Can Video Games Cause Sleeping Problems?

Is gaming before bed bad for you?
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Can Video Games Cause Sleeping Problems?

While video games are fantastic fun, and online gaming helps you connect with friends and family, it can also impact your sleep. Studies show that gaming too close to bedtime makes it harder to fall asleep and reduces sleep quality.

This critical finding dictates whether children and adults should have limited access to video games at night.

This article explores the link between video games and poor sleep, helping you decide if it’s best to ban gaming after a specific time.

Let’s jump in!

What research tells us about gaming and sleep

We have known screens are bad for sleep for two decades. A 2003 study found a link between computer screen use and a drop in the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Researchers also found that exciting tasks in front of a display (e.g., gaming) reduce melatonin levels.

Melatonin is the hormone responsible for signaling your brain that it is time for sleep, so interrupted production/secretion can keep you awake and cause insomnia. Our blue light and poor sleep article provides more insight.

A 2012 study by Flinders University found gaming 2.5 hours before bedtime induces a sleep delay of almost 40 minutes. The same survey found it causes a drop in the time spent in REM sleep – the sleep stage where you dream.

Pictured: Circadian rhythm is an educational natural cycle for healthy sleep and routine.

Another 2007 study found that children who play video games spend less time in deep, restorative (slow wave) sleep. Deep sleep is responsible for powering up the glymphatic system, which cleanses the brain of toxins.

systematic review of the experimental evidence on sleep and video games found playing video games for long periods, particularly in the evening, is a common and probable cause of sleep problems in adults and children. The same study also found that video games can impact mental cognition on subsequent waking days. 

The evidence is irrefutable! 

Whether it’s clinical studies, scientific research, or polls, the evidence is irrefutable – gaming before bedtime is bad for sleep. 

This means it is terrible for your health. As discussed in our sleep and mental health article, sleep deprivation can trigger anxiety, depression, and mania. 

It would be best if you also had sleep for immunity and a healthy metabolism, with people who sleep less being more likely to get sick and put on weight. 

Sleep deprivation also puts you at a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity, so getting your sleep under control is critical. 

How to limit video game time

Can Video Games Cause Sleeping Problems? Young girl thinking about the gaming deadline before bed. Interpretation.
Pictured: Young girl thinking about the gaming deadline before bed. Interpretation.

It’s easy for adults to limit their screen time – keep your games console switched off two hours before bedtime. Job done!

The biggest challenge is limiting a child’s gaming time, especially when they have a games console in their bedroom. 

You can’t remove their games console, but you can switch it off at the socket and remove the plug (or the TVs). Your kid will have to risk alerting you by physically plugging it back in.  

You can also take the power cable away from your child if they are naughty – this will ensure they can’t sneakily plug it back in. 

Alternatively, set some ground rules. Ask your child to turn the console off at night, and make sure you police it. 

Most children will be well-behaved if they think their games console will be removed from their bedroom for good if they do not listen.

Summing up  

Gaming before bedtime disrupts sleep duration and quality, with children and adults spending less time in deep and REM sleep. Screen time also disrupts the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, keeping you awake. 

Limiting stimulating activities like gaming before bedtime is one of the best things you can do to improve sleep quality. The same goes for smartphones, tablets, and other devices with a screen because blue light disrupts melatonin.

If you enjoyed this article, read these 10 tips for better sleep

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