Reading to Sleep

I was reading when I had to stop and think about what I’d just read. Oh, it wasn’t anything important, not one of the issues of the day or the eternal questions, just a silly thing, really. In the story, a mother read her child to sleep. It’s a common thing, for sure, but suddenly, it struck me as all wrong. By reading to children until they fall asleep, it makes sense that it would give them a love of stories and perhaps help them develop the habit of reading, but just as often, wouldn’t it tell youngsters that books are boring? That they are a soporific, not an intrinsic part of one’s day?

My parents didn’t read us to sleep, but I do remember my mother reading to me once when I was sick. (“The Land of Counterpane” from A Child’s Garden of Verses.) I’m sure she read to us at other times, just as I read to my younger siblings, but it was never at night. I realize one example does not prove a point, but I am a reader and my parents never read me to sleep. Coincidence? Who knows.

On the other hand, but still on the subject of reading to sleep (which is what I do, come to think of it — read myself to sleep — but then, I also read myself awake, read while I eat, read while I wait, read while I think), I wonder if that learned tendency to fall asleep when reading is why so many books promise to keep you awake all night or at least until you finish the book. (I also wonder how that sales technique works with insomniacs since so many find reading an effective sleep aid.) The truth probably has to do with the plethora of boring books. I tend to fall asleep even in a bright afternoon if the book is boring enough. So saying that a book will keep you awake is just another way of saying that the book isn’t boring. But boring is in the eyes — and mind — of the reader; one person’s thriller is another person’s yawner.

It’s funny, now that I think about it, that such an intellectual activity as reading has become so intrinsically entwined with both falling asleep and not falling asleep. I wonder why that is. Maybe I need to add that query to the list of eternal questions, such as the meaning of life, if the dead still exist, and where consciousness came from.


What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

3 Responses to “Reading to Sleep”

  1. Uthayanan Says:

    My assumption was about reading to a child before to sleep :
    The relation with the child with affection. It helps some security before to sleep.
    Some culture they never read when they were very young but sing.
    But between three to ten years it helps to get some vocabulary and morality and imagination with the story.
    There is others reasons with different cultures.
    I try to read some books which she liked to my wife when she was at the hospital during the period of reanimation.
    At the moment it is impossible to read. But if I find a book is really interesting it is impossible to sleep.
    I can read it for more than ten hours.
    When I was young some people said read War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy to sleep.
    But it was interesting I couldn’t sleep.

    • Pat Bertram Says:

      I had to smile at your comment about War and Peace. It does go to show that what puts some people to sleep keeps others awake because it’s so interesting.

      You’re right though about reading and affection — in that way, reading a child to sleep would make the child feel loved.

    • Kathy Says:

      Hmmm… I’ve often questioned this idea of parents reading a bedtime story to their kids. I don’t remember my mother ever reading to me, although she loved to read. She did tell us scary stories in her bed when my stepdad worked the late shift. Reading does make me sleepy, though.

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