woman sleeping on a bed with her hands resting on a book that is open on her chest. text reads falling asleep while reading? tips to stay awake.

Tips to stay awake while reading

I hear you, my friend. Getting cozy with a good book after a long day, only to find yourself nodding off can be so frustrating. I’ve been there more times than I can count! But don’t worry, I’ve got your back with some tips that have really helped me stay alert and engaged while reading.

woman laginon a bed with her eyes closed, and her hands on a books that is laying open on her chest.

Vocalize the first line

First off, I totally get the struggle of waking up at 3 am and not being able to doze back off. It’s like your brain is in overdrive, but your body is just done for the night. Yet when you crack open a new book you can barely keep your eyes open – the power of a good story, am I right? Well, one trick I’ve found is to read the first line of each paragraph out loud.

I know, I know, it sounds a little weird, but hear me out. When my eyelids start getting heavy, I force myself to vocalize that first sentence. It does a couple things – it jolts my brain awake and prevents me from zoning out and re-reading the same paragraph over and over. And as an added bonus, I find it actually helps me retain the key points better. It’s almost like my brain is creating little mental bullet points as I go.

Read dialogue with enthusiasm

Another fun technique is to really lean into the dialogue and read it out loud with gusto. I’ll admit, the first time I did this, I got a few strange looks from my cats. But once I got over the self-consciousness, I found that it made the story come alive in a whole new way. Plus, it scratches that itch I have to be an audiobook narrator someday. Hey, a gal can dream, right?

Keep your hands busy

And you know what else helps keep me engaged? Keeping my hands busy with a simple, repetitive task. Now, I definitely don’t recommend doing this if you’re trying to focus on something intricate. But back in my college days, I realized that if I’d bring my knitting to class, I could stay present during those droning lectures instead of drifting off to some other far away happy place. The same principle applies to reading – as long as my secondary task is mindless enough, it seems to give my brain that little extra stimulation it needs (Knitters, think garter stitch).

Choose an exciting book

Of course, one surefire way to stay awake is to pick up a thriller that’s so pulse-pounding, you won’t be able to put it down. Nothing keeps me turning the pages like a good mystery or suspenseful plot. Here are three books that kept me rapt from start to finish. 

One by One by Freida McFadden

I inhaled this novel in the course of a couple sittings, and it was exactly what I was looking for in a “which one of these people is the traitor” type read. Claire and her husband Noah are headed off for a vacation out of town with 2 other couples. All 6 of the characters share a lot of history together–some of it good and some of it bad. All of the characters are flawed in different ways, and they all harbor at least some animosity towards another person in the group.

I liked how quickly the action escalated once Claire’s van broke down on the way to the hotel, and I feel like it was balanced well with some entries from an anonymous viewpoint. I truly suspected each and every one of the characters.

This book didn’t pull me too far inside my own head as far as the psychological aspect of the thrill, but it kept me glued to my Kindle until the very end.

Daughter of Mine by Megan Miranda

This book will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Mirror Lake is the focal point of Hazel Holt’s hometown. When a car is pulled from the lake–on her property–she has questions that need answers.

After the death of her father, Detective Perry Holt, there is a feeling of mistrust in the air. Though he was generous in his will towards Hazel, his gesture created ill-will between her and her brothers. This sentiment breeds paranoia, or is the fear warranted? Hazel doesn’t know who she should trust, and is not safe in her own home until she can uncover the truth.

This book had all of the horror vibes that I love without the gore. I would definitely not read this one alone at night. There is an ominous feeling to this book, and it just picks up more and more speed as you barrel your way to the ending.

The Paris Apartment by Lisa Foley

This book, which has been out for a couple of years, is definitely worth checking out. It puts the reader squarely into a different place – the historic Paris apartment that the protagonist, Jess, is visiting when she’s down on her luck and plans to spend time with her half-brother Ben. The apartment becomes a character in the story.

Something goes terribly wrong from the very start when Ben doesn’t answer the door upon Jess’s arrival. Jess needs to find her brother, and she does so by meeting the different neighbors in the apartment. Each neighbor is a suspect, and they all seem shady.

This was a super fun read with a creepy, eerie feeling of being in a place where something terrible is happening, but you just don’t know where to look for answers.

Change up your routine and try one of these tips!

At the end of the day, I know how disappointing it can be to fall asleep mid-chapter. But with a few simple tricks up your sleeve, you can maximize your reading time and actually get to enjoy the full story. Whether it’s reading out loud, keeping your hands busy, or choosing an edge-of-your-seat thriller, find what works best for you and run with it. Before you know it, you’ll be sailing through books like a pro, and your to-read pile will start shrinking instead of growing! (Who am I kidding, that will never happen!) So go forth, my friend, and happy reading – may your eyelids stay pleasantly wide open.

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