.
Still, by reading books and drifting off, you are much more likely to fall asleep from one moment to the next.
Research has shown that reading decreases our stress levels by about 68% (here) after reading for just 6 minutes. Doesn’t that sound like a really good explanation for you falling asleep that fast? So don’t worry. Falling asleep while reading does not only happen to you. Actually, you can be very happy, because it is very healthy and you are way ahead of other people spending their nights in front of the TV.
What keeps you awake at night?
To find out how you can prevent falling asleep while reading a book at night, all we have to do is to find out what actually prevents you from falling asleep in general. There can be multiple reasons for this, but you already know about most of them.
High Stress-Levels cause sleeplessness
You’ve probably experienced being stressed at night and having problems falling asleep. One good example would be an exam you have to pass the next day. After burning countless hours studying you will be very tense and struggle to fall asleep. Mostly though, being stressed is not a good strategy to actively employ if you want to avoid falling asleep while reading a book. On one hand, being stressed is bad for your well-being, on the other hand being stressed doesn’t really help you at all because reading at night decreases your stress levels by about 68%. So we need to find out different approaches to not fall asleep at night.
High blood pressure keeps you active
Oftentimes you struggle to fall asleep after a late-night workout. This is caused by the tension of your body and the high blood pressure that sets your brain in an active state. Still, you can’t really use workouts at night to stay awake while reading a book, so let’s take a look at the next idea.
Alternative Body Postures prevent Sleep
The posture you have while reading a book at night greatly determines the likelihood of you falling asleep against your will. If you lie on your side while reading you drastically increase the chance to drift off. Therefore taking a more seated position actually helps. Being too comfortable with your posture is therefore actually something you would avoid. We will use this later on in our ultimate strategy to stay awake at night.
Temperature and air conditions impact Sleep Quality
You probably hate hot pillows just like me. And most likely you don’t want to sleep with an open window during freezing cold winter. The effects of temperature on sleep have been shown in various studies. Scientists from the Centre d’Etudes Bioclimatiques du CNRS in France investigated the effects of temperature on our sleep (this study) and found that the optimum temperature for sleeping is at about 26 degrees Celsius (about 79 degrees Fahrenheit). Interestingly, they studied not only the room temperature but also the temperature inside your bed and found that the optimum point for sleep is at 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit). With the temperature going lower or higher, sleep quality decreases and you wake up more often.
This means any deviation from the optimum temperature is going to keep you awake at night and not make you fall asleep.
Light resets your Sleep Rhythm
Often studies show that light keeps you awake at night. That’s something you most likely already know. One of these studies (here) showed something really interesting though. Scientists researched the effects of bright light in the evening on the sleep rhythm of an old lady. What they found out blew me away. The sleep-wake-cycle of the old lady was reset and shifted by a few hours. Not great for the lady that wants to be able to fall asleep at night, but for us this is gold. To prevent falling asleep while reading a book at night, we will have to make use of light to be able to design the perfect stay-awake-while-reading-strategy.
Drinking Tea keeps you awake
I love having a drink on my side, whether it’s a bottle of water or a tea. Each sip acts as a little refresher while reading a book. Tea and water do not only keep me awake but also improve my concentration so I can keep more of what I read. Drinking water frees up attentional resources, as claimed by researchers (this study). This means you will not only be able to remember more but also you will benefit from the improved reading speed and thus you won’t need to fight your tiredness that long.
How Not To Fall Asleep While Reading A Book – The Strategy
Grab your pen and paper and be ready to face your sleep problem! Together we will now change the way you read at night, so you will never need to worry about falling asleep while reading a book again.
Step 1: Prepare a drink
Go to the kitchen, prepare a bottle of water or a tea (preferably not black tea which contains caffeine). Place your drink right next to your bed (or wherever you are planning to read). A perfect spot to place your drink would be within an arm’s reach and elevated like a nightstand. Avoid placing a cup of tea on the floor. There’s a 100% chance that you’ll spill it someday.
Step 2: Open Your Window
An open window at night brings two positive side effects. It cools down your house and you’ll be able to hear outside noises. A cool place prevents you from becoming tired and at the same time often makes you feel more comfortable while reading. Ambient noises from outside (whether it’s street traffic or just some wind blowing through leaves) often help you not fall asleep. You already have your tea or water prepared, your window is opened and you almost finished your reading environment. What comes next?
Step 3: Get comfortable
Even if you don’t want to fall asleep while reading your book, preparing a comfy atmosphere is still necessary. Put on your favorite unicorn pajama and the softest socks you can get. If you want, prepare a hot water bottle or a hot grain pillow (which I really love, especially because it stays hot for extremely long and is dirt-cheap to get). Being comfortable also makes you enjoy your reading session more. And it allows you to focus better, so you will read faster.
Step 4: Set your light
As you found out in the previous sections, light helps a lot with staying awake. So having a light turned on while reading is a must. Though you probably shouldn’t use one of the bright white-light office desk lamps. They will disturb your sleep schedule and prevent you from falling asleep after reading. What I recommend (and also use personally) is a dimmable lamp. On a dimmable desk lamp, you can select exactly the color and brightness you want. I usually choose a dimmed candlelight-like mode. It’s really good for your eyes and mood, keeps you awake while reading and still doesn’t disturb your sleep. I didn’t regret having a lamp like this for a second. Check out the insane 5 stars from 5,500 customers rating of this dimmable desk lamp on Amazon (it even has a charging port for your phone).
The brighter you set your lamp, the slower you become tired. Depending on your needs, you want to set the lighting brightness and color exactly the way that is best for you. Don’t worry, you will figure this out really fast.
Step 5: Position yourself correctly to not fall asleep while reading a book
Usually, I’m lying in my bed while reading. But when I really want to not fall asleep, I sit up. A seated position and frequent drinking are the number 1 enemies of falling asleep. Before you start your reading session, prepare a pillow so you can sit with your back against the wall or the headboard of your bed. A seated position is also one of the reasons why sleeping in planes is horrible. Tibetan monks can sleep sitting up. Luckily, you can’t, so you are able to prevent falling asleep just by sitting up.
Step 6: Optional set-ups that help you not fall asleep
A ventilator standing on your window sill boosts fresh air levels in your room and also cools down the room temperature (if you don’t live near a volcano crater). Especially if you have a room with just one window (like me), this helps a lot with air circulation.
You can try to set up some music you like. If you really want to read and focus though, choose something that doesn’t distract you and doesn’t make you more tired either.
Some snacks would be awesome too. Prepare a few crisp vegetables. The right snacks not only keep you chewing while reading but are also nutrient rich with lots of minerals which will aid your sleep afterward.
I promise this straight-forward set-up will make a big difference in not falling asleep for you. If you were able to stay awake for about 10 minutes before drifting off, you’ll now stay awake for 45 minutes to an hour. Actually, you can stay awake as long as you want if you follow all the set-up tips.
Set Up a Stay-Awake Environment
The key is to set up an environment and atmosphere that will keep you awake. Your body reacts to external signals like temperature, light conditioning, and body position. If you lie down in your bed, with dim lighting and the perfect room temperature, falling asleep is just a matter of seconds. Set up lights, put a bottle of water or a tea on your nightstand, open your window and sit up. You’ll notice the difference immediately.
The Hardcore Stay-Awake Strategy
In case you followed all of the above steps and somehow you still struggle with falling asleep, there’s one thing you need to understand. Your body seems to need sleep. Figure out which activities drain your energy during the day so you can’t stay awake in the evening. Are you doing hard physical work? Are you stressed out by the school, university or your job? It might be best for your health to just give in to your bodies signals and sleep.
If that’s not the case though and you just want to be able to read a damn book at night, here’s the hardcore stay-awake strategy (danger – it’s not too comfortable).
- Put on all your lights. As you already found out, light is the number one melatonin blocker. Your brain stops requesting melatonin-production if you are exposed to light. It takes much more time to fall asleep with lights on.
- Don’t read in your bed. Sit at a desk. If you don’t have that option, sit at the edge of your bed. Sitting at the edge of your bed prevents you from falling asleep as this is an unnatural position for sleeping.
- Read every word out loud. Reading your book out loud helps you stay awake by keeping your mind focused on the text. I actually do this sometimes. Even when I’m not tired. For some reason, you will also understand the text much better.
- For emergencies: Make it a challenge to do 10 jumping jacks, 10 squats or 10 pushups after every page you read. Keeping your heart rate up also means keeping your body active and awake. This is not comfortable, but if it’s necessary, for example, if you have an exam tomorrow and you must read a book, just do it.
How To Not Fall Asleep While Reading A Book In Bed – The Result
As you’ve seen, the strategies you will use are based on scientific research and my own practical experiences. I promise you will drastically improve the duration of your nightly reading sessions if you follow the strategy. The Not Fall Asleep While Reading A Book-Strategy follows the idea of setting up a stay-awake-environment. This involves adapted (dimmed) lighting, drinking water, adjustment of your posture and room temperature. In case of an emergency, you can use the Hardcore Stay-Awake-Strategy which employs four sleep-killing tips that you can use to immediately help yourself. If you follow these tips, you will be able to finish whatever you want to read today.
But to be refreshed the next morning, you should also know how to improve your sleep, not just how to prevent it. Therefore I have collected my best sleep improvement guides. I went from needing up to an hour or more to be able to fall asleep down to just a few minutes. Learn about my secret fall-asleep-weapons and strategies I use every day that you can start using tonight!
I don’t want to spoiler you, but my favorite tools are actually simple earplugs. Most people don’t know how to use them properly. And you probably don’t know yet how you can start using earplugs to improve your sleep in every situation. Therefore I wrote a complete earplugs guide which contains everything you need to know about earplugs (and insane tips and tricks you didn’t even know about yet) to immediately improve your sleep!