To Wake, to Wake, Perchance to Read: Sleep Duration and Reading for Pleasure

By Kelly, William E. | Reading Improvement, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

To Wake, to Wake, Perchance to Read: Sleep Duration and Reading for Pleasure


Kelly, William E., Reading Improvement


To investigate the relationship between sleep duration and pleasure reading, 223 college students self-reported their habitual sleep duration and completed a measure of reading for pleasure. Regression results indicated that individuals who reported shorter sleep duration were significantly more likely to report increased reading for pleasure. The results and directions for future research are discussed.

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Why does one read for pleasure? The simple answer perhaps would be that it brings pleasure (Kringelbach, Vuust, & Geake, 2008). However, the motivations are likely more complex. In one study involving medical students, a group typically thought to have heavy educational reading requirements, reasons for pleasure reading included gaining personal inspiration, increasing awareness outside of personal experience, introspection, and eliciting emotional reactions (Hodgson & Thomson, 2000). A sample of older adults named reading as an activity in which they oft participated during times of sleeplessness (Libman, Creti, Amsel, Brender, and Fichten, 1997). While Libman et al's results were specific to an older sample it may be true that other segments of the population read during sleeplessness as well. The purpose of this study, therefore, was to examine the relationship between reading for pleasure and sleep duration in a college student population.

Reading for Pleasure

Studies have indicated that pleasure reading among college students has declined over the past three decades (Hendel & Harrold, 2004). Although numerous influences have likely contributed to this decline, the specific reasons have remained unclear. However, it has become clear that pleasure reading positively correlated with reading skill (Datta & MacDonald-Ross, 2002). Pleasure reading has also been linked with academic achievement (Shin, 2004). The relationship between pleasure reading and academic achievement may be partly explained by reading skill, but it may also be partly explained through individual differences variables. Pleasure reading has been found across several studies to relate to the broad-band openness to experience domain of the "Big-Five" personality factors (Davidson, Beck, & Silver, 1999; Kraaykamp & van Eijck, 2005), which has also predicted academic achievement (Davidson et al.). Pleasure reading was also associated with a tendency to experience psychological absorption and better tolerate complex stimuli (Miall & Kuiken, 1995), as well as emotional stability (Schutte & Malouff, 2004).

As pleasure reading might be considered a leisure activity, it seems reasonable that studies have associated pleasure reading with other leisure activities as well. For instance, time engaged in pleasure reading has been negatively associated with television viewing time (Shin, 2004). It has also been associated with seemingly less likely activities such as night-sky watching (Kelly & Daughtry, 2006).

Sleep duration

Most adults sleep between 6 and 9 hours out of every 24 (National Sleep Foundation, 2008). Over the course of time, researchers' understanding of characteristics of individuals who sleep more (long sleepers) or less (short sleepers) has changed. Early reports indicated that short sleepers were more psychologically healthy, whereas longer sleepers were described as being more psychologically unhealthy (Hartmann, 1973; Hartmann, Baekeland, Zwilling, & Hoy, 1971).

However, as subsequent research corrected methodological flaws, a different profile of long and short sleepers emerged. More recent studies have found sleep duration was negatively related to (i.e., short-sleepers scored higher on), neuroticism (Kumar & Vaidya, 1982), hostility (Grano, Vahtera, Virtanen, Keltikangas-Jarvinen, & Kivimaki, 2008), worry (Kelly, 2002), hallucinatory experiences (Soper, Kelly, & Von Bergen, 1997), eating disorder symptoms (Hicks & Rozette, 1986), and even susceptibility to the common cold (Cohen, Doyle, Alper, Janicki-Deverts, & Turner, 2009). …

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