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The Many Benefits of Reading for Adults and Children

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Benefits of reading - Dr. Axe

Would it surprise you to find out that the benefits of reading include fighting stress, supporting better sleep and even increasing longevity? If you’re an avid reader, you likely already have experienced the many pros of spending time each day reading.

A study including over 3,600 participants found that reading books can extend life expectancy. Book readers experienced a 20 percent reduction in risk of mortality over the 12 years of follow-up compared to non-book readers.

Reading is so important because it promotes mental, emotional and physical health. It’s soothing and brain-boosting at the same time.

Plus, when reading with a child, it helps build a strong relationship, and those aren’t the only health benefits of reading.

Top 6 Benefits of Reading

1. Fights Stress

One of the top benefits of reading is its ability to reduce stress and promote a calming, warming environment. Like meditation, yoga and walks outdoors, reading is an impactful way to manage stress, and it’s one of the best ways to be happy.

Several studies prove this to be true, including one that shows shared reading among a parent and young child reduces parenting stress and positively impacts the parent-child relationship over time.

Another study published in the Journal of Religion and Health indicates that Bible reading moderates the relationship between stress and hope and helps people rely on benevolent coping responses.

2. Promotes Empathy and Understanding

Reading can make you more understanding and empathetic. It allows you to walk in someone else’s shoes and expands your knowledge of the world.

A survey involving 213 students in health sciences professional programs found that leisure reading helped in professional development and increased participants’ empathy. Participants also noted that leisure reading reduced stress, improved thinking and communication skills, and improved understanding of minority groups.

3. Improves Sleep

Research also suggests that reading at bedtime is associated with longer nighttime sleep.

Parents of 62 children, aged 4 years old, completed a questionnaire on bedtime reading frequency and other sleep variables. The data indicates that reading at bedtime is significantly associated with longer total nighttime sleep duration, and interventions aimed at increasing reading at bedtime may improve sleep health among preschoolers.

4. Boosts Cognitive Health

Reading helps keep your mind engaged, can boost brain function and helps prevent age-related cognitive decline. A study published in Age suggests that daily “mental training” can improve brain functions in normal adults.

Data shows that reading sentences out loud can help improve working memory.

Another study found that reading strengthens language processing regions of the brain and can also positively impact sensory and motor functions or pathways.

5. Increases Longevity

Research highlights the link between reading and longevity. According to a study published in Social Science and Medicine, book reading contributed to survival advantage and a reduction in risk mortality.

Of course, reducing stress, improving sleep and boosting brain function are all important reading benefits that can improve life span and overall health.

6. Makes You Smarter

Research published in Advances in Child Development and Behavior indicates that reading, or print exposure, is associated with larger vocabulary, general knowledge and verbal skills. It also contributes to an increase of world knowledge and abstract reasoning skills.

Perhaps the best way to dive in to a new subject, begin a new hobby or expand your knowledge of issues impacting your community is by reading.

What Should You Read?

Any type of reading is beneficial for your emotional, mental and physical health. You can read novels, magazines, newspapers and digital articles from your phone or tablet.

You can also choose the genre of literature that you like best — from historical to biographical, spiritual, self-help or fiction. Choose what brings you joy and allows you to relax.

Keep in mind that if you are reading in the evening as part of your p.m. routine, you may want to opt for books or paper over digital reading.

There are some studies analyzing the effects of book reading versus reading from an iPad before bedtime. While some data shows no difference between the two on sleep patterns, a study published in Sleep Medicine found that reading from an iPad decreased subjective sleepiness.

Researchers also concluded that evening iPad reading may have consequences in terms of alertness, circadian physiology and sleep, so it may be beneficial to stick to book or paper reading before bedtime.

How to Incorporate More Reading

Try to create a reading routine that you stick to every day. Perhaps that means 30 minutes of reading in the morning while you enjoy a cup of coffee or tea or reading during your lunch break or before bedtime as part of your p.m. routine.

If you read consistently, you’ll experience the many benefits of reading.

Reading something uplifting and inspiring is a motivating way to start the day. It helps ease stress and boost mood early on in the day.

In the evening, choosing reading time over TV time, or any type of screen time, is better for your mood, brain and sleep. That’s not to say that there’s no space for mindless TV time during your week, but doing more reading is beneficial.

Choose a genre that’s soothing to you at night and allows you to wind down before bedtime.

Any Risks/Side Effects?

To reap the benefits of reading, choose a genre or subject that brings you joy, at least before going to sleep. If you love reading newspapers or online news sources, make sure it’s not impacting your mood. News coverage can often be anxiety-inducing, so be aware of how it impacts your mood and behavior.

While digital reading has become more and more popular, be aware that the blue light may make you feel more alert and lead to eye strain after long-term use. It’s OK to do some reading digitally, but try to read from books or paper, too.

Conclusion

  • There’s evidence that reading can help to reduce stress, improve sleep, boost brain function, improve your mood and even make you smarter.
  • Read every day to promote better brain function, expand your knowledge of the world and build a sense of empathy.
  • Reading with children is also extremely beneficial. Reading for kids helps to improve sleep and supports a sense of closeness.

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