Feeling mentally tired is sometimes referred to as mental fatigue. It often occurs when you become persistently overwhelmed usually without time for adequate rest and restoration.
Reading can make you mentally tired because it is a mental activity that requires concentration, focus, and cognitive processing. If you engage in extended or challenging reading sessions, it can lead to mental fatigue. Although reading is not very physically demanding, this doesn’t mean it doesn’t make you work hard. It does.
Reading engages your brain to work hard in processing the information you’re taking in, as a result you may feel mentally and physically tired when reading.
Mental fatigue due to reading is common in students and work professionals that have to not only read but study information, store it and reference or recall it at a later time in the distant or near future.
It is vital to recognize the symptoms of mental fatigue before it evolves to mental burnout which is chronic and dangerous to your mental well-being.
Symptoms of mental exhaustion in reading
Mental fatigue can make it challenging to maintain focus on what you’re reading leading to increased distractibility.
This increased distractibility makes it harder to focus making concentration an uphill battle.
Being mentally tired means your mental faculties aren’t operating at full capacity as a result concentration can be difficult.
Students studying for finals have no choice but to adapt and study, as a result they experience extreme lapses in concentration due to excessive studying.
It’s therefore a good idea to read and take breaks in order maintain focus and concentration.
Slowed reading speed
Another symptom of mental exhaustion due to reading is the decrease in reading speed.
Normally when you begin a reading session your reading speed is normal and your eye movement regulated well on pace.
As you continue to read more and for longer without taking sufficient breaks you begin to slow down.
As the mental exhaustion starts to kick in, reading becomes overwhelming and your reading speed drastically declines.
You may find that you’re reading more slowly than usual, as you’re tired your mind processes information less efficiently.
Understanding and retaining what you’re reading may become more difficult, potentially leading to the need to reread sections.
Mental fatigue undermines your normal cognitive function, therefore mental work like understanding (especially) complex text can prove difficult.
Not only that, storing and retaining information, another mentally taxing activity, may prove impossible.
It’s therefore important to be productive but cautious not to burn yourself out.
Mental fatigue due to reading can lead to mistakes in understanding or interpreting the material, which can affect your overall comprehension.
The inability to focus caused by mental exhaustion will increase errors in reading and understanding information. As a result your productivity will greatly diminish.
It may be wise to take a break away from the reading material and then get back to it to improve your chances of reading with fewer errors.
Mental fatigue can contribute to irritability, making it harder to stay patient and engaged with the reading material.
Metal exhaustion can make you anxious and this can put you in a very delicate mental state.
As a result you may find yourself getting irritated by the simplest of things.
This kind of mental state is unproductive and it is wise to stop your reading when you begin to sense your impatience and irritability.
As a precaution; learn more about the impact of reading on your mental health
Reduced motivation/Low mood
When mentally tired, you may be less motivated to continue reading or engage with the material, which can hinder your progress.
Low motivation to continue is one of the common symptoms of mental exhaustion experienced by students studying for exams.
Since they have to stay engaged with reading material, they undergo different waves of mental exhaustion.
As a result, their motivation to tackle more reading material declines as they read and study more.
It’s therefore wise to take breaks to avoid triggering depressive mental states due to reading.
Headaches and physical discomfort
Prolonged reading without breaks can lead to physical discomfort, such as headaches or eye strain. The constant exposure to words can lead to eye strain and discomfort especially if one is reading on a digital device.
Extreme eye strain can be followed by headaches; this discomfort can be a symptom of mental and physical exhaustion from reading.
When your mind becomes mentally tired from prolonged reading or cognitive effort, it can lead to a feeling of overall fatigue.
This fatigue may manifest as a desire to sleep because your brain needs time to recover and recharge.
Causes of Mental Exhaustion in reading
If the material being read is complex, dense or technical, it can be overwhelming for the reader. On several accounts I’ve found myself mentally exhausted when reading books in fields like science and engineering where everything is technical and requires a closer look to understand.
The fact is; our minds are only equipped to handle a certain amount of cognitive load. This is why you find it difficult to understand when a group of people try to talk to you at the same time.
We can apply the cognitive load theory (the amount of information our working memory can process at any given time is limited) to reading.
Material that is hard to read demands more cognitive activity and this can easily make you mentally and physically tired and exhausted.
Long reading sessions (Too much reading)
Extensive reading without breaks or in challenging conditions can strain both the mind and the body. This can lead to mental exhaustion, affecting reading comprehension and well-being.
It’s worth mentioning that people have different reading time thresholds; this means you can time yourself to see how long you can read before experiencing symptoms of mental exhaustion or fatigue.
It’s also worth understanding the impact of reading on your sanity and rationality.
Extensive reading can sound like a great idea but done in extremes the effects of too much reading can result in headaches, eye strain, and reduced productivity when no new meanings are created, lower retention and reduced comprehension.
Your mental energy
Your mental state is another thing to consider when looking into the causes of mental exhaustion. For example fatigue can make it difficult for you to focus, read well and understand.
This is why it’s important to rest before engaging in reading to avoid being overwhelmed.
However, it’s worth mentioning that reading can be highly beneficial to your mental health because it can make you empathetic, reduce your stress and give you a healthy escape in times when you feel alone.
For example; people suffering from depression may feel like they don’t belong and seclude themselves. In this case reading books can provide a healthy escape into a different world.
Lack of interest
Reading materials that do not align with the reader’s interests or motivations can be mentally exhausting. This is something I noticed with myself a few years back.
I became less and less into fiction and began paying more attention to non-fiction.
As a result I found it harder and harder to get through a chapter of fiction in a day but found it easy to read non-fiction book for longer periods of time.
Mental exhaustion from studying
Mental exhaustion from an activity like studying is worth mentioning because it is very common. I experienced it a lot in university.
Throughout my experience, I learnt one thing; mental exhaustion from reading is heavily dependent on the kind of reading.
For example, studying is mentally exhausting because it involves mentally taxing activities like understanding, learning and storing information through reading.
A lot of energy is required by all these activities and this can make the reading more exhausting.
How to keep from sleeping while studying
You feel sleepy when studying because it is a multi-faceted complex process that requires lots of energy. Below are some of the ways you can keep from falling asleep while studying.
Rest is important when taking up energy consuming activities like studying. Ensure you get a good 7 to 8 hours of sleep to avoid paying sleep debt i.e. if you haven’t had enough sleep in the preceding nights, your body will try to catch up on lost sleep when you sit down to study, leading to drowsiness.
Study what you like
Studying uninteresting material can lead to decreased alertness and engagement, making you more prone to falling asleep. If you have the liberty to choose your study material then by all means, choose something that you like.
If you don’t have the liberty to choose then bring as much energy as needed to the study session.
Ensure you get enough sleep, read in a well-lit room, don’t get too cozy, take lots of breaks etc. you should give yourself as much physical and mental advantage as possible to endure the studying session.
Avoid heavy meals before studying
Studying after a heavy meal can lead to drowsiness.
After eating, blood flow is directed toward your digestive system, diverting it from the brain and potentially causing drowsiness. This is sometimes referred to as food coma.
Avoid cozy and comfortable
We all like to be comfortable especially when doing activities we don’t particularly like doing.
People want to study in comfort in order to make the experience as easy as possible. This can be a cool psychological trick to sway your mind off the prospect that studying is boring, but in the long run comfort will make you fall sleep easily.
You don’t want to be uncomfortable either. Sitting uncomfortably can make you feel physically tired and mentally exhausted.
Therefore it’s essential to strike the right balance between comfort and sustainability.
You need light when studying before 6pm. Ensure that you get enough natural light in your eyes in the morning. Let enough light enter your room as this will help you maintain your concentrate and focus for longer.