Remember how easy it was in high school to fall asleep reading classic novels like “Tess of the D’ubervilles” and “Moby Dick”?
For many of us, just seeing the name Steinbeck on the spine of a book causes more yawns than Ambien.
Is there something about reading literary classics that makes us so sleepy?
Not exactly, says J. Todd Arnedt, director of the behavioral sleep medicine program at the University of Michigan Medical School.
“It’s not that reading triggers something in the brain,” says Arnedt. “That’s just it [reading is] a kind of calm and sedentary situation where the existing drowsiness… is exercised.
However, if people want a book to help them sleep, they should go for something boring.
“Choose something boring,” says Arnedt, adding that a boring book creates the “perfect conditions for drowsiness to kick in.”
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Although he hasn’t read it, he suspects that the long sentences in the 26-page children’s book “The Rabbit Who Wants to Fall Asleep” help children fall asleep.
That’s partly true, says the book’s author, Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin. He tells TODAY that he wrote the book in a way that specifically encourages children to fall asleep.
“Introducing a goal to the child, which is to fall asleep, I then use words and phrases that keep the child focused on the goal from the first page to the last,” the author writes by E-mail.
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Of course, books that make people doze off differ from reader to reader. But, as anyone who teaches high school or college literature classes can attest, there’s no shortage of books that others consider seriously boring.
“There are a ton of novels where nothing seems to be happening,” says James Jaap, senior lecturer in English at Penn State University’s Greater Allegheny Campus.
“Many people read modern novels for entertainment and if we are not entertained we are not enjoying it. If readers struggle and have to work to understand [a book] then it gets boring.
While Professor Jaap points out that boring books are a matter of taste, his students give him an idea of which ones make the most boring list.
Based on informally observed student complaints, books by these authors are considered the most soporific:
- william shakespeare
- Ernest Hemingway
- William Faulkner
- Herman Melville
- James Joyce
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- Thomas Hardy
- Herman Melville
- John Steinbeck
- Joseph Conrad
If these writers don’t make you sleepy, check out the Goodreads website, which keeps a list of the most boring books. The best sleep-inducing tracks?
“Atlas Shrugged”, “Life of Pi”, “Twilight”, “Catcher in the Rye”, “Great Expectations”, “On the Road”, “Gone with the Wind”, and “To Kill A Mockingbird”.
Really, a subjective list.