Pick up a book - it helps with more than just sleep! - 3 benefits of reading

Dr. Craig Hudson, MD | December 2, 2016

Reading before bed is an excellent way to wind down and soothe a racing mind, but what else can it do for us? Here are three ways reading can benefit your life:

Boost Your Memory Power

Studies have shown that reading is a great way to keep your memory sharp. Those who read regularly throughout their lifetimes are more likely to retain their mental acuity later in life. There is even some research that suggests that reading may offer a way to reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s.

For more immediate benefits, look to the potential improvements in short-term memory. Novels are filled with characters, plot points, settings and several other fine details that require putting our short-term memory to good use. Like most parts of the body, exercise and use is required to keep the brain and our memory power in good shape.  

A Cheap Way to De-stress

Stress can have a mental and a physical toll on the body, but luckily, reading can help ease both! Researchers at the University of Sussex have found that reading can actually reduce tension in the muscles and slow the heart rate. In fact, their study revealed that reading reduced the stress levels of their participants by 68%.

In terms of mental de-stressing, psychologists often credit reading and the escapism it offers as a chance for the brain to leave the worries of the real world behind while immersing itself in a literary world where the imagination is constantly in use. 

Increase Your Ability to Empathize

Despite the interconnectedness of today’s technologically advanced world, many people struggle with feeling empathy, especially for other people. The findings of a 2013 study published by researchers P. Matthijs Bal and Martijn Veltkamp, found that reading fiction may actually help readers feel more empathy. Works of fiction often encourage the reader to become emotionally invested in the journey of the characters. Participants of the study who felt a deep emotional connection to the text they were asked to read reportedly felt more empathic after a week of reading.

Reading is fun and offers an easy way to keep your noggin in shape! If even if you can only squeeze in a few minutes of quality reading time a day, it will be well worth the effort. And remember, if you are using reading as a way to relax before bed, choose a paperback over an eBook to avoid the disruptive effects of staring at a bright screen.