Can’t get enough of Xbox or playstation? Well, you are not alone. Playing excessively long hours of video games is the reason why Australian children have become a sleepless society. Believe it or not there are benefits for your brain, according to psychologists (see https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/freedom-learn/201502/cognitive-benefits-playing-video-games)
however, we need to make sure we understand the effects of excessive gaming undertaken by our children and how late night screen action can impact on our sleep patterns.
There is not much research on the effects of playing video games and sleep. Studies are typically done on children and teens because they are the ones that generally play on it right up to bed time.
Flinders University did a study in 2012 and found that those who played games 2hours and 20 minutes or more before going to sleep, experienced a delay of about 40 minutes before falling asleep and lose 27 minutes in total sleep during the night.
Dr Michael Gradisar who supervised the study said: “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”
Another study in the journal Pediatrics explored the effects of TV and video games before bed, in 612 pre-school children between the ages of 3-5. It showed that 28%of the children who watched TV or played video games for at least 30 minutes after 7 p.m. had sleep problems most nights of the week. Of the children who had screen time before 7pm, only 19% reported sleep problems.
A much earlier study published in 2003 also found that performing exciting activities, like video games before bed, can actually cause your body to produce less of the “sleep hormone” melatonin. Melatonin is used to regulate sleep cycles and is produced in the pineal gland in the brain.
Watching a movie or television is a passive experience.
Modern video games on the other hand often have extensive built-in interactive components. This is a social reason to continue game play into the night.
The two-way stimulation from games, Facebook, or instant messaging can be almost impossible to ignore at times. This can be a significant challenge to sleep, especially considering that 90% of 18-29 year olds are known to take their phones to bed with them.
Jayne Gackenbach is a psychologist and has done extensive studies on how gaming affect dreams. Because video games and dreaming are both a form of alternate reality, there are very clear correlations between playing video games and our dream lives.
He found that avid gamers were affected in their dreams more than people who didn’t play video games.
Yes it is difficult to know exactly how video games affect our sleep, but if we follow common sense we know that any over-stimulating activity before bedtime is most likely to disturb our night’s rest.
We also know that exposure to bright screens at night has physiological effects; preventing our bodies from producing melatonin which helps us get to sleep. Playing on into the night will take a toll on your health, energy and mental abilities.
This tells me that it’s probably wise for parents to stop children’s gaming activities at least an hour before going to bed.
Try reading a book, or sharing a story to rest and clear your childs mind before going to sleep.