Are we conditioning our reading?

Hi guys,

So I was sat in the hour I have between classes and I pulled out the book that I always carry around with me.

Currently this is ‘Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard’!

However, by the time I read to the end of the chapter I felt my body relax a little too much, my body slid down into the (rather uncomfortable) chair and my muscles relaxed, suddenly my eyes started blurring and I found myself drifting into an unwelcomed sleep!

Now this isn’t so bad I guess, being the only break between back to back lectures all day I was bound to be tired, right?

But that got me thinking, every time I find time to read throughout the day; whether it be between classes or on the bus journey home, I find myself uncannily tired after about a chapter.

Then it hit me!

I cannot believe that as a student of a Masters Level Psychology Degree it took me so long to associate the two behaviours together! I was actually too ashamed to even admit it on this blog when I first drafted the post out- but I have a responsibility of honesty with my readers, and lets face it- a little humour along the way!

Every night I read a chapter of any book before bed. Okay, well not every night. Okay, fair enough; the only time during December and January that I dedicated to reading were a few minutes before I settled into bed. I had my reasons (exams, illness, and family all play a huge role!) but I never realised how damaging this was!

Let me introduce you to some famous dogs!

A founding elements of behaviour psychology is ‘classical conditioning’, in essence it is teaching the body to react in a certain way to a stimuli. This was first coined by Pavlov (1849-1936) who found that his dogs salivated when food was given, however the food was always given after the sound of the bell. After a period of time, Pavlov found that the dogs began to salivate at the sound of the bell only; they had associated the stimuli (the bell) to the desired effect (food) and therefore behaved as if it were in fact food.

Now, I know your wondering- what in the name has this got to do with my reading before bed?

Swap out the words ‘dog’ for ‘me’, swap out the word ‘food’ for ‘sleep’, and finally swap out the word ‘bell’ for ‘reading’.

Without realising it, I had conditioned myself to fall asleep after a certain amount of reading as I had been continuously pairing the stimuli together!

So do you read before bed every night? Could it be damaging your reading during the day?

 I am not going to recommend that you stop! I could never forgive myself if I encourage the stoppage of reading!

What I do recommend however is that you find a way of separating the two events; perhaps only read a certain genre before bed. Alternatively, you could interrupt the pairing by doing something between reading and sleeping; perhaps going and getting a drink or other activity that includes you moving from the bed.

Sleep well,

Helen x


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