Bedtime Stories.

Some books on my bedside table.

Supposedly more adults are listening to bedtime stories now. I say “supposedly” because until recently there wasn’t much of a means of tracking what people listened to, or even if they did, before falling asleep, but now there are podcasts like Get Sleepy and Sleep With Me. There are also apps like Breethe and Calm, which offers among others, the voice of Matthew McConaughey, and I know more than a few people who’d like to sleep with him and wouldn’t consider just listening to his voice to be a reasonable substitute, but that’s another story.

If these work for people I think that’s great. And while the apps are probably collecting user data it’s not as bad as Coors Beer trying to insert advertising into peoples’ dreams.  But I also feel compelled to speak up for those of us who make reading part of our nightly ritual. Most of us, I think, are lifelong readers, probably starting with adults who read to us and then we took over as soon as we learned to read ourselves, although my late father-in-law only really started reading when he was in his seventies, and surprised me once by saying, “You never know what you’ll find in a book.” Well, yeah. It was one of those things I’d always known to be true but, ironically, had never really put into words. The same is true of something said by Dr. Christine Won, associate professor of medicine at Yale School of Medicine and the medical director of Yale Center for Sleep Medicine, quoted in the New York Times article “Bedtime Stories Are For Adults Too”:

More bedtime reading.

A bedtime story works by detracting the mind from self-sabotaging thoughts and worries, which allows the body’s adrenaline to come down so the brain can transition into the sleep state…A story, more so than music or background noises, is more likely to force the stubborn mind’s attention away from whatever is causing emotional distress.

And, again, if listening to a story works just as well or even better than reading one for you, that’s great. Not everyone’s mind works the same way so different strokes for different brains. Personally I find listening to something goes better with walking or other physical activity. Reading might too–and I’ve tried reading while walking, but it usually makes it hard to see where I’m going. And listening to a story I’d be more likely to stay up because I wouldn’t want to miss what comes next. Sometimes I have that same problem with a book, although I also find it easy to pick up where I left off. And I’m the one who decides when to stop reading, not Matthew McConaughey.


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  1. mydangblog

    Well, consider me honoured that Feasting is on your bedside table! I agree–reading before bed is a great way to calm the mind, something I need to get back to:-)

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve also got The Seventh Devil on order. And I forgot to mention this but the whole reason I came up with this post on bedtime stories in the first place is because I read the article in the newspaper which we still get in print. In fact I have a whole stack of papers I’m steadily working my way through–I skip over the politics and sports sections and send those straight to recycling, but arts coverage and book reviews and more general magazine stories have a longer shelf life.


    I’ve recently started reading books again before going to sleep, and it’s helping me sleep better. Thanks, as always, for telling us a great story.
    ANN J KOPLOW recently posted…Day 3323: I’m big enough to have optionsMy Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve never been able to give up reading before going to sleep–I have to read something, and sometimes I fall asleep while still reading and my mind invents a whole new story. Have I said that before? Maybe when I was sleeping. Sweet dreams, Ann.


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