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It is now widely understood that video-gaming has increased in recent years, most notably with children, and teenagers. However, there is a healthy and ongoing debate regarding the impact that gaming can have on our lives, and sleep habits. Some studies have shown that the games may help us develop executive, logical, literary, and even social skills. Evidence has continued to mount in this regard, especially concerning the cognitive benefits of such games. With that being said, the impact that gaming has in areas such as sleep is inarguably less beneficial.
What does the research tell us?
Playing video games (also known as gaming) may disturb sleep patterns through a variety of means, specifically, by boosting emotional and physiological stimulation, and increasing light exposure close to bedtime. Although several well-known studies have recognized an association between disturbed sleep and the use of electronic devices, there has been less research conducted with the express purpose of quantifying the impact of video-game play on ensuing sleep.
Nevertheless, one important new study found that gamers will delay getting adequate sleep to continue gaming. This information will likely not come as a surprise for most, yet the statistics themselves are a little more shocking. Results indicate that typically gamers postponed going to bed 36 percent of the evenings in which they played video games. Additionally, the average frequency of game playing was 4.6 nights per week. The median delay in bedtime on the nights spent gaming was around 101 minutes.
The above-mentioned study was led by Brandy M. Roane, Ph.D. She is an assistant professor at the University of North Texas Health Science Center and director of the UNTHSC Sleep Research Lab.
The study was comprised of online surveys from exactly 963 gamers. The subjects were gamers located in the United States, with an average age of 28.7 years, who had played video games at least on time in the previous week. The questions that were asked pertained to demographics, game genres, gaming frequency, gaming consoles, and duration.
It should also be noted that playing video games late at night may also disrupt the nocturnal rise in melatonin, a hormone that is crucial to the sleep-wake cycle. Computer and television screens can keep melatonin levels from getting up to normal levels because of the brightness of the monitors. We’ll discuss melatonin in greater detail in the next passage.
What exactly is Melatonin?
Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that your body secretes. It enables you to maintain your wake-sleep cycle, which is also known as the biological clock. The wake-sleep cycle is the process of wakefulness and sleeping that occurs in all humans. Typically, this consists of an average of eight hours of nighttime sleep and 16 hours of daytime wakefulness. You can also purchase melatonin over-the-counter without a prescription as a dietary supplement in Canada and the US.
The melatonin that our bodies produce naturally is called endogenous melatonin. Its levels increase each day in response to darkness, peaking between 11 pm and 3 am. During the night, melatonin hormone levels are around 10 times higher than they are in the daytime. Levels will drop sharply before daylight and are scarcely detectable during the day. The rise and fall in endogenous melatonin levels signal wake and sleep times, known as our circadian rhythm.
Lesser periods of melatonin production take place in the summer with the later sunsets, and lengthier periods of production occur in the winter. Exposure to light at night (like from televisions or smartphones) prevents the production of melatonin and can cause major sleep disturbances. The levels of nighttime melatonin in our bodies are also related to age, which can exacerbate the impact of insomnia and early awakening often found in older adults.
Does violence in video games make matters worse?
Violent movies, television shows, and video games appear to contribute to sleep problems, regardless of if the gaming is done during the day, or at night. 37 percent of children under the age of 18 who were exposed to over an hour of violent media per day had some degree of difficulty sleeping, compared with just 19 percent of those who watched under an hour, or none at all.
Furthermore, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents strictly limit pre-bedtime use of electronic devices and video games, and refrain from putting televisions or computers in children’s rooms. This information is based on a study they performed that demonstrated sleep problems were especially noticeable among kids with TVs in their bedroom, who regularly watched about 15 minutes more per evening TV than their peers.
- On March 5, 2018