Does This Book Make My Brain Look Big?

You know that feeling you get when you close your eyes after a long day of screen time, and you can see the words, images (or, let’s face it, the candies you crushed) passing in front of  your lids? Yeah, you’ve overdone it. And it’s going to take a while for your brain to calm down enough to fall off to sleep.

While you can’t avoid all the screen time, especially if it’s part of your work, you can use a scientifically proven way to get to sleep faster. 

“Browsing through a book is a common ‘calming activity,’ part of the daily bedtime routine doctors recommend you establish,” writes Dan Seitz in Popular Science. “Reading in bed can essentially cue your body to go to sleep.”

“If you spend your evening with your nose in paper pages,” he continues, “they will also prevent you from indulging in bad habits like looking at your phone before bed.”

This is just one of the many advantages of reading books. Science is proving that reading books can improve your brain health, and even help you show more empathy for others. 

Books are great; there’s no doubt there. Yet about one in four U.S. adults say they haven’t read even part of a book in the past year, according to Pew Research. Seitz offers some advice for those folks who say they just don’t have the time.

“You’ve got a busy schedule—sometimes you just can’t find the time to read,” Seitz concedes. “That’s why you need to start small. When setting a new goal, you should aim for a concrete task that you can build on later. So start your habit by reading, say, five pages of a book that interests you every day. Once you’re hitting five pages a day, try ten, then twenty, and keep pushing your goal horizon upward.”

This goal-based approach can help you form a habit that will grow into a new appreciation for reading books, while it delivers the proven benefits of books. And Seitz offers some practical advice to help you stick with it. 

“As you start creating this routine, be kind,” he says. “Self-criticism, aka self-bullying, has been shown to keep you from achieving your goals. So cut yourself some slack, especially if you’re starting from zero. Even if you miss a day, recognize that we all sometimes stay out late, get wrapped up in a TV show, or just forget. Be willing to pick yourself back up and honor the long-term commitment the next day.”