can playing video games cause sleep problems?
Better Sleep

Why Can’t I Sleep After Playing Video Games?

Last Updated on September 29, 2023 by Louise Carter

Playing video games has never been more popular, with industry profitability growing exponentially. According to Global data, the industry could be worth $470.22 billion by 2030.

An estimated 3 billion people regularly play video games as a hobby. While video games enable you to escape the pace and insanity of modern life, they can interfere with sleep.

The interactive nature of video games makes them highly addictive, as the player seeks to reach new levels and rewards. Many people also use video games to socialize in online communities.

This means they lose track of time and stay up far later than intended. This can be a significant problem, especially if you’ve got to get up the next day for work or college.

Video games rely on screens, exposing us to blue light. This delays sleep by increasing our alertness, making it harder to doze off after a late-night gaming session.

Some experts believe that video games cause nightmares, as the frustration of needing to end a session earlier than intended and vibrant images projected onto a screen keep the mind active.

If you enjoy video games, end your play session 1 hour before bedtime. This will give the mind and body sufficient time to recover from a high-intensity, interactive gaming experience.

Can Playing Video Games Cause Sleep Problems?

While late-night gaming is fun and exciting, it affects sleep quality. According to the Journal of Sleep Research, playing video games at night is linked to broken sleep.

Staying up late playing video games has negative implications for our sleep:

why video games are bad for sleep

Insomnia

Playing video games frequently leads to insomnia, whether by accident or design. Consequently, you may not get enough sleep as you are up late.

We all understand sleep’s importance, so why do gamers stay up all night?

We need to establish that it’s not just video game enthusiasts who can lose sleep to their hobby. Some stay up because they’re hooked on a TV show and must watch one more episode.

Scientists have grown interested in the addictive nature of video games.

According to the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, “gaming disorder” – a compulsion to play video games at the expense of life-critical activities – is now considered a mental disorder.

Perhaps more than any other medium, video games inspire addiction as they reward the player. The further you enter a video game, the more interactive and enjoyable the experience becomes.

Video games in the 21st Century are a social activity, allowing play with friends and strangers worldwide. For gamers, playing is no different from sitting in a bar or living room talking and trading stories.

As video games are so interactive, they also engage the mind and body.

Unlike more passive activities, the brain won’t start to shut down mid-game. Many people fall asleep watching a movie, but almost nobody dozes off in the middle of a game.

Poor Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is the belief that humans sleep best when adhering to a set nocturnal routine, retiring to bed at the same time each night. If you’re playing a video game, this is unlikely to happen.

Video games interfere with sleep hygiene by releasing blue light from TV screens, monitors, tablets, and cell phones. The Journal of Psychiatric Research stated that blue light exposure can delay sleep.

Best sleep hygiene practice dictates that you spend at least 1 hour before bed away from screens, allowing your eyes and brain to completely relax.

Sleep Debt

According to Sleep and Biological Rhythms, sleep debt is the accumulation of lost rest. Sleep debt will steadily accrue if you attempt to function on 4 hours of sleep per night.

The consequences of sleep debt include the following:

  • Irritability during waking hours.
  • Lack of cognitive function, including forgetfulness, inability to absorb information and brain fog.
  • Weakened immunity makes you more susceptible to common colds and respiratory infections.
  • Increased blood pressure (hypertension).
  • Heightened risk of obesity and associated concerns, like heart disease and diabetes.

Staying up late to finish a video game once isn’t necessarily a concern because you can catch up on sleep debt over the weekend. However, regularly failing to rest has ongoing health repercussions.

Bad Dreams

If you manage to doze off after playing video games long into the evening, you may find yourself tossing and turning, your sleep disturbed by bad dreams. Can video games cause nightmares?

Some sleep experts claim that nightmares are caused by frustration in waking life. This could play into this theory if you went to bed angry about failing to beat a video game.

A video game’s content may inspire nightmares because some people have bad dreams after watching scary movies or reading horror novels. If you play frightening video games late at night, scary images or jump scares may be at the front and center of your mind.

These images can carry over to your dreams. This is even likelier with games than movies or books, as the nature of gaming forces you to empathize with the plight of a protagonist rather than passively watching or reading about events on a page or screen.

A counter-argument published by Emotions, Technology, and Digital Games claims that playing scary video games can prevent nightmares. This study claims that horror games help the human mind rehearse frightening or violent scenarios, reducing anxiety.

Consider keeping a dream journal and noting what unfolds in your subconscious at night.

How To Sleep After Playing Video Games

There are ways to enjoy a good night of restful sleep after video gaming, including:

Stop Playing Games Earlier

The easiest way to sleep well after a night of gaming is to retain best practices with sleep hygiene. That involves wrapping up your gaming at least 1 hour before bed and taking the time to unwind.

This will take discipline and may not come naturally, especially if you play games online.

It can be hard to walk away from a gaming session, especially a cooperative game where your teammates will be adversely affected if you leave before they do.

Set a schedule for evening gaming, and make it clear that you’ll leave at a certain time. Set the alarm to remind yourself that you have 30 minutes left.

If you don’t trust yourself to switch off at a set time, place your internet router or gaming system on a timed plug. If you have no power or online connectivity, you’ll have little choice but to stop.

why do video games keep you awake?

Choose Games Carefully

If playing games is the only way to relax at night, consider what game you play. Prioritize high-intensity games earlier in the evening and start to wind down with something more sedate.

Instead of a game that relies heavily on hand-eye coordination and detailed plotting, play a light-hearted puzzle game or even an open-world game that allows you to indulge in side quests.

For example, a game like Animal Crossing or Minecraft is better than Call of Duty.

Switching to a cellphone or tablet is no better than playing games on a TV screen or monitor through a console or PC. Smartphones and tablets still emit blue light, so your sleep will still be disturbed.

Play games in a different room because this will at least afford some opportunity to practice sleep hygiene. Playing video games in bed means you’re likely to continue indefinitely.

Blue Light Blocker

Another way to continue playing games at night with limited sleep disturbance is with a blue light blocker. This will theoretically reduce the impact of blue light on sleep.

If you play video games online, you can install a blue light blocker on a computer, smartphone, or tablet. If you play through a TV set, you can buy blue light-blocking glasses with specialist lenses.

Chronobiology International stated that blue light blockers can help rectify the impact of using a screen at night and increase the ability to sleep afterward.

Countless people play video games for escapism and to relax at night. Take time to understand the risks of late-night gaming, and end your session 1 hour before bedtime to get sufficient sleep.