9 best bedtime stories for a peaceful night’s sleep (if you can put them down)

Author Libby Page takes us through her top bedtime stories, and it’s enough to get us all into bed early.

When was the last time you read a book before bed? If you’re anything like me, it’s all too easy to find yourself lost down an Instagram hole before going to sleep. But using your phone at night can stop you getting a good night’s rest – the screen light supresses the sleep hormone melatonin and all those flashing images can wire your brain rather than soothing it into sleep time. 

With this in mind, maybe it’s time to go back to what worked so well when we were children and reach for a bedtime story instead?

Unlike checking in on Facebook, reading at night can help you to drift off and get a good quality of sleep. But it might depend on the book. At night, I prefer gentle novels to anything too heavy or taxing. Beautiful descriptions of nature to calm me down, or escapist travel books to lose myself in for a while. And short stories are perfect for dipping into at the end of the day.

Here are some of my favourite books for setting my brain to sleep mode. So pull up that duvet, get comfy and reach for one of these… 

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  • The Sweetness of Life, Françoise Héritier

    The Sweetness of Life, Françoise Héritier

    This tiny little book lives on my bedside table and is perfect for picking up after a bad day. It comprises of letters Héritier wrote to a friend suffering from depression and is essentially a list of small, often everyday things that make life sweet. Joyful and strangely addictive. And if you’re feeling anxious or low I’ve found jotting down a few of my own small pleasures to be a great way to unwind before bed (the book has blank pages at the back for exactly this!).

    Shop The Sweetness of Life by Françoise Héritier (Penguin) at Blackwell’s, £5.99.

  • Grandmothers, Salley Vickers

    Grandmothers, Salley Vickers

    I love Salley Vickers and find her novels very calming and restful. Her latest, Grandmothers, explores the roles that grandparents play in our lives in gentle, tender detail. A warm-hearted, poignantly observed book to lose yourself in before going to sleep. 

    Shop Grandmothers by Salley Vickers (Penguin Random House) at Amazon, £11.23.

  • One More Croissant for the Road, Felicity Cloake

    One More Croissant for the Road, Felicity Cloake

    Forget the traditional Tour de France, in this book food writer Felicity Cloake describes her Tour de Food in which she cycles around France sampling regional dishes and a whole lot of pastries. It’s a wonderful escapist read and hearing about her long cycles might just make you tired enough to doze off yourself. But be warned – you may find yourself in need of a late-night snack (read: croissant) after reading. 

    Shop One More Croissant for the Road (HarperCollins) by Felicity Cloake at Waterstones, £14.99.

  • Red Sky at Sunrise, Laurie Lee

    Red Sky at Sunrise, Laurie Lee

    Laurie Lee’s writing, particularly about nature and the countryside, is just so lyrical and beautiful that it makes perfect bedtime reading. This book compiles three of his books: Cider with Rosie (my favourite), As I Walked Out one Midsummer Morning, and A Moment of War. 

    Shop Red Sky at Sunrise by Laurie Lee (Penguin) at Waterstones, £14.99.

  • Swimmer Among the Stars, Kanishk Tharoor

    Swimmer Among the Stars, Kanishk Tharoor

    I find short stories perfect for evening reading when you’re too tired to get stuck into a novel. Kanishk Tharoor’s stories are wonderfully hypnotic. My favourite tells the tale of the last person alive to speak a dying language, and how that ancient language adapted to encompass modern life.

    Shop Swimmer Among the Stars by Kanishk Tharoor (Picador) at Blackwell’s, £6.99. 

  • The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter

    The Bloody Chamber, Angela Carter

    I’ve always loved Angela Carter’s feminist retellings of classic fairytales. Weird, wonderful and deliciously dark, these are bedtime stories for the little bookworm who grew up into a kickass woman still with a stack of books beside her bed.

    Shop The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter (Vintage) at Waterstones, £6.99. 

  • Stories of the Sea, edited by Diana Secker-Tesdell

    Stories of the Sea, Diana Secker-Tesdell

    I love all of the Everyman Pocket Classics and have several. They all have gorgeous covers and include a wonderful range of extracts of writing. Stories of the Sea is perhaps my favourite – windswept, swashbuckling tales to give you dreams of waves and deserted islands.

    Shop Stories of the Sea (Everyman Pocket Classics), edited by Diana Secker-Tesdell at Amazon, £9.35.

  • A Poem for Every Night of the Year, edited by Allie Esiri

    A Poem for Every Night of the Year, Allie Esiri

    If you’ve had one of those days and feel too tired for a whole chapter or short story before bed, why not try a poem instead? This wonderful collection shares a poem for every night throughout the year and includes poems from Shakespeare to Maya Angelou. One to keep beside your bed.

    Shop A Poem for Every Night of the Year (Pan Macmillan) at Oliver Bonas, £16.99. 

  • The 24-Hour Café, Libby Page

    The 24-Hour Cafe, Libby Page

    And as you’re getting ready for bed, why not reach for my new book, The 24-Hour Café? Set over one fateful day and night in Stella’s café, it tells the story of friends and waitresses Hannah and Mona, as well as the characters who come in through the doors seeking coffee and a moment of calm. I invite you to join me in Stella’s café for some cosy time to yourself before you fall asleep. 

    Shop The 24-Hour Cafe by Libby Page (Orion Publishing Co) at Waterstones, £12.99. 

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Book jackets: supplied by publishers

Lead image design: Alessia Armenise


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