Video gamers delay bedtime for playtime

By Jan Jarvis

Brandy Roane

 

Video gamers staying up late to save the world as the latest action hero are losing nearly half-a-night of sleep on average, according to a new study from UNT Health Science Center’s Sleep Research Lab.

Gamers who delay bedtime for playtime lose an average of 3.5 hours of rest per weekday night and even more on the weekends when they play 5.5 hours a night, said Brandy M. Roane, PhD, a certified sleep medicine specialist and Assistant Professor at the Health Science Center.

“That’s a part-time job – and they don’t even get paid for it,” Dr. Roane said.

For the study on bedtime and gaming, Dr. Roane surveyed 946 adults about their video playing habits. She asked about relationship status, living arrangements and employment. Then she looked at how many game consoles they owned, how often they played and whether they delayed sleep to keep playing.

She found that 66 percent of gamers delayed going to sleep at least once a week. On average, they played five nights per week, said Dr. Roane, whose interest in the study was sparked by her own game playing experiences. Her family of four has at least 20 game consoles.

Action games kept the most people up at night, followed by shooter and role-playing games.

Dr. Roane presented her findings this month at SLEEP 2016, the 30th anniversary meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

In a country where 63 percent of households have at least one person who plays games regularly, the data might not be shocking. What is surprising is that despite the loss of shuteye, most gamers manage to get to work on time the next day. Only 8 percent of respondents reported being late for their jobs.

Their reasons for losing sleep were predictable.  Some said they just had to keep playing and didn’t feel tired, while others blamed it on their lack of self-control or failure to watch the clock.

Those responses are typical of those with addictive behavior, Dr. Roane said. Although gaming is not officially listed as an addiction, the sleep delayers rationalized why they played, a hallmark of addiction.

“There’s not yet sufficient data to support gaming as an addiction,” Dr. Roane said. “But someone who is spending 5.5 hours on it is certainly forgoing other things in life to play video games. They get so involved in the activity that they lose track of what’s going on around them.”

Games that are extremely stimulating make it tough to quit. But there are ways to wean off the console, such as setting alerts or alarms on cell phones or clocks. Dr. Roane also suggested gamers (or parents of gamers) shut the devices off at least 30 minutes before bedtime.

“People are not just delaying their bedtime by a few minutes, they’re playing for an additional 101 minutes at a time,” Dr. Roane said. “No matter how you look at it, that is a lot of time.”

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