In that bedtime span between climbing under the blankets and being fully asleep, the mind needs somehow to go from a state of being actively engaged with conscious thoughts, to being turned off to all of that, on its way to dreamland. I haven’t studied the science of this except as a participant in and observer of own experiments, which have led me to theories and conclusions.
It appears that my own mind has been trained to need a certain routine in order to make that transition, which is the activity of reading. I guess it’s not surprising, since most of my life I have enjoyed a book or magazine before bed, or in bed before sleep. I used to keep at it for hours sometimes, but in recent years it may only take five minutes before I begin to drift off, or one paragraph.
Nights when I was dead tired and not anxious about anything, I thought surely I could bypass this mental step and just conk out. But I tried that more than once, and would lie there for an hour, praying, counting sheep, thinking of beautiful places — but never sleeping, until I would turn on the light again and read a few lines. Then, in two minutes the nodding off would begin.
The sort of book I want has narrowed to a genre of its own: Bedtime Books. Requirements: Not too demanding, but well written, not too dark or exciting, and not so long that it makes a book that is large and heavy. The print is the one aspect that can’t be small! It can’t be on Audible because I’m trying to keep my phone in the other room at night. Smallish paperbacks are ideal, so I visited the local paperback store last week for the first time in many years, to browse the shelves; I was looking for the smaller, “trade paperbacks,” and found quite a few possibilities. (I traded in $31 worth of books that I was glad to let go of.)
Afterward I stopped at the library to pick up two cookbooks on hold, and I remembered that the local branch has a used bookstore, so I found as many more small books there. Here is the stack of all that I came home with, which I hope might last me for years.
Because when I have a chance to listen to Audible books, or read philosophy or theology or Great Novels, at any other time of day, I won’t be making progress in these smaller reads. It’s good to be so tired when one drops into bed that only a few paragraphs get read.
I think I’ve only read one of these before, but I bet my readers know many of them well. I’ve read other books by Natsume Soseki, Walls, George, Lowry and Doig, so I knew those authors were worth another try, but several of these titles are brand new to me, and I hope I will find them worth finishing. I don’t want to fall asleep out of boredom!