Does reading a bedtime story to our kids really help them go to sleep? Or is it just an out-of-date, pre-electronics tradition?
You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the ritual isn’t as common these days as it was a generation ago. A recent survey found that only 64% of respondents read bedtime stories to their kids, even though 91% of them were read to when they were young.
Parents report they are “too stressed” and don’t have enough time to continue the tradition. Fewer than half of children under the age of 5 in the United States are read to daily, says the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Nevertheless, current parenting experts still recommend reading a book to your child as part of their bedtime routine. Mostly praised for its cognitive benefits, reading to kids has been shown to improve vocabulary and creativity.
The Real Magic of a Bedtime Story
But a new study confirms what Grandma seems to have known all along… fairy tale magic in bedtime stories not only causes a prince and princess to fall in love, but also causes the whole kingdom to fall into a deep sleep. Reading induces drowsiness.
When the goal is to calm overstimulated nerves for bed, concludes a stress-reduction study, losing yourself in a book is the ultimate relaxation. Researchers believe the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tension in muscles and the heart. In fact, subjects lowered their stress levels by 68% after just six minutes of reading, compared to playing video games which lowered stress by only 21% from their highest levels.
Few of us are lucky enough to have a grandma nearby to read our kids a bedtime story. But fitting in a sleep-inducing fairy tale after an evening of rushing home from soccer practice, setting food on the table, getting the laundry washed, and finishing homework for the next day, just might be worth the effort for both kids and parents
Tips for a Sleep-Inducing ‘Bedtime Story’ Routine
Dim the lights. Bright lights stimulate our internal clock, so include dim lighting as part the bedtime story atmosphere.
Avoid using an ebook. One Harvard study links e-reading to sleep deprivation. Light-emitting ebooks caused participants to take ten minutes longer to fall asleep.
Create feelings of well-being. Along with the soothing effects of predictability, bedtime routines that include reading a book with a parent create feelings of comfort and closeness. There’s a warmth in cuddling up together and cracking open the doorway into an imaginary land through the words and pictures of a book.
Help kids share their concerns. The American Academy of Pediatrics says reading together can encourage kids to share their feelings about the day as they identify with a character or event in the story. Younger kids may connect with their emotions through the pictures. Discussing concerns can relieve the mental stress that might otherwise have contributed to sleeplessness.