The Ultimate Grudge Match: Games vs Sleep
Video game aficionados know that games can be used for everything from educating the youth to aiding in combating depression and other mental illnesses. However, one of the negative side effects of gaming is the impact it can have on your sleep cycle.
The importance of sleep on your overall health is paramount. In today’s overstimulated world, it’s essential to have a healthy work-life balance and make an effort to get the right amount of sleep each night. Unfortunately, video games can gravely affect your sleep cycle when played to excess or at the wrong times. Here’s how video games impact the quality of your sleep, as well as what you can do about it:
The Caffeine Effect
While the effects of different types of video games on sleep are still being studied, the effects of caffeine on one’s sleep cycle have been noted many times. The effects of stimulants like caffeine on sleep are especially seen in high-stress professions, like nursing, where professionals rely on coffee to get through 12-hour workdays. Caffeine is highly addictive and can stay in one’s body for up to 10 hours. Due to these attributes, caffeine consumption can lead to disturbed sleep and insomnia.
This begs the question: Is gaming the equivalent of using caffeine? Some studies claim that it indeed is.
Citing a study from the journal Pediatrics, an article in Time states, “Watching television or playing video games close to bedtime can act like a jolt of caffeine to young children.” The study showed that preschoolers who played video games for a minimum of 30 minutes after 7 p.m., 28% had difficulty falling asleep most nights of the week. Additionally, these children were more likely to experience nightmares, as well as daytime fatigue.
The Addiction Factor
Much like caffeine, video games tend to be addictive. A study by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine found that 67% of gamers reported missed sleep as a result of gaming. These gamers would push off sleeping at a reasonable hour to continue video gaming. In fact, the study showed that gamers would delay their bedtimes on an average of 36% of the nights they played games. This study didn’t survey children; rather, it surveyed gamers with an average age of 28.7 years — an age where people are definitely aware of the required amount of sleep.
In response to the findings, lead author and principal investigator Brandy M. Roane stated, “The reasons provided by gamers for their choice to delay their bedtime strongly supports the inclusion of video gaming as an addictive behavior.” For gamers, these results likely don’t come as a surprise. Considering that gaming is such an overstimulating activity, it doesn’t seem far-fetched that gaming could cause anyone to lose track of time.
The Melatonin Disruption
Finally, video games hamper the body’s production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for regulating sleep. A study cited on SleepJunkies shows that this effect is “mostly due to the effect of blue light emitted by screens which has been shown to affect melatonin production.” At this point, it is only logical to wonder about other light-emitting devices, like TVs or cell phones, and their effect on sleep.
While watching TV before bedtime does impact sleep quality, gaming seems to be more consequential. While watching TV is a passive experience, gaming is an active experience with extensive built-in interactive features.
Today, gameplay allows players to talk to each other through the game, giving gaming a social aspect that watching TV lacks. As stated in the SleepJunkies article, “gaming has a lot more in common with social media than watching TV or movies. The two-way stimulation from games, Facebook, or instant messaging can be almost impossible to resist at times.”
These active experiences, paired with the constant emission of bright light can majorly disrupt the body’s production of melatonin, making it very difficult to get a night of quality sleep.
What Can You Do?
If you’re an avid gamer have become a victim of sleepless nights and tired days, it’s about time you break the cycle. There are many things you can do to ensure you get a good night’s rest.
One of these is actively powering down. Experts recommend powering down at least an hour before bedtime. This includes turning off or putting away any devices that might stimulate your senses, like smartphones, laptops, and gaming consoles. Set yourself a time every day to power down — a fixed limit on your evening gaming time, if you will — ensuring it is well before your bedtime. Even though it might initially be very hard to give up playing “one more round,” know that with time, your body will adjust and you will find that you are ready to stop gaming and go to bed at a fixed time.
Another option, and one especially useful for those with severe insomnia, is the use of sleep aids. Sleep aids such as melatonin are easily available over the counter. These are very helpful to regulate your sleeping cycle. It’s important to find a sleeping aid that doesn’t result in total dependency — the eventual goal is to be able to fall asleep on your own.
For those looking for a natural sleep aid, CBD is a good choice. Unnatural sleep aids often have side effects like decreased energy levels and grogginess in the day. CBD provides for a natural, gentler option for those suffering from sleep issues.
It is up to you to take action to get your sleep cycle back in order. It’s important to remember that gaming itself is not a bad habit and can even be beneficial for the brain. Ever heard the phrase “too much of a good thing”? In terms of gaming, this couldn’t be more accurate. Ultimately, you need to be smart about your gaming habits by ensuring that you are only playing for a couple of hours a day and never late into the night. Smart gaming is the only way to pursue your hobby without suffering from the detrimental impact it can have on your sleep.