Next Monday, tens of millions of Americans will be exhausted...
And it's all thanks to the Super Bowl. According to a 2019 survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, around 40% of us are sleep deprived the day after the big game.
Around 100 million people will stay up late on Sunday to watch the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles face off. Schools in the Philadelphia region are already getting ahead of the issue... Some are canceling class for a wellness day while others have announced a late start, giving students and teachers time for more shuteye.
You might think one bad night of sleep (or no sleep at all) isn't a big deal. You can just make up for it later, right?
But after just one day (24 hours) passes without sleep, a person's perception starts to become distorted. After two days (48 hours) without sleep, those distortions often turn into hallucinations.
Millions of Americans suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. So it's no wonder why getting better sleep has become big business... There's no end to the different sleep apps you can try, or the special pillows you can buy... different sounds to relax you... step-by-step guides you can buy to help offer a solution to your problem.
But, in reality, your relief from bad sleep may be as simple as getting into bed with a good book.
When you're reading, you're engaging many areas of your brain simultaneously. In order to transform a bunch of letters and marks on a page into something with meaning, your brain goes through three processing steps:
1. Morphological Recognition – The first step is your brain recognizing the form and structure of the letters, words, and punctuation. Your brain also distinguishes how the words are arranged within the sentences, whether the word is a verb or a noun, and what tense it's in. The areas of the brain that are involved in this step include the visual cortex, the fusiform gyrus, the frontal lobe, temporal lobes, and the lower anterior frontal gyrus.
2. Text Comprehension – Now that you understand the words you've read, your brain begins analyzing how the words all flow together. The areas of the brain that are involved in this step include the anterior temporal lobes, left frontal lobe, and the inferior frontal cortex.
3. Emotional and Cognitive Processing – Finally, the words you're reading activate your emotions, thanks to the learning and memory areas of the brain. This allows you to accept the new information that is coming into your consciousness and react to it. It also increases your attention span. The areas of the brain that involve this step include the anterior dorsal cingulate cortex, the dorsolateral cortex, and the prefrontal cortex.
So simply reading and understanding a page of text will activate at least 10 different areas across your brain. As you can see, reading is a very engaging and stimulating activity...
Turns out, reading is also a fast-acting relaxation activity. Because it requires so much of your attention and your brain's information-processing ability, it allows your other stressful thoughts and tensions to drift away.
In fact, in 2009, researchers at the University of Sussex conducted a study to see which methods of relaxation were the most effective. Researchers put volunteers through an array of challenging situations – like taking tests and exercising – to increase their stress levels. Afterward, the researchers implemented methods of relaxation and measured participants' heart rates and muscle tension.
They found that reading worked the best. Reading silently for six minutes reduced folks' stress levels by 68%. In comparison, listening to music reduced stress levels by 61%, having a cup of coffee or tea reduced stress by 54%, taking a walk lowered stress by 42%, and playing video games lowered stress by 21%.
In another study from the National University of Ireland in Galway, researchers asked a group of 774 online participants to spend seven days either reading a book in bed before going to sleep, or not reading a book in bed before going to sleep. After the seven-day period, participants were asked to report on their sleep quality – whether or not their sleep had improved.
Of the folks who spent the week reading in bed, 42% reported that their sleep had improved and 10% felt that their sleep got worse. In comparison, only 28% of the people who spent the week without reading in bed said their sleep improved, and 16% said it got worse.
So, reading in bed may not be for everyone, but it could work wonders for you. Right now on my bedside table, I have a little mix of fiction and nonfiction reading material: The Future of Money by Bernard Lietaer, The Advertising Solution by Craig Simpson, a Lee Child novel, and a Vince Flynn novel.
What We're Reading...
- Something different: Japan is changing to adapt to its growing elderly population.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
February 7, 2023