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  • Dr. Eric Carlsen

6 Things Every Avid Gamer Should Know About Sleep

girl at desk on computer playing video game

The gaming community grows bigger and bigger every year. With the advent of more accessible ways to game, people of all ages and backgrounds have come to love the hobby. But, as with any community, they deal with specific stereotypes–like how a gamer does not enough sleep!

Are you one of those gamers who spends all night playing to your heart’s content? Or do you think you’re totally fine and are regulating your bedtime schedule well? Regardless of where you fall on that spectrum, it’s a good idea to educate yourself on some facts about sleep. If you’re an avid gamer, here are six things you need to know about sleep.

1. Gaming at Night Keeps You Awake

When you play a video game, you can become quite immersed in it. That immersion lends itself to physical and mental arousal that keeps you alert, even after you’ve closed the game. This can even lend itself to physical reactions, such as:

  • Heightened heart rate

  • More active brain waves

  • Reduced sleepiness

The stimulation from video games is more than enough to make it hard to sleep. It’s best to turn off your console at least an hour before you need to go to bed. If you don’t, you’ll wind up tossing and turning throughout the night.

2. Sleep Is Affected by Your Environment

A lot of gamers boast about having a flashy setup featuring LEDs, lots of other flashing lights, and high-tech devices. That’s all very cool – unless it’s in your bedroom!

In order to fall asleep, you need to be in an environment that’s conducive to it. While you can probably sleep anywhere if you’re exhausted enough, the best sleep is had in a comfortable atmosphere. You’ll want little to no light, a cool temperature, comfortable bedding, and a space free from the stress of daily life.

The brain often draws connections between the things in its environment and whether or not it should be asleep. For example, you’re much more likely to feel sleepy in your living room than when you’re out and about. This means that your brain registers certain environmental factors with different things. The sight of a warm blanket is associated with sleep, but a gaming setup is associated with wide-awake fun!

Having your gaming setup in your bedroom can be disruptive if your brain has decided that this space is one for wakefulness. Plus, the distraction of knowing that your games are right there can make it even harder to want to sleep. And when you know your bed is so near to you, you can trick yourself into thinking you’ll sleep in five minutes. Then, the next thing you know, it’s two hours later!

It may be best to move your setup elsewhere if you have room for it somewhere different in your house. If you really have no choice about its location, just make sure to turn all lights associated with your gaming corner off.

3. Even If You Get Enough Sleep, Gaming Can Reduce Its Quality

You might think that sleeping for the recommended nightly amount will absolve you of sleep-related troubles. But if you game a lot, think again! The fact is that gaming in general, even at reasonable hours, can reduce the quality of your sleep. Here are some facts and figures about the ways gaming affects sleep, according to studies:

  • More than an hour of daily gaming gives you a 30% higher risk of poor sleep.

  • Gaming for several hours often results in later and later bedtimes.

  • A high volume of gaming can cause symptoms of insomnia and fatigue.

  • Sleep latency is longer and sleep efficiency is lower when you game a lot.

  • You are at risk of needing sleep medication if you spend a lot of time playing games.

  • Playing video games can completely change your sleep quality and habits.

It is worth noting that there are no loopholes to these facts. You can’t game all weekend and then avoid games all week, so you get six days of good sleep. It doesn’t work that way! The average daily time, calculated from a week of activity, is what matters. Your 14 hours of Saturday gaming still amount to 2 hours a day every week when it comes to statistics.

Another thing to consider is the period of time that you spend gaming without a break. Long stretches of uninterrupted gameplay can wreak havoc on your sleep, says research. You will:

  • Have more trouble falling asleep

  • Feel sleepier throughout the day

  • Spend less time asleep on average

All the fun you get from gaming isn’t worth the exhaustion you’ll get if you don’t sleep well enough. A lack of sleep is associated with physical and mental health issues and can decrease positive thinking significantly. Basically, you’ll feel awful if you don’t rest enough, and you might get sick!

4. Blue Light Is Bad for Sleep

Blue light is a product of artificial lighting from your electronics, and it’s known to cause sleep problems. This is because the light that is emitted is on a wavelength that can trick your mind. Studies say that the blue wavelength can feel just like daytime to the brain, making you feel awake as a result.

Numerous studies have also found links between the use of electronics at night and the ability to sleep well. The human brain has built-in sleep-wake cycles and uses light to judge those cycles, so any nighttime brightness can be damaging. The blue light prevents you from producing enough of the sleep hormone melatonin.

Gaming consoles are just like any other electronic device; they emit blue light! If you game on a PC or on your phone, you can download a filter to reduce that light. If your console doesn’t allow for such filters, try purchasing blue-light-blocking glasses. Some eyeglasses can even come with a coating that blocks that light already, so ask your doctor about them!

It may also be a good idea to cut back on gaming close to bedtime. Give yourself two or three hours before it’s time to turn in so that your brain can readjust. While you’re at it, avoid other sources of blue light, too!

5. Intense Games Make It Hard to Sleep

Have you ever watched a heart-pumping movie and found yourself too wound up to sleep afterward? The same can happen with video games! With all the visual information, attention, and decision-making that games require, it can get pretty tense. Studies show that a game’s intensity can predict poor sleep even more than gaming duration does!

Virtually any game can have “intense” content that will keep you up at night. It’s all about pace, content, and even the mental or emotional demands of the game. Still, the worst offenders are fast-paced options packed with the need for quick reactions and heavy action. As such, the most common genres that create this problem are:

  • Action

  • Beat-em-up

  • Metroidvania

  • Roguelike

  • Horror

  • Soulslike

  • Stealth

There’s no need to avoid games like this altogether, so keep your positive thinking! Just try to avoid playing games that tend to wind you up when your bedtime draws near. Even better, you can play casual or calming games before you sleep to help you settle in. Anything that brings positive, cozy feelings with it can be a great choice.

6. Energy Drinks Harm Sleep

Energy drinks, such as Monster, are almost synonymous with the stereotypical gamer. Whether you fit that stereotype or not, it’s worth learning about how much they can harm your sleeping habits.

At their core, energy drinks are so named because they make you feel energized. Their “secret” is simple: it’s all about caffeine! These drinks are packed with caffeine and sugar that keeps you awake the way coffee will. And well, we all know how bad caffeine can be for sleep!

But how, exactly, does caffeine do this? In a nutshell, the psychoactive ingredient works by inhibiting receptors of adenosine, which is a chemical that promotes sleep. The longer you’re awake, the more adenosine naturally builds up, and caffeine stops that from happening, according to research.

Caffeine can remain in effect for as long as six hours. This means that if you drink an energy drink – or coffee – six hours before bed, it could still keep you up. Worse still, individuals who drink caffeine a long time before bed can be completely unaware that their sleep was affected. They may falsely believe that they got good sleep, but scans and tests would reveal otherwise, as they do in research! Caffeine also affects sleep in the following ways.

It Makes Sleep Bad

When you drink caffeine, you can find yourself struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep. You’re also likely to feel less satisfied with your nighttime rest when the morning breaks, says research. This is because caffeine disrupts crucial restorative slow-wave sleep, preventing you from reaping the usual benefits of such rest.

It Doesn’t Counteract Sleep Loss

Some people believe that drinking caffeine will more than offset the lack of sleep from last night. This isn’t true at all. No amount of caffeine will “make up” for lost sleep, say studies. In fact, nothing at all can give you back the hours of snooze time you didn’t get. That’s why ignoring your sleep needs is just so not worth it!

It Traps You in A Sleepy Cycle

People often drink caffeine, so they feel more awake, but that doesn’t always happen, say studies. With the excessive sleep problems that can come from the overuse of caffeine, you’re also likely to feel more tired. This means that you’ll crave more caffeine the next day, which will worsen sleep problems further, which will make you sleepier… and it goes on! This dangerous cycle is how many gamers get addicted to energy beverages.

It Causes Insomnia

To some degree, caffeine use can be alright, especially if you need to pull a rare all-nighter. But with caffeine overuse, as often seen with energy drinks in the gaming world, the effects are less positive. Studies show that too much caffeine can lead to the manifestation of insomnia symptoms. If you already have insomnia, it can worsen your condition!

Final Thoughts on The Importance of Sleep For Avid Gamers

Gaming is an exciting way to pass the time but be smart about it. Make sure you’re not sacrificing your health and sleep for the sake of this hobby, no matter how fun it seems!

Credit: Lakeisha Ethans

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