Can’t sleep? Drop the e-reader and pick up a book

in Potpourri by

Reading makes you sleepy, right?

Well, it always used to. But with the advent of digital books, we’re enjoying our stories differently these days. Many of us pick up an e-reader when we lie down in bed at night, assuming that within a half-hour or so, our lids will grow heavy and we’ll be ready for some deep, healthful sleep.

Sound asleep.
Sound asleep.

However, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers has discovered that reading print books leads to a better night’s rest as opposed to reading e-books. The study featured a dozen healthy young adults; one group started with reading books on an iPad while the other read print books before bed. Then the two groups switched.

Participants noted they were less sleepy at night after staring at a video screen, and it took them about 10 more minutes to fall asleep when compared to reading print books. The researchers also found that the e-reading group spent less time in REM sleep. As the findings say:

“Furthermore, not only did they awaken feeling sleepier, it took them hours longer to fully ‘wake up’ and attain the same level of alertness than in the printed book condition.”


They believe this could be due to the short-wavelength light emitted by many e-readers, which can confuse and delay the daily rhythms of our bodies. One of the study’s authors, Charles Czeisler, concluded that many people “probably don’t realize that this technology is actually making them less likely to feel sleepy.”

Personally, I always thought this was a given. Reading a book on a screen is more likely to give me a headache but doesn’t make me sleepy, while reading print on a page is a surefire way to get drowsy. Another thing to remember is that screens cause eye strain, which can also lead to headaches. This may result in waking up in the middle of the night with a bad headache after reading a digital book before bed; a number of my friends have complained of this phenomenon.

So, can’t sleep? Like to read before bed? Do it the old-fashioned way.

Recommended Reading:


Sleep Smarter: 21 Proven Tips to Sleep Your Way To a Better Body, Better Health and Bigger Success by Shawn Stevenson (Model House Publishing, 2014)

Sleep impacts every aspect of your life and if you’ve struggled with insomnia, or you’re just interested in living a longer, healthier life, author Shawn Stevenson has the book for you. Here you will find easy and practical steps that will lead to more restful sleep; you can learn how to feel more energized during the day, why poor sleep quality depresses brain function, and which supplements might help (and which might hinder). Great for the nightstand!

Insomnia and the Aunt by Tan Lin (Kenning Editions, 2011)


A unique collection of black-and-white photographs, postcards, Google reverse searchers, and letters, Insomnia and the Aunt is an ambient novel about an aunt who can’t sleep. She runs a motel in the Pacific Northwest and she likes watching Conan O’Brien. It’s a bizarre but gripping compilation, arranged like anyone’s scrapbook, blending fiction and nonfictional events. It could really get you thinking before bed and as the article suggests, snag the physical copy!

figured it all out too late. He got his degree in Psychology and realized years later that he wanted to write for a living. He now has 16+ years of digital and print journalism experience and currently entertains an ongoing love affair with the greatest literary classics (he savored every page of "War and Peace" and thought it could've been longer, and he will finish Proust's "In Search of Lost Time"). He also loves crossword puzzles, tennis, the outdoors, and working on numerous novels. One of these days, one will get picked up...and when it does, the world will make a little more sense.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.