First came adult coloring. We found a way to relieve our anxiety by resurrecting a popular childhood pastime. Now, there is a way to relieve insomnia by resurrecting another childhood treasure – bedtime stories for adults!
I know; it sounds silly. Coloring sounded silly until we tried it. There is some science to support a bedtime story for adults is as beneficial as it is for children. Reading to children does more than just improve their vocabulary. It signals that the day has come to an end. Resurrecting old habits is easier than creating new ones. Have you heard of the sleep paradox? Simply put, sleep comes when we’re not trying to fall asleep. When we try to fall asleep our analytical brain monitors our efforts which keeps us awake. The more we try to fall asleep the more awake we become. Sometimes when I can’t sleep I read. Surely reading a book will help me relax and then I can fall asleep! Unfortunately, when we read we are using the analytical side of our brain. Experts say we should turn off all electronics two hours before bed. In fact, we shouldn’t even have our phones or tablets in our bedrooms. Our eyes are fatigued from staring at screens all day and the electromagnetic fields will keep us awake.
I recently learned two interesting facts about sleep. First, as our bodies drift to sleep our hearing is the last of our senses to shut down. But, it’s also the first of our senses to come back as we wake up. Second, when we are in REM sleep we dream in pictures not in words. So what do these things mean?
Listening to a story as we lie in bed taps into an old childhood ritual. It signals our bodies that it’s time to sleep. It helps turn off our analytical brain creating more space for the peaceful brainwaves needed for a deep, restful sleep. Using audio to read rather than our eyes helps to systematically shut down our senses preparing our mind and body for sleep.
So where do you find bedtime stories for adults? One of my personal favorites is a podcast called Levar Reads. This podcast is free on most podcast apps. Levar Burton reads short stories. Remember Levar Burton from Reading Rainbow? Well, now he is reading short stories from modern authors. The stories are anywhere from 20 minutes to 45 minutes long. Levar’s voice is just as hypnotic now as it was 30 years ago. Sometimes I’m able to stay awake until the story ends. Mostly, I make it about 15 minutes.
If podcasts aren’t your thing try audio books. The Audible app lets you download and listen to audio books through Amazon. There are other apps that let you listen to audio books for free. Popular audio books include the Harry Potter series, The Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit, Treasure Island, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Check out the audio books available at your local public library. Many libraries now allow you to check out audio books through Audible.
Another way to listen to a bedtime story is through a meditation app. Calm is the most popular app for bedtime stories. Matthew McConaughy reads a story on Calm. Unplug is one of my favorite apps. The content is diverse. In addition to guided meditations and videos there are bedtime stories. I would tell you more about them, but they put me to sleep too quickly to remember what they are about!
One of the most important things we can do for our bodies and our minds is to get a good night’s sleep. It’s the first step to refreshing our mental health. Rather than hiding from my electronics at night, and lying in bed awake trying to will myself to fall asleep, I’ve been bringing my phone to bed and putting it to work reading me a bedtime story.
Shushybye, close your eyes, and quiet your mind. Let your body rest and wake up feeling refreshed.