It's been an endlessly long day. You settle deep into the comfort of your bed, ready to shut the world off and begin the next day ahead of you. You mindlessly scroll through Instagram, noting which one of your friends is currently on vacation in Bali and which one just made a tasty vindaloo dish. You switch to Twitter, where you catch up on the political news of the day - none of it is good.
To many, this routine is one in the same. According to the Pew Reseach Center, around 25% of Americans have not read a book in the past year, as their focus remains on the social media applications of their phone instead. Not only is it distracting, but it's not doing anything to help your stress at the end of the day, either. A study by the University of Sussex tested ways to lower participants stress. Their research found that "reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 percent'. It was better than listening to music (61%), drinking tea or coffee (54%) and taking a walk (42%). It only took 6 minutes for participants' stress levels to be reduced."
Reading before sleep could help your stress significantly. When you're deep inside the world of a good book, you are more likely to forget the tensions that await in the outside world that are still in the back of your mind as you scroll through Instagram (asking yourself questions like, "when will I be able to afford a vacation to Bali like Sarah?"). The Sleep Council says "39% of people who are in the habit of reading before they go to sleep, sleep very well." It's beneficial not only for your brain, but for your eyes as well. Cell phones emit blue light that tire out your eyes and trick you into thinking it's daytime. It also keeps you up thinking for longer than, say, a chapter of a good book.
Your brain is a muscle, and just like any muscle, it should be worked out to keep it running smoothly. Reading is a good way to boost your brain power. Ken Hugh, PhD, president and director of research at Haskins Laboratories says, "parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions—such as vision, language, and associative learning—connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging." The more challenging the book, the better your brain will feel challenged. One of reading's other many health benefits is that it can fight off Alzheimer's disease, as well. According to Dreams, "A study found that people who engage their brains in activity such as reading, solving puzzles or playing chess are 2.5 times less likely to develop the illness." Reading will not only effect your health in a good way, but also for many years to come.
Books are the backbone of our knowledge. When you pick up a good book rather than picking up your phone, you're making a choice. That choice is to better yourself, not just today, but for the days to come.