Parents often debate over whether or not video games are healthy for their children. However, plenty of adults play video games, too, and they’re not immune to the possible negative effects of the activity.
Playing video games can be a great way to relax, connect with friends, and have fun. However, gaming right before going to bed can impact your sleep quality and cause a number of sleep issues.
Effects of Video Games on Sleep
The most common sleeping issue associated with playing video games is difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep. Video games keep your mind and body active, which can affect your sleep quality.
They also may affect your dreams. Dreaming is your brain’s way of sorting and processing all the information it saw during the day, so many people report having dreams or nightmares related to the video games they play.
Video games may also be linked to sleep talking, teeth grinding, and other types of parasomnia. Another problem is catathrenia, or moaning in sleep. Many people with catathrenia report that stress is a major trigger for their sleep moaning. You may not feel stressed when going to bed right after playing video games, but the activity can make your mind stay active in the same way stress or anxiety does.
Studies on Video Games and Sleep
A study from Flinders University found that playing video games before bed makes it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. According to this study, those who played video games for more than 150 minutes at night had an average delay of 39 minutes when falling asleep, and they lost an average of 27 minutes of sleep each night.
Also, playing video games at night was linked to a decrease in REM sleep. Those who played for more than two hours per night lost an average of 12 minutes of REM sleep. REM is the deepest sleep stage, so getting enough sleep in this stage is essential for feeling well-rested.
Most studies on video games and sleep focus on kids and teens, but a study from the Journal of Applied Physiology found that video games can affect sleep for adults, too. According to the study, playing video games at night can reduce how much melatonin your body produces. Melatonin is a hormone that regulates your sleep cycles and helps your body know when it’s time to fall asleep and wake up. In the study, melatonin levels did not lower when performing a boring task on a computer, so the excitement of video games may be the reason the activity lowers melatonin levels.
A study from the Pediatrics journal found that playing video games closer to bedtime has a stronger effect on sleep than gaming earlier in the evening. Of the 612 preschool-aged children in the study, 28 percent who played video games after 7 p.m. problems with sleeping, but only 19 percent whose screen time stopped before 7 p.m. had sleep problems. Although this study was on children and not adults, it’s likely that adults have a similar experience.
Video Games VS Watching TV
Many people watch TV at night and even fall asleep in front of the TV screen. Both TV and video games involve looking at screens, so why doesn’t watching TV before bed have the same effects as playing video games?
Researchers believe that playing video games before bed can be particularly harmful because it’s an active experience. When you play video games, you use a controller to interact with what’s happening on the screen, so it requires more physical and mental energy than watching a movie or a television show. Watching TV is much more passive and only requires you to press some buttons on the remote.
How to Improve Your Sleep
You don’t have to give up video games to get a good night of sleep. The effects of video games on sleep are generally only seen when playing right before going to bed. To fall asleep faster and get deep sleep, you should stop gaming an hour before you go to bed. This is especially important with games that involve lots of mental or physical energy.
Going to bed when you’re physically or mentally restless can affect the quality of your sleep. It can lead to sleep issues like snoring, moaning in sleep, nightmares, or other difficulties. Try to do something relaxing to wind down before you go to sleep. You could take a warm shower, drink a cup of decaf tea, read a book, or anything else that helps you calm down.
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