Good Books Can Be Bad for Your Health

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You woke feeling barely conscious, a headache looming at the edge of that consciousness. The alarm felt like someone pounding you, and the instant you hit snooze, you dropped back into sleep, only to be startled out of it again an instant later, though the clock said eight minutes had passed. You groaned.

You’d meant to go to bed early.

You’d put the kids down wishing it could be the opposite: that they could put you to sleep at eight p.m. You’d felt weary and bleary all day. So you hurried to load the dishwasher and prep for breakfast and then climb into bed yourself.

There were so many reasons to, like the chill fall weather that had brought back sniffles and coughs, always the threat of colds and flu around the corner. Plus you could hear your doctor scolding you by talking about the last page in his favorite picture book: rabbits lined up to watch the sunset, “knowing day is done”; in other words, those underlying health problems you wanted to fix weren’t going to get any better unless you respected the natural cycle of light and dark.

You were in bed at a decent hour. (Yeah, it wasn’t exactly right at sunset, so maybe your doctor would still scowl about 9:30, but you were trying. It was better than eleven.) You reached over to your nightstand and picked up the book you’d been reading for a few weeks, just a few minutes here or there as you’d had time. Just a half hour, you promised yourself.

But then the book got good. Got, like, insanely good. And terribly suspenseful. And there was some secret that he wasn’t telling her and it had better not be what you suspected or it would ruin the whole book and you certainly couldn’t stop reading at ten because then you’d toss and turn all night wondering.

You kept reading, turning pages at a frantic speed but unwilling to skip a single word in any sentence. The phrases were beautiful, and you kept your pencil handy to underline the best of them while still whipping through the story, dying to have the mysteries revealed.

You noticed the clock at 10:30 and ignored it. At 10:40 you had expected to see 11:00, so you rationalized that you’d been gifted an extra twenty minutes to read. At eleven the baby woke up crying, so you thought you might as well keep reading while you rocked him back to sleep. And once he was back in his crib, well, your spouse had come to bed and was reading, so you might as well read on.

You hesitate to mention this part, but, well, the book was also the teensiest bit romantic, with all this lovely sexual tension, and you began to be more and more aware of the insanely good-looking person beside you in bed. And so, at midnight, once you finally found a chapter ending that didn’t lurch you straight into the next (thank heavens the secret wasn’t what you feared! everything would be okay! love would prevail!), you set the book on your nightstand and snuggled a little closer.

Afterward, as you fell asleep, you rationalized again. Snuggling was good for your health and relationship — psychological well-being and all that — so maybe if the book got credit for that then it negated the blame of robbing you of some shut-eye, the way some people swear that a diet soda cancels out the junk food you eat with it. You thought of the handful of nights that you’d stayed up until 3, 4, 5 and yes one time even 6 a.m. reading a page-turner, so midnight was only bad in the context of the doctor’s metaphorical bunny book.

Plus, you finally had a funny topic for a blog post that would practically write itself after days of writer’s block and tries that had gone nowhere.

So if you added the three and carried the four and dropped the two, or however that long-division saying goes, in the end you couldn’t regret opening the book and getting caught up in it for so many hours and hundreds of pages.

That is until the alarm went off.

Can you relate? What’s the latest — or earliest — you’ve ever stayed up because of a book?

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6 responses »

  1. I can so relate. And I am ashamed to admit that I’ve lost count of the number of times I never went to bed because a book consumed me. I hope you get a nap today. AND what was this book???

    Like

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