Book lovers often try to block out reading time at the beginning or end of each day. Having a routine like this helps make reading a habit. It also ensures that reading remains a priority. So, is it better to read in the morning or at night?
The answer isn’t as simple as you might think. It depends on many variables, including what kind of lighting or device you’re using to read, if you’re more of a morning or night person, and what types of books you’re reading. Still, if you’re trying to create a daily reading habit, there are some clear pros and cons to reading in the morning and/or reading at night.
Reading at night
The main benefit to reading at night is relaxation. Immersing yourself in a story before bed can be a great way to leave behind the stresses of the day and get yourself ready for a good night of sleep. One study performed by Mindlab International researchers at the University of Sussex showed that just six minutes of reading could reduce stress by up to 68%, which perfectly sets the stage for more peaceful sleep. “Reading at night is a fantastic way to wind down before you go to sleep,” says Seth R. Davis, a certified sleep coach. “It's a relaxing activity that gives your mind something better to focus on than to-do lists, worries, and stressful thoughts that can potentially affect your sleep. If you're looking for a calm and enjoyable addition to your nightly routine — which is something that contributes to better sleep — then you should strongly consider reading a book,” he says.
Also, what you read might influence the best time of day for you to be reading. Davis went on to say, “If you find that certain types of books get your mind racing, you may want to choose books that are more calming for you. For example, some people find that thought-provoking nonfiction keeps their minds alert while fiction lets them escape into an entertaining story.”
Reading in the morning
Dr. Sean P. A. Drummond, professor of clinical neuroscience, agreed that, among other things, whether you are reading for relaxation or learning might influence the best time of day for you to read. He also emphasized the influence light can have on circadian rhythms. While reading itself doesn’t influence daily rhythms, Drummond says, “the light you use to read very well might . That is especially true for light coming off electronic devices. Light is high in blue wavelengths. Blue, in turn, is the strongest signal to your brain that it is time to be awake.” For this reason, if you’re reading on a device like a smartphone or tablet, reading in the morning is best. He says, “If you [read on a device] in the morning, it might help you wake up and, with repeats, could pull your rhythms forward (earlier).”
So, if you read using a bright light or electronic device, reading could help you wake up earlier or feel more awake in the morning.
Reading at night and in the morning
There are benefits to reading at any time of the day, so the good news is you don’t have to choose. In fact, it could be advantageous to read both right before going to sleep and right when you wake up.
According to Maryanne Wolf, author of Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in a Digital World, starting and ending the day with a good book could be ideal. “I book-ended my days with 15 minutes in the morning to center my thoughts through reflective reading, rather than shallow. This was important for situating the rest of my day, with its hours of screen reading,” she says. “At the end of the day, I eschewed all screen devices and read again in a more concentrated manner, often fiction like Marilynne Robinson or Gish Jen, or nonfiction that took my mind away from the day. In other words, both times of day have their function for keeping my deep reading brain sustained.”
The bottom line
Whether it is better to read in the morning or at night — or both — depends on your reasons for reading, the types of books you’re reading, and whether you like to read on a digital device or paper, or by listening to an audiobook. These elements are important to keep in mind when trying to create your own daily reading habit.
About the Author: Alison Doherty
Alison is a writing teacher and part time assistant professor living in Brooklyn, New York. She has an MFA from The New School in writing for children and teenagers. She loves writing about books on the Internet, listening to audiobooks on her way to work, and reading anything with a twisty plot or a happily ever after.