Teenage boys who play "fast-paced, violent" games at bedtime lose sleep, according to new study.
Do you have trouble sleeping? If you're a teenage boy and play video games before bed, there might be a connection. A study performed by the Sleep Laboratory at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia suggests that gaming before bed can lead to disruptive sleep patterns in teenage boys, even if they don't stay up any later than usual.
The study, which was conducted by Masters student Daniel King with supervision from child sleep psychologist Dr. Michael Gradisar, included 17 participants. On two different nights, the teenagers played a "fast-paced, violent video game" for 50 to 150 minutes in the Sleep Lab. Sleep and heart-rate readings were monitored, and the subjects were also asked for their subjective reports. As a result of the bedtime gaming sessions, participants had a 27-minute loss in total sleep time after 150 minutes of gameplay, a 39-minute delay in sleep onset, and frequent awakenings throughout the night. Those who played for more than two hours also experienced a 12-minute reduction in REM sleep.
"This may not seem like a significant reduction but REM plays an important part in helping us remember content we learned that day," Dr. Gradisar said of the results. "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."
Teens who played for only 50 minutes before bed didn't have trouble falling or staying asleep; "significant disruptions" were found after 150 minutes. The study didn't compare the effects of playing violent and non-violent games at bedtime, and the actual they played weren't specified. It's a little weird that teenage girls weren't included in the study as well, but since my nights of sneaking downstairs to the family computer to play EverQuest are long behind me, it's not something I'm particularly worried about.
And gamers, Dr. Gradisar isn't out to ruin your lives; he said "the aim of this investigation wasn't to assess the content of video games but to look at the effect of the worst possible thing to do before bed" for adolescents. "At the moment, less than one hour seems okay," he added. The results of the study have been accepted into the international Journal of Sleep Research.