You know that feeling: curling up in a cozy bed after a long day with a book in hand you’ve been looking forward to reading all day, and right before you crack open the cover, ding!, your phone loudly signals that your best friend just sent you a hilarious Snap or your mom posted a new video of your dog on Facebook or your favorite celeb made the cutest pregnancy announcement on Instagram. You’re soon looped into a hive mind of likes, shares and “awww’s.” An hour has slipped by and reading your book will now end in being too tired to wake up at the morning’s first alarm and leaving late for work.
While reading can take you into a whole new world of characters, scrolling through social can do something just as similar—and it’s real. But are you really gaining any knowledge or insight from this screened-in world you’re visiting? And couldn’t you gain more from the paperback in your same hand? It turns out, social media before bed can contribute to a lot more than just a lack of intellect.
Reading a book
Grabbing a novel and immersing yourself in a good story sounds so appealing, because your body actually labels it as a major stress-buster. Researchers found that reading can reduce stressby up to 68 percent no matter which type of book you read. It allows a person to escape into a world unlike their everyday and explore someone else’s thoughts and ideas.
Plus, creating this bedtime ritual of reading before turning out the lights sends a signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and fall asleep, according to research at Mayo Clinic. But here’s the caveat: It must be a real book, not an e-book. The screen on an e-reader, phone or tablet can keep you awake longer and even hurt your sleep. Refer to your bedtime stories as a child, and get sleepy with a real paperback.
So, do big executives and powerful leaders ease their mind by reading fiction? You might think they need to answer last-minute emails or turn toward novels with themes centered on growing business models, but research shows that many successful entrepreneurs read anything other than a subject related to their career. This allows them to foster more creativity and passion for their work projects by looking at problems, people and difficult situations in a different way.
Scrolling through social media
Texting, looking through social feeds and messaging our friends at a constant rate has hindered our ability to concentrate. However, reading a book forces us to focus on and process one subject without the distraction of popups and notifications. What’s more, the blue light emitted from screens on our computers, TVs and phones doubles as the same light spectrum present in the daytime and acts as artificial sunlight, which decreases melatonin production, the hormone responsible for regulating our sleep-wake cycles. Yikes!
A poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 95 percent of Americans use technology within the last hour before going to bed at least a few nights a week. Our bodies are paying the price by making it more difficult to fall asleep and leaving you feeling tired, anxious and depressed in the morning. To try eliminating these feelings and prep yourself for slumber, power down devices at least 30 minutes before getting some shut eye.
However, scrolling through social media before bed isn’t all to blame. A study found that young people who use social media more often during the day or check it frequently throughout the week are more likely to suffer from sleep disturbances than their peers who use it less often. If you can, try designating a certain time of your day, like breakfast or lunch, to see what you’ve missed in the past 24 hours rather than checking in multiple times throughout the course of a day. To help regulate your sleep schedule, use an actual alarm clock to get you up in the morning and store your digital devices in another room so you aren’t so distracted into the wee hours of the night.
In the digital age of sharing everything and anything, it can be difficult to think of living a life unplugged, but your brain may thank you if you do take a timeout. Concentration is quickly becoming a thing of the past when social media notifications, emails and meeting reminders are constantly flashing on our phones and computers.
However, reading before bedtime provides a time where we must concentrate and process only the information directly in front of us—something with pages we turn, words we digest and a story we piece together. Everything else going on can wait. Your book (not an e-book!) needs you now. Talk about a great bedtime story.