There are a lot of things that can affect how prepared you are for a good night’s sleep. Exercising during the day, optimizing your environment, and even just drinking a glass of water, for instance, can help you settle in for a proper night of rest. On the other hand, late-night junk food, TV binges, and physical discomfort will take away from your quality of sleep.
But where might online gaming lie on the spectrum?
The truth is that for some time now there has been some debate about how gaming affects people’s sleep. On the one hand, there have been numerous studies suggesting that regular or extended gaming sessions before bedtime can hurt our ability to fall asleep. Games can lead us to stay up too late (just one more game!), and over time can even lower the body’s production of melatonin. On the other hand, though, some feel that certain types of games can have a soothing effect, and potentially help to prepare us for sleep — though this is a vague idea that hasn’t been studied as much.
What also hasn’t been studied as much — or at least in a completely conclusive manner — is the effect of online gaming specifically. In the past when we’ve seen in-depth discussions on this topic they’ve been more about games in general. And many of us can certainly relate to one version of the habit or another — tapping away on a console controller or keyboard, progressing through levels late into the night. But how might the effects of gaming on sleep be different with respect to online gaming? To explore this question we’ll look into a few different versions of this activity.
PC gaming is perhaps the prevailing image when we think of online gaming today, though really it can be lumped in with the console experience as well. Look to PC Gamer at any given point (arguably the preeminent resource for this activity) and you’ll see a mix of solo and multiplayer games much like that which is available for consoles. Accordingly, effects on sleep with regard to online PC gaming should not be expected to be much different than those of console and handheld games responsible for the bulk of negative studies in the first place. Most PC gaming is likely to prevent the body from preparing for sleep — not to mention an engaging session can directly cut into sleep hours.
To many others, mobile apps are the go-to online gaming options. Many of these are made for individual play, and it’s here that there is some talk (albeit unscientific) of certain games having meditative, calming qualities. Indeed, the undeniably soothing Monument Valley is the first game most would bring up in this regard, and the same developers are now responsible for an actual meditation app called Sway. That doesn’t prove that Monument Valley or any other games constitute real mediation, let alone sleep assistance. But it at least implies that some mobile gaming developers know a thing or two about designing experiences for relaxation.
Multiplayer & Co-Op Mobile Games
The issue in mobile gaming is when it comes to living online co-op and multiplayer experiences, which are designed to eat up hours. These games are built to make players crave progress, feel accountable to teammates or competitive with opponents, and generally keep playing as long and as often as possible. Needless to say, that makes these particular online games detrimental to proper sleep.
Online Live Games
Online live games have also come to represent a very popular form of gaming, and another that can be problematic for sleep. In addition to the issues that exist across all forms of gaming (such as that blue light from screens can mess up your sleep by affecting melatonin production), the issue with online live games is that they are largely designed to mimic the “24/7” nature of in-person live games entertainment in a far more accessible manner. Rather than having to visit physical venues to play, gamers can simply log online to enjoy a limitless range of slot machines, as well as live dealers that virtually simulate real-life table games.
Where slots are concerned, the idea is simply to keep you playing through repetition and reward structures. More notable is that it is also more or less a stated goal of some of the newer and more modern table games in the category to make gaming sessions easy and long. Live games on the Gala platform that make an overt point of inviting gamers for quick, engaging, and lengthy entertainment. These games may be plenty of fun, but they are antithetical to the idea of pursuing proper sleep.
This category may not be as relevant to as many people, but there are a lot of professional gamers (or aspiring professional gamers) today, and they too spend a great deal of time playing on the internet. Unfortunately, they may also represent the population most negatively affected with regard to sleep. Per an Inverse report on eSports from back in 2015, it is not uncommon for pro gamers to get as few as four hours of sleep a night, simply due to the long hours they’re putting into their craft. No scientific research is needed to determine that this is an unhealthy practice with regard to sleep.
Looking through every mainstream category of online gaming, it is clear that the overall effects of this kind of activity on sleep are negative. There is some interesting potential in a very particular type of game as a meditation-like practice. But positive effects from these games are unproven, and even if they exist they may be outweighed by the established drawback of engaging with an electronic screen before sleep.
Ultimately, whether it’s via app or PC, in an internet plays, or even as part of a professional training routine, online gaming should be regarded as an activity that, for whatever fun or benefit it might offer, may be harmful to your sleep routine.
Contributed by: Samuel Mitchell