Most people probably wish they could read more. Research consistently shows that reading is good for your health. But sometimes you can try to read a book and not feel you got much out of it. But what do the experts say about reading in the morning or at night?
Choosing when to read should come down to your body’s natural rhythm, the content of the books, and what you want to get out of reading. If you want to read to gain information, read in the mornings, but if you want to read to relax, read at night.
We’ll look at some of the research and findings around the benefits and downsides of reading. We’ll also consider the arguments for why choosing one over the other is preferable in certain situations.
There will be certain constants you can expect in regards to physiology of the human body. In the morning, you will likely have more energy and ability to focus. At night, as you prepare for sleep, your body is more likely to be tired, reducing your ability to consume literary ideas.
You have to consider your own rhythm and identify the best time to read. To achieve this, it is worthwhile to keep a log of your mood and physical health to get some objective data on the best times.
Per day, record how you dealt with the various aspects of the day. Did you find the morning a real struggle and were happy to get to lunch? Did you find Friday much easier than Monday? Take the time to jot down your ideas about when you were switched on or felt tired.
Not all writings are created equal, and a dense tome from centuries past is going to require more concentration than a listicle. If you’ve found you’re more alert and awake in the morning, this is probably the only time you could read a thoughtful masterpiece.
At night, as you are at the end of a day and preparing for some restful sleep, a stimulating book may produce less than desirable effects.
So consider both your natural tendencies for alertness and concentration, as well as the content of your materials, when considering what time of day you will try to read.
Above all you should be listening to your body and the signs it’s giving you when finding the best time. Try reading in the morning for a week, and then the evening for a week, to compare the two and see which one you prefer.
However, certain types of reading materials work better in the morning. Inspirational writings like autobiographies, self-improvement, and other personal development books may get a lot more mileage in the mornings.
Reading a great passage in the morning during breakfast can kick-start your day and keep a smile on your face until you get to sleep that night.
Reading at night can help you prepare for a deep sleep by relaxing and reducing stress. Books can help you focus on a different world, helping you forget any burdens or problems that might be rearing their heads at that time.
Lighting is one of the most important aspects to reading. Bright lights or bulbs in your eyes before sleeping is unlikely to be a great combination.
So if you’re reading at night, try and have a setup with a lamp or dim light that is going to be triggering your body’s natural urge to keep you going because it has sensed it is still daytime.
Morning sunlight is bright enough so that you are not straining your eyes on text. Straining your eyes or reading in the dark is thought to be linked to bad eyesight outcomes, but there are no definitive studies on this, but perhaps it can reduce chances of myopia.
Try not to let your posture be in a bad shape during this time. If you read for an hour in a slouched over position every night, that adds up to hundreds of hours a year. Bad posture is linked to increased prevalence of nerve issues, headaches, and other illnesses.
Reading in bed can be improved with extra pillows to support your head and neck.
Otherwise, try to sit upright and minimize forward head carriage, or poor neck posture. You should try and maintain a neutral spine to keep undue stress off your back. This means that your head should not be jutting forward.
You can put yourself into this position with the help of a wall. Put your heels and butt against the wall, with a part of your upper back around the line of your shoulders also touching.
Finally, rest the back of your head against the wall and attempt to keep contact with the back of your head while simultaneously trying to tuck your chin in. The wall allows your neutral spine position to be lined up with it, while the chin tuck and head contact keep it all in line.
These exercises and many others can help train you to keep neutral spine position so that you can read without also causing damage. Making sure you adjust positions every few blocks of 10 minutes to correct any unintentional slouching.
A great option in this situation is a horseshoe pillow. Amazon has the TravelMate Memory Foam Neck Pillow that you can use to support your neck, especially while lying down.
Multitasking is best kept away from your reading time. Take the time to ignore the normal distractions by turning off electronic devices or putting them in a different room. Turn off any music, television, or similar so that you’re in a nice, quiet, distraction-free zone.
This will help you focus and absorb as much of the book as possible.
It may help to have a light snack while you’re reading so that hunger is kept at bay. If your stomach is growling it’s difficult to concentrate on a book.
The best time to understand something can start from considering the environment you will be reading in.
If you have a nice quiet area, with a place to take notes, this is one of the best ways to study and read material while maximizing retention. The morning, especially early morning, offers quiet time while everyone is asleep. This holds for late at night as well.
Otherwise, you want to consider your own perceptions of what time of the day would mean to you getting the most out of your reading time. Most people will likely find the morning the best to read and understand, and the night to relax and switch off with a light novel.
Statistics have shown the frequency and rarity of words over different mediums. The written word consistently has a wider vocabulary used as well as less concentrated on basic terms.
Research like this has also revealed that the type of written material is not particularly important. Even children’s books will still use specific language accurately in order to convey concepts.
If you’ve ever tried to learn a second language, you may have tried to read some children’s books aimed at 3-year-olds. This can actually turn out to be slightly depressing, as you realize you don’t recognize whole paragraphs because they contain animal names.
This means that it doesn’t particularly matter what you read, but more that you read at all. If you can only manage a few pages before you nod off to sleep, that’s better than trying and failing to read some 10th century literature that ends up covered in dust on your nightstand.
Reading has many great benefits including improving your language skills, learning new ideas, stimulating your brain, and many others.
Studies conducted by Emory University have even revealed that reading has detectable changes to the structure of the brain. This lends weight to that realization that it is simple for many to recall a cherished novel from their youth. Perhaps the memories are permanent.
In the morning and throughout the middle of the day, you are more likely to have eaten and have higher energy levels.
Being full of food can help strengthen your mental efforts and capacity. If you’re struggling to keep your eyes open, it’s unlikely deep philosophical insights are going to penetrate into your brain.
The mornings may also be the most effective time for your brain to operate creatively. With the combination of a rested brain and plenty of energy, the deeper themes and emotions in a book can seem clearer.
This can help develop your emotional intelligence. This includes aspects such as empathy, which can be improved by reading stories that are told from the perspectives of others.
Evening and nighttime can be a very low energy state, as you begin to put your body into a resting state. Low levels of energy and the options for eating more food are generally reduced, making it less than ideal to read books that require mental focus.
However, this low energy state when combined with the relaxing properties flowing from reading can help ensure the best quality sleep possible. Reports of significant reduction in stress were reported in a 2009 study by the United Kingdom’s University of Surrey.
Light fiction is one of the most popular categories of books to read before sleeping. The qualities of such books lend themselves for people to engage in a certain degree of escapism which may help them relax and unwind.
Anecdotally, the actual weight of the book is important. A large, heavy book combined with an engaging and deep story can make you fall asleep very quickly.
Too much light at night can keep you up, but an alternative is to use an ereader. The Amazon Kindle can handle any ebook format and you have direct access to the largest ebook library in the world.
On top of that, the Kindle has a soft backlight which doesn’t cause glare but at the same time gives more than enough light to read. It is so discreet that you can be using it right next to someone and they will not get bothered by any bleeding light.
Of course one of the issues about reading just before bed is the danger of falling asleep. If you want to progress through a book but are snoring after half a page, it’s a sign to switch to being a morning reader.
Audiobooks are one of the best ways to consume books without having to prop yourself up with a book and a light. Virtually all books have an audiobook version, often done by professional voice actors or noted celebrities.
These books are particularly great when involving large amounts of characters that all get distinctly voiced parts.
Self-improvement books spoken by their authors also can have a great impact, as you are directly linking a real person with these amazing achievements from business gurus.
Audiobooks also can turn otherwise unproductive time to reading time. If you have a long commute or spend a lot of time in your vehicle, audiobooks can be easily hooked up with a Bluetooth device.
Amazon stocks the LIHAN Handsfree Bluetooth FM Receiver which can easily be connected to your phone and car radio. This enables you to listen to an audiobook via your phone.
Otherwise, if you go for a run or bike ride, audiobooks can be a great alternative to that album you’ve already listened to 100 times.