In these tragic and remarkable times, tearing yourself away from the news, quieting your mind, and actually getting to bed at a reasonable hour can be a challenge. You can't make the world any less crazy, but according to Bill Gates and science there is a simple solution to help you get better sleep -- put down your phone and pick up a book.
Not only does the billionaire bookaholic swear by a bedtime reading, studies suggest drifting off with a book can make you less stressed, more well rested and empathetic, and maybe even richer.
Smarter, less stressed, and better rested.
"I read an hour almost every night. It's part of falling asleep," Gates told The Seattle Times way back in 1990. Presumably, he's been a bit too busy to keep up with this habit a few times since then, but judging by the constant stream of book recommendations coming from Gates, he's still a dedicated bedtime reader. Plenty of other icons and CEOs also swear by the practice.
Obviously, dedicating an hour an evening to a book helps you be a more informed person, but science suggests there are plenty of reasons beyond just exercising your brain to keep a stack of books on your nightstand:
You'll probably sleep better. When mattress review site Sleep Junkie surveyed 1,000 people, it found those who read before bed slept an average of an hour and 37 minutes more than non-readers. Nearly three quarters reported they had a harder time falling asleep without reading.
You just might end up richer. Correlation is definitely not causation here, but the same survey found bedtime readers make an average of $3,705 more annually.
You'll be less stressed. Not convinced by research conducted by mattress slingers? Fair enough, but a study done by the U.K.'s University of Sussex showed reading before bed can reduce stress by as much as 68 percent. More than taking a walk, sipping tea, or listening to music.
You'll be more empathetic. Likewise, a review of academic research on the subject concluded that reading fiction can improve your empathy, boosting your EQ.
You'll be more focused. Another strain of neuroscience research has compared the effects on our brains of the kind of deep reading we do when we get lost in a book with the skim reading we do on screens. The results show that sustained reading helps train our brains to concentrate and think carefully about complex problems. Tab hopping and Twitter skimming erodes these skills.
The obvious conclusion here is that if you want a stronger brain, less stress, and better sleep, be like Bill Gates and read before bed. I admit that personally I'm struggling to put down my phone right now. But this science is a healthy reminder to keep up the good fight and try to get back to a bedtime book reading routine.