adult woman falling asleep while readingPeople have long predicted the death of the book industry. After all, how can it stay competitive with so many entertainment options? Surely movies, TV, video games, and smartphones–which combine all of the above plus social media and more–will keep people from engaging with books. However, the book industry reported record sales in 2021, with only a slight decline in 2022. So people are buying books, but they might not be reading them. Americans spend less time reading than they used to. One reason is that people have a tendency to fall asleep when reading.

Falling asleep when reading might be a normal thing, but it could also be a sign that you have a serious condition: sleep apnea. If nothing you do can help you stay awake when reading–and reading isn’t the only activity that makes you fall asleep–you should consider getting a sleep test. Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry can help you determine whether a sleep test is appropriate for you and help you get one. Please contact the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado today for an appointment. 

How to Stop Falling Asleep When You Read

Although many people start out trying to read more, it’s common to fall asleep in the attempt. That’s because there are many factors that work together to make you more likely to doze off, including:

  • Relaxation
  • Location
  • Comfort
  • Strain
  • Light
  • Time of day
  • Boredom

With all of these factors, it’s no surprise that trying to read can be a losing battle. Here are some solutions to help you stop falling asleep when you sit down to read. 

Reading Is Relaxing

Many people want to read because it’s relaxing. It takes your mind off many of the cares that keep you worried during the day, so you can let go of some of your daily stress. It makes sense that you want your reading to be relaxing, but how can you make sure it’s not too relaxing?

Solution: Being relaxed is a natural effect of reading, but being too relaxed is usually related to other factors. Check out our solutions for location, comfort, light, time of day, and boredom to see how you can use reading to relax without falling asleep. 

Pick Your Reading Spot

One of the factors that makes people fall asleep when reading is that they are reading in bed. Your brain associates the bed with sleeping, so when you get into bed, your brain thinks it’s time to sleep. This isn’t just a problem for reading–trying to read in bed can sometimes make it hard for you to sleep. 

Solution: Pick someplace other than your bed for reading. It can be in your bedroom if you don’t have another spot, but ideally, it should be somewhere else that your brain doesn’t link to sleeping. 

Don’t Get Too Comfortable

When many people think of the ideal reading spot, they picture themselves wrapped in blankets in a cozy chair, couch, lounge, or even a bed. The problem is that these too-comfortable locations can make you more likely to doze off. 

Solution: Choose a reading spot that is comfortable but not too comfortable. Sit upright rather than lounging more horizontally. Don’t wrap yourself too warmly. Find a balance that makes you comfortable enough that you can stay there for the time you want to spend reading but not so comfortable that you’re likely to fall asleep. 

Don’t Overstrain Yourself

Reading is a challenging task that requires mental energy and focus. This is different from most of the activities that fill our daily life. As with relaxation, this is a feature, not a bug, but it can make you so tired that you fall asleep rather quickly instead of reading. 

Solution: Think of reading as an exercise for your brain. As with any exercise routine, you have to build up to the harder challenges. Take the time to condition yourself to read without falling asleep. There are two common ways to do this. First, you might start with a relatively short reading period, then gradually increase it each night. Second, you might start with easy reading material, then gradually move on to more complex reading. 

Use the Right Light

Dim light is often a feature of a cozy reading spot in people’s imagination. The problem is that dim light can suggest to your brain that it’s bedtime. 

Solution: Choose the right light for reading. Of course, you want to make sure that the light on the page is bright enough for reading. However, there’s more to it than that. Having brighter ambient light can help signal your brain to stay awake, so try reading with an overhead light as well as a reading lamp. In addition, choosing bright white light that includes more of the blue end of the spectrum can help you stay alert and focused. 

Read at the Right Time

Just like your location, your brain associates certain times of day with sleep. As children, many of our parents read to us before bedtime, creating the association that reading is associated with sleep. Reading immediately before bedtime is a great way to help you get sleepy so you’ll fall asleep fast, but that’s not great for reading. 

Solution: Try reading at different times of the day. You might make reading part of your wake-up routine, possibly after morning exercise. Another good time to try reading is immediately after work, as part of your transition to being home and relaxed. 

We know this might cut into what’s often family time, but it can often improve family time by helping you cast off the stresses of work to be wholly present for your family. Also, you can make reading time family time: read together. You can then take time to talk about what you’re reading. 

Avoid Boredom

Boredom is a big challenge in staying awake to read. If you’re not engaged in what you’re reading, it can make you more likely to fall asleep when you try to read. 

Solution: Try to pick reading materials that you find engaging. Interesting stories, compelling characters, and settings that engage you work well for fiction. If you’re a nonfiction reader, choose subjects that you’re excited about. 

If you’re trying to get through required reading or want to expand your repertoire of subjects, treat boredom as an aspect of strain. Work your way up to engaging with boring material. If you have to read a certain amount by a deadline, give yourself frequent breaks, but keep coming back to the material until you get through it. 

Still Falling Asleep While Reading?

If you’ve tried all the above solutions and you’re still falling asleep, maybe you’re not getting enough sleep at night. Make enough time for sleep in your schedule. 

If you think you’re getting enough hours of sleep, but you’re still feeling tired, sleep apnea may be the problem. In fact, falling asleep when reading is the first element on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, a screening tool for sleep apnea. If you can’t stay awake when reading, it might be time to get tested for sleep apnea. 

Sleep Apnea Treatment in Denver

At the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado, Denver sleep dentist Dr. Kevin Berry can help you get tested for sleep apnea. He can also offer you a comfortable and convenient sleep apnea treatment: oral appliance therapy. This alternative to CPAP helps you breathe easily and quietly at night so you can get the rest you need to do whatever you want during the day. 

To learn more about sleep apnea and sleep apnea treatment, please call (303) 691-0267 or use our online form to request an appointment at the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center of Colorado, serving Denver from our location near I-25 and Colorado Boulevard.