The effect of video games on teenage insomnia

by Martin Reed on 21 April 2010 in insomnia causes,insomnia information

We've written before about the importance of sleep for teenagers and the risks associated with teenage sleep deprivation. We've even suggested that texting may be partly to blame. So what about that other popular teenage past time - video games?

The Times of India reports on a new study which found that after playing a 'stimulating' video game, it took teenagers an average of seven and a half minutes to fall asleep. After watching a documentary, it took an average of three minutes for a teenager to fall asleep - meaning the video game  resulted in the time to fall asleep increasing by only five minutes or so; hardly a big deal.

However, when taken proportionately it does mean that teenagers who played a video game before bed took almost twice as long to fall asleep as those who watched a documentary.

It all comes down to how you read the numbers, but it's always good to see research that investigates the potential causes of insomnia.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt April 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Interesting way of looking at it both as not causing insomnia, yet causing 2x the time to fall asleep.

Another interesting aspect I find, esp. when it comes to video gamers, being an occasional player myself and knowing many who play way more than I do, is the tendency for game players (that includes online Poker, World of War Craft, Xbox 360, whatever) tend to “KEEP PLAYING” for hours on end.

The only reason I mention isn’t so much for self-induced sleep deprivation, but today’s youth growing up start doing things like video game playing (along with classwork, etc.) and I think that it starts to, for many people, set up an inherently bad, long-running pattern of sleep deprivation and self-induced “staying awake,” which in turn, may play a role in genuine unwilling insomnia later in life.


Martin Reed April 21, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Thanks for the comment, Matt. I wonder if this whole issue of video games creating a routine could also be a positive, too?

For example, let’s say you allow your teenager an hour of video games before bed – if that becomes a routine, perhaps the child’s mind will soon associate the hour of playing video games as a way of preparing for sleep.

Of course, that theory goes completely out of the window when it comes to adult video game players!!


Matt April 21, 2010 at 2:20 pm

That is a very interesting point. If you could do it consistently enough, particularly at key development ages, you could probably “condition” a person to associate sleep with video games. Much the way, TV viewing as one falls asleep often works like magic for some people. (Although that is slightly different.)

I guess the only obstacle I see, is that video game is a very “brain active” and eye-hand active activity, so I don’t know if video games are the best thing to attempt to condition with, but given their increasing, enduring popularity it’s a very interesting possibility, even more so when you broaden your idea to include a wide range of activities (ex: “I’ll let you watch TV for one hour, then it’s bed time,” and PRESTO!!!


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