Gaming has become the most popular pastime amongst youth for a few decades. Like any other industry, the gaming industry has also seen financial growth, which drew many people to accept it as a career. The excitement, competitiveness, and continually upgrading gaming industry with new content have constantly attracted the masses to it. From children to adults, everyone has become addicted to different games in one way or the other. Gamers mostly think about gaming, whether they are eating their favorite food or sleeping on the best luxury mattress in a hotel room.
However, this addiction to gaming is affecting their life, health, and sleep so subtly that no one notices anything until it’s too late. Many gamers fail to see “staying up late playing video games consequences.” The stakes are too high, which can alter the course of one life if taken lightly.
Avid gamers have adapted well to all-nighter games. Hedonism can cause massive adverse effects on one’s sleep. Video Game addicted individuals are particularly susceptible to sleep disturbances. It is difficult to imagine how many casual players can experience late hours of play. This article will mainly discuss video game sleep problems that can occur from addiction.
Does good sleep matter?
Our physical and mental health have stressed the value of sleep. Our circadian rhythm, or cycle of sleep and waking, is an essential part of our nature and a response to the neverending day and night cycle of a revolving planet. Your health, mood, and cognitive function all benefit from getting enough sleep. The risk of various diseases and disorders increases when people don’t get enough sleep regularly. These conditions vary from dementia and obesity to heart disease and stroke.
Does playing video games before bedtime affect sleep?
Video game addiction (VGA), also categorized as an internet gaming disorder, can significantly impair a person’s quality of life and make it difficult to function in the family and community. In 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the danger of a gaming disorder. Online games are more addictive than offline video games as they generally have no “true” ending (the games are regularly updated with new content). Furthermore, they often include various features designed to keep the users connected to the virtual world.
The temptation to stay up late
The neverending policy of online games keeps gamers going on to reach the next level of the game. The exciting and challenging factor generally causes brain stimulation which tempts gamers to stay up late to finish level at the earliest.
Excitement to reach the next level and unlock the rewards and other achievements creates an adrenaline rush which often turns gamers addicted to the game who never sleeps.
All screens, from mobile and television to laptops, emit blue lights. Blue light is a high-level brain stimulator. Blue light emitting from the screen suppresses melatonin more than anything else and affects circadian rhythm. Gaming before sleep results in getting exposed to blue light and needing more sleep.
High Cognitive Stimulation
Video games require quick thinking; as the speed and levels of games increase, the difficulty level becomes higher. It causes high cognitive stimulation amongst gamers which can impact their brain functions in the future adversely.
What are the symptoms of video game addiction?
Video game addiction happens more frequently than people would imagine, and one should treat it with the same consideration as any other addiction (drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or gambling).
Video game addiction can significantly impact personality, health, and social relationships. Prolonged and uncontrolled use of video games may cause gamers to experience severe psychological and physical effects, including irritability, insomnia, sadness, anxiety, aggressiveness, depression, fatigue, loss of appetite, and discomfort.
Most video game addicts are unable to control their urge for games and will spend most of their free time playing games – often at the expense of other activities (sports, social relations, work…). As a result, video game addicts are prone to experience significant health issues resulting from their unhealthy lifestyle, lack of sleep, and poor eating habits.
The negative effects of gaming
Video games offer little challenges in exchange for simple rewards that effectively trigger dopamine reactions. Although it seems natural to think that the dopamine rush we get from gaming is positive, it is not. According to a study, playing video games may temporarily enhance reflexes, hand-eye coordination, and other reflexive qualities. Still, over time, gaming can become troublesome and significantly negatively impact social well-being and psychological functioning.
Let’s look at some adverse effects gaming has on people:
Disruption in the sleep cycle
Like any other addiction, gaming causes people to sacrifice other prominent things. Staying up late to finish game levels, practicing to win competitions, and greed to win those petite rewards, cause disruption in the sleep cycle.
Many gamers remain awake till the wee hours as competitions happen worldwide and in different timezones. Though initially, it seems fine, slowly, it becomes a habit that causes problems in my sleep-wake schedule. Gamers get insomnia from gaming due to tension, anxiety, and stress about winning and completing games.
Poor diet habits
Gaming is an engaging, long-lasting, and addicting activity. Often gamers forget to take their lunch and dinner on time which impacts their digestion, and that leads to acid reflux, stool, and weakened metabolism.
Most of the time, gamers eat food that does not require more time and can eat while playing as well such as chips, cold drinks, and other sorts of junk food. Junk food is typically heavy in calories, saturated fat, added sugar, and added salt but poor in nutrition. Overindulging in junk food is associated with significant health issues.
Depression and mood swings
Winning and losing are part of every competition. However, the emotional quotient of gamers usually becomes high due to over-attachment to the fictional world of gaming. It often results in severe attacks of depression and mood swings. Also, gamers remain aloof from social activities for too long due to spending extensive time in gaming. It impacts their personal and social life.
Excessive dopamine release stimulates the brain of gamers in such a way that they face psychological issues in the future.
Lack of exercise
Another negative impact gaming has on gamers is weakened physical strength. Gamers spend the maximum number of hours sitting in one place, which makes them immobile for those hours. It impacts their physical aspects resulting in orthopedic issues like lower back pain, upper body pain, etc.
As gamers dedicate most of their time to gaming, they fail to do any other physical activities like exercise, walking, or meditation. It leaves a long-term adverse effect on their health.
How does gaming affect physical health?
Disrupted sleep cycles, poor eating habits, and lack of exercise on a constant basis result in more negative health issues, which become non-reversible if you don’t pay attention in time. Let’s have a look at some effects gaming addiction causes on gamers.
Frequent engagement in exciting gaming activities may change the expectations of gamers from general life about the ideal level of brain stimulation. Children find it hard to cope with school activities, considering them tedious and slow, which lowers their academic performance. Adults often find it hard to concentrate on their work and other social responsibilities owing to highly stimulating gaming activities.
Poor confidence in real-world skills
When gamers spend maximum time gaming, though they are considered experts and pros in the gaming world, they often lack real-life social skills. Due to excessive time in gaming, gamers may fail to pay attention to their real-life appearance and communication skills, which makes them targets of other people’s criticism. These poor social interaction skills often lead to a lack of confidence and distance themselves from other people.
Moreover, gaming makes people aggressive and moody due to lack of sleep and other reasons. It further creates barriers between them and their families, friends, relatives, and society.
Focus on critical thinking skills
In video games, players encounter challenging issues that require them to come up with answers and implement them. Players frequently get various options, forcing them to make decisions quickly. The availability of multiple solutions often helps gamers to succeed in the gaming world by sharpening their critical thinking skills. However, in real life, a lack of confidence and the unavailability of multiple options cause problematic essential skills of thinking.
Gamers are generally so wholly immersed in their games that they forget to take breaks. Also, gaming requires more focus in order to win, which makes it impossible for gamers to take their eyes off the screen. Constant staring at the screen exposes you to blue radiations and harmful wavelengths. It results in poor eyesight, blurry vision, focusing issues, and headaches. Long hours of watching a screen may result in partial blindness or cornea problems in the future.
These games are a way to unwind and have fun, and they can even be a way to connect and communicate with others. They can help someone’s cognitive abilities, creativity, communication, and reflexes. People frequently use games as a constructive coping technique to unwind.
However, gamers’ coping mechanisms are harmed by the adverse effects of gaming, though, as they develop an addiction. They become edgy, aggressive, and anxious due to poor social skills, lack of confidence, and lack of emotional control, which worsens their emotional quotient.
How can I overcome my gaming addiction?
Here are a couple of simple tips and sound advice to prevent or cure video game addiction:
Reduce time spent playing games
If you are a gaming addict, living without playing games for long becomes difficult. Like any other addiction, gaming addiction also requires time and patience to avoid any adverse effects. Slowly reduce time spent on playing games. Take the help of family, friends, and specialists to prepare a plan of action to minimize gaming hours.
Don’t play games for consecutive hours
Anything done constantly for a long time causes a negative impact on life. Gaming is no different. Gamers lose their control over the time when they play exciting levels. Start taking a break from the screen in-between for at least 15 minutes. Use alarm or gadget reminders to help you remember to take breaks.
If you are a professional gamer, taking a break becomes a must for your health and helps prolong your console’s life (reduce overheating).
Try to complete the required hours of sleep
Though your game is at its peak level, when it’s time to sleep, strictly turn off your screen and hit the bed. Complete the required hours of sleep as per your age. If you can’t sleep, lay on the mattress and try to unwind yourself with relaxation activities other than gaming.
Also, avoid gaming at least 2 hours prior to going to sleep. It helps you to focus on the thoughts related to sleep rather than gaming.
Socialize with other people and family
Socializing often helps people get over several psychological disorders and addictions. Spend time with people who are least interested in gaming, such as family, friends, relatives, or neighbors. While being with them, talk about anything other than gaming. Avoid such discussions and thoughts that lead you to video games during family times. Attend family and friends get-togethers, festivals, and other functions to distract you from gaming and requires your social skills of mingling, connecting, and talking.
Dedicate time to do things other than gaming
Ensure to dedicate some hours of your day to doing other things than gaming. You can run house errands, exercise, learn new hobbies, or master other skills that require you to stay away from gaming and screens like mobile, televisions, or computers. Reading books, cooking, meditation, yoga, and social meetings are some of the things you can do to keep yourself healthy and active.
Here are some things adults must know about how video games affect sleep
Adults must realize that long gaming hours lead to sleep deprivation. Gaming at night often leads to brain and body stimulation, reducing melatonin production and preventing proper sleep.
Shorten sleep duration
Gamers play games for hours each day, which gives them no or less time to do other activities. Often they sacrifice their sleep hours to do other errands. Shortens their sleep duration, further leading to health issues.
Poor sleep quality
Like any other activities like drinking alcohol or lousy eating habits, gaming addiction leads to poor sleep quality. Research suggests video games cause nightmares among gamers which disrupts sleep.
Delayed sleep phase disorders
Shortening sleep hours cause gamers delayed sleep phase disorders as the required amount of time to transit from each sleeping phase reduces.
Disrupted circadian rhythm
Exposure to blue light causes disrupted circadian rhythm as our brain becomes confused about inducing cortisol and melatonin hormones at a dedicated time.
What steps can we take to sleep better at night?
Check your regular sleep patterns and sleep-wake times to ensure you’re receiving adequate sleep. It’s essential to make sure you’re getting through all the phases of sleep, from light to deep to REM, to get overall good quality sleep. Here are some tips to improve sleep quality despite being a gamer.
Make sleeping a priority
First and foremost, understand that sleep is equally important to lead a good and healthy life along with food, water, and exercise. Make sleeping your priority and set a strict schedule to sleep and wake up every day. Avoid doing other activities (primarily gaming) that can stimulate the brain and keep you awake all night.
Sleep Environment matters
Where you sleep is essential, along with the quantity and quality of your sleep. If your surroundings are noisy, congested, hot, or exposed to excessive light, then it hampers sleep quality in a big way.
Make sure your bedroom is comfortable for sleeping. The environment must be dark, cool, quiet, and comfortable to improve the quality of a good night’s sleep. Maintain your bedroom, and keep it clean and hygienic. Avoid doing any other activities in your bedroom and on the bed apart from sleeping.
Change uncomfortable lighting to sleep-inducing ones, or use heavy curtains to block light from outside. Use proper ventilation and use an aircon or fan to keep the bedroom cool.
Get the best mattress and bedding accessories
Bed, mattresses, and bedding accessories matter when it comes to improving sleep quality. Do not compromise on it. Change your old mattress with a brand new, best mattress that will provide you comfort and support while sleeping. Pay attention to the reviews and descriptions about the material quality while buying a mattress online, as you don’t get to see them physically.
Buy an adjustable bed to provide more comfort and less pressure while sleeping. To help you sleep more peacefully, remember to get pillows and comforters.
Keep in mind what you eat and drink
Food and drink habits also matter in the improvement of sleep quality. Pay attention to your eating habits, daily meals, and the nutrition you consume. Avoid heavy meals, caffeine, and alcohol, at least two hours before sleeping.
Try adding foods and drinks rich in melatonin, serotonin, calcium, magnesium, and other nutritional values that can help you sleep better. Warm milk, nuts, cherry, fatty fish, and poultry products are some of the foods you can add to your regular diet for better sleep quality.
Choose the right time for exercise
Exercise is essential, but exercise at the right time impacts more than anything else. Avoid doing activities like weight lifting, running, or walking 3 hours before your sleeping time. Try exercising during day time or early morning for better results. If you want to add exercise to a pre-bed routine, then go for light activities like meditation or yoga.
Control your exposure to light
Last but not least, gamers are often exposed to lights for hours while playing games. Blue lights emit harmful radiation, which alters the course of the brain and circadian rhythm, not to forget poor eyesight.
To balance it out:
- Avoid the usage of gadgets while not gaming.
- Keep mobiles and laptops away for at least 30 minutes before going to bed.
- Turn off all lights in the bedroom while sleeping. If you can’t sleep in complete darkness, use light lamps with colors that induce melatonin production, like dark red or twilights.
Gaming may have side effects and can cause sleep deprivation, insomnia, or other sleep disorders. But with proper care and timely help, it’s manageable and recoverable.