Do you remember the days you were a kid, falling asleep to your parents reading you a bedtime story? Well, it turns out immersing yourself in a good book before falling asleep actually has benefits that can last you your entire life! As tempting as it is to get on your phone and scroll through social media until your eyes get heavy, or to turn on a TV show to play in the background while you nod off, here are four reasons you should abandon those habits and pick up a book when it gets dark out.

Reading has been proven to reduce stress, which improves your quality of sleep. In fact, a study done by the National Sleep Foundation determined that a nighttime reading ritual can help relax your body and prepare your body for a restful night of sleep!

Reading is a beneficial mental exercise. People who spend more time with their nose in a book perform better in cognitive function tests, have higher-level vocabulary skills, and according to Northern Illinois University, test higher in generalized knowledge. Working your brain muscles through reading has also shown to be helpful in lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, so the National Institute on Aging recommends adults read regularly!

Reading improves your ability to empathize. As our world becomes more divided, as tragedies become regular occurrences, and as people seem to need more than ever to listen to one another and come together, reading might just be what the doctor ordered. If you read literary fiction before bed, you’re more likely to understand others’ emotions and mental processes, improving the way you interact with others, and improving the quality of the relationships you develop.

Reading improves your ability to focus. Our smartphones are turning us into creatures who need everything done quickly, are easily distracted, and multitask five different things within five minutes. But when you take the time to read on a regular basis, you will gain practice in focusing on one story, doing one activity for an extended period of time, which can also carry over to other areas of your life!

Whether you’re reading your toddlers a bedtime story or keeping your own book on your bedside table, getting in 15 to 30 minutes of reading before you fall asleep for the night can make a marked difference in the life you lead.

What’s your favorite nighttime ritual? Let me know in the comments!