Throughout the world, gaming has become the number one pastime for people of all ages. Yes, gaming is no longer something that is reserved for the world’s youth. It’s just as common to see adults playing video games on their favorite mobile devices.
While gaming seems rather harmless on the surface, there are some unintended consequences that affect people who spend too much time playing video games. At this point, the unintended consequence that we want to focus on is the way gaming is adversely affecting the way people sleep.
This has become enough of a problem that people within the medical and psychiatric communities are doing studies to find out just how big this problem is becoming.
What the Research Shows
To date, the amount of research on this topic is limited. However, the research that is out there shows there is a material problem on the horizon. Here is what researchers are learning.
First, there does seem to be a direct correlation between the amount of gaming a person does during the day and the way it affects their sleep patterns. According to a 2012 study held by Flinders University, people who played video games for 150 minutes or more in the evening experienced huge delays in their ability to fall asleep. The average delay was a whopping 39 minutes. The delay in falling asleep also resulted in the subjects getting an average of 27 minutes less sleep.
The results also pointed out that two hours or more of gaming at night adversely affected the amount of REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep the subjects were experiencing. The amount of the REM sleep deficit was 12 minutes. While that might not seem like a significant number, Michael Gradisar who supervised the study had this to say:
“This may not seem like a significant reduction but REM plays an important part in helping us remember content we learnt that day so for adolescents in their final years of school who are revising for exams, winding down at night with a video game might not be the best idea.”
Other studies that have been done in recent years offer up more of the same results. When children are playing video games up until bedtime, they are having significant issues with sleep, issues that could affect their development.
The Cause and Effect
To better understand why people who love gaming are spending less time with their favorite mattress and pillows, the physiology of the issue seems relevant.
When people play video games, it is a pleasurable experience. There is a release of endorphins that stimulate the brain. It’s this brain stimulation that seems to be at the core of what is causing sleep issues. When do kids play video games? The answer is usually in the evenings before bedtime. That’s a major problem because large doses of brain stimulation at night make it difficult for the brain to return to a relaxed state.
The science behind this issue involves the brain’s secretion of the hormone melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates the body’s internal clock. In conjunction with neurotransmitters called serotonin, melatonin tells the body when it’s time to sleep. The playing of video games and the subsequent release of endorphins block the secretion of melatonin. As the results point out, that causes people to struggle with sleep.
How to Address This Issues
Again, the evidence shows that the gaming and sleep issue is affecting people of all ages. However, it seems children are paying the biggest price in terms of their physical and mental development.
It’s incumbent on parents to limit the amount of time their children are playing video games and focus on quality sleep hygiene like laying on a comfortable mattress at a specific time each night. If the research shows that the biggest issues arise when gaming is done in the evenings, it would make sense that parents would want to prevent their children from playing video games after dinner. The children might protest, but it’s the parents who have a responsibility to make sure their kids are getting the right amount and kind of sleep.