Reading to Your Kids at Night Leads to Better Sleep for Everyone in the House: New Study

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SO Bedtime Storytelling 2

Reading bedtime stories together isn’t just a great bonding experience for parents and kids. A recent survey conducted by OnePoll for ThriftBooks found a surprising benefit of this beloved family activity: reading bedtime stories can actually help you sleep better.

The survey of 2,000 parents with school-age kids between the ages of 5-18 discovered that 63% of participants “always” or “often” read to their child before bedtime (an average of four nights per week). Parents tend to choose from an average of three books that include 38% fairy tales or adventure books, 32% informational books and 31% historical books – an almost-even distribution between many popular genres.

Benefits of Reading Before Bed

Out of the 2,000 surveyed parents, 81% reported that reading to their kids helps not only the children fall asleep, but the parents themselves. Yet this isn’t the first study to back up the many benefits of reading before bed. Ongoing research continues to prove that settling down with a book prior to going to sleep can boost overall sleep health.

A 2021 study, for example, compared the results of reading a book before bed versus not reading a book. 991 people participated in the research, with half reading a book before bed and the other half not reading. Out of those who finished the trial (25.6% of readers and 18.18% of non-readers), 42% of those who read felt their sleep quality improved. Only 28% of those who didn’t read, however, reported improvement in sleep.

Still, it’s not just sleep quality that reading before bed can benefit. Parents of 62 Latino preschoolers were surveyed about their children’s sleep habits. 48% reported consistent bedtime reading, while 42% reported frequent bedtime reading. The survey found that reading at bedtime was significantly associated with longer total nighttime sleep in the preschoolers, showing that reading can benefit even our youngest generations.

New and Ongoing Reading Traditions

In addition to sleep health benefits for both parents and children, the OnePoll for ThriftBooks survey discovered which reading traditions and habits rank supreme today. One key finding: oldies are still a bedtime favorite. Nearly eight in 10 parents reported reading their children the same books that were read to them as kids, while 37% of all respondents reported having books in their collection that were at least 20 years old.

It’s proof that this enduring tradition continues to hold meaning for many adults who enjoyed being read to by their own parents when they themselves were kids. However, many parents also enjoy putting spins on the classics. 73% of participants reported being open to modernizing classic books they enjoyed as kids, such as by having the story told from another character’s perspective or retelling the story in a different genre. 

Regardless of the approach, a vast majority of parents – 83%, to be exact – want to set an example for their child by reading more. Hard copy books continue to be the format of choice, but just barely in an increasingly digital world. 68% of parents use traditional paper books, while 67% gravitate towards eReaders. As these old and new formats go nearly neck-to-neck, it’s worth noting that blue light emitted by eReaders can negatively impact both sleep quality and sleep quantity. Therefore, you’re better off reading from a hard copy book, or sharing stories via audio book, as 59% of parents report doing.

Even Kids Prefer to Read

While some participants cite barriers to reading (with 50% of parents being too tired after work and 49% noting they don’t have enough books at home), the majority of respondents claim that 72% of their children actually enjoy reading more than playing with devices. If you loved being read to by your parents as a kid, this survey gives plenty of reasons why you should continue this cherished pastime with your own children. After all, storytime can create a good night’s sleep for the entire household.

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    • Elaine Finucane; Ann O’Brien; Shaun Treweek; John Newell; Kishor Das; Sarah Chapman; Paul Wicks; Sandra Galvin; Patricia Healy; Linda Biesty; Katie Gillies; Anna Noel-Storr; Heidi Gardner; Mary Frances O’Reilly; Declan Devane, “Does Reading a Book in Bed Make a Difference to Sleep in Comparison to Not Reading a Book in Bed?” Trials. December 4, 2021.
    • Marcia Ines Silvani; Robert Werder; Claudio Perret, “The Influence of Blue Light on Sleep, Performance and Wellbeing in Young Adults.” Frontiers in Physiology. August 16, 2022.
    • Scott J. Brown, MD; Kyung E. Rhee, MD, MSc, MA; Sheila Gahagan, MD, MPH, “Reading at Bedtime Associated with Longer Nighttime Sleep in Latino Preschoolers.” Clinical Pediatrics. July 15, 2015.
    • Storytime Evolution, Thriftbooks.
Ashley Zlatopolsky

Ashley Zlatopolsky

Ashley Zlatopolsky is a Detroit-based writer and editor. She writes about sleep, health and wellness for Sports Illustrated, Sleepopolis,, Healthline and more. You can follow her on Twitter at @ashley_detroit.

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