It’s 2018. And video games haven’t created the generations of zombie children bleeping and blipping their ways through life the way “experts” forty years ago had feared.
In fact, we know now that gaming actually has some real-world benefits.
But there is a dark side because, well, of course there is. Recent studies show there are very legit health concerns related to excessive gaming, especially when it comes to getting a good night’s sleep.
The of the biggest culprits here are:
- Gaming addiction
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Blue-light exposure
We’re going to take a look at each of these – how they can lead to insomnia, and what you can do about them.
Pac-Man Is Crack, Man!
Any ‘80s kid can attest to struggle. It was real. Mooching dollars off mom, ripping sofas apart for dad’s lost quarters. Fiending for another Pac-Man fix at the local arcade.
Seriously. There was even a hit song about it. So, yeah. It’s easy to see how parents might’ve found this newfangled technology a threat.
But while the doomsday prophecies have subsided, the truth is that video games are no less addictive. And maybe they’re more addictive. Last year, the World Health Organization decided that video game addiction is now a mental health disorder.
Whatever the case may be, video games are purposefully designed to keep you playing for as long as possible – they’ve got units to sell, after all. And we’d guess that most of us gamers have found ourselves creeping up on midnight saying, “Okay. Just this last level and then I’m off to bed.” What often follows is something more like, “Ooh. Let me just see what this new level is about… and then I’m off to bed.”
We’ve been there.
What can you do about it? Can you really just walk away from Mario-Kart at will? I mean, after all, you were winning that last race until Wario…
Fortunately, an article in The Telegraph offered some excellent tips for assessing and controlling video game addiction. Here are a few:
- Time yourself – that’s right; treat yourself like a child if you must. Serious gamers might be surprised to learn they’re actually playing video games more often even than they had realized. Tracking your time could help you sort your priorities.
- Read a walk-through – yeah, they’re full of spoilers, but if you’re all-night binging the latest release because you must know what happens next… well, a spoiler or two might help to overcome the curiosity-driven craze.
- Look around: are your friends real or virtual? Ouch! Point taken, point taken.
But you don’t need to be a bona fide addict for video games to disrupt your sleep. There are other concerns, and we’re going to look at the next one now.
Don’t Just Sit There – Do Something!
Gaming addiction isn’t solely a psychological problem. It can lead to a sedentary lifestyle, and we’ve all heard before just how terrible inactivity can be for our health.
In fact, studies have shown that doing nothing all day affects your sleep. Restlessness and sleep apnea are both linked to a lack of exercise. And some experts believe inactivity might even be responsible for the surge in restless leg syndrome (RLS) diagnoses.
So, you know, get up or something.
Yes, I know. Call of Duty. But squeezing 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine can be the difference between a night of flailing desperately around in your bed or waking up refreshed and ready for work in the morning.
Don’t know how or where to begin?
We’re Here to Pump You Up!
You don’t need a gym membership. Not that you shouldn’t join a gym – that could be a good thing, especially if you hire a trainer or workout with a partner. But there are resources galore for getting fit from the comfort of your home.
Or if you’d rather get outdoors…
Dare I Say… Run?
Consider a Couch-to-5k (C25k) running program. Don’t run away just yet! The reason so few people take up running as an exercise is because, well, it involved running. But 5k races have become all the craze in recent years thanks to C25k, an 8-week program that moves you painlessly from couch potato to weekend competitor. The program helps you succeed by alternating short intervals of running with longer intervals of walking, and slowly building up the difficulty, week after week. By the final week, you’ll be running a full 30 minutes without cursing.
And there are plenty of nifty apps that’ll coach you through the program.
We don’t need to tell you all the benefits of running. You’ve been hearing them all your life. But catching up with the 5k craze does more than improve your health and your quality of sleep…
Search for 5k events in your area, and you’ll probably find one within driving distance for about every weekend of the year. Entry fees usually help to support a good cause, and (BONUS!) most will give you a cool t-shirt for proving to your peers just how awesome you really are.
Blue Light Is Your Kryptonite
Yeah, yeah. Kryptonite is green. Whatever.
The point is that you can take control of your gaming, you can even exercise, but your video game passion could still jack with your sleep. That’s because monitors from electronic devices – televisions, computers, smartphones – emit blue wavelength light.
What’s so bad about that, you ask? Well, the smart kids over at Harvard put it this way:
“At night, light throws the body’s biological clock – the circadian rhythm – out of whack… Blue wavelengths – which are beneficial during daylight hours because they boost attention, reaction times, and mood – seem to be the most disruptive at night.”
A properly tuned circadian rhythm (not to be confused the chirping music of cicadas) is crucial to a good night’s sleep. And throwing yours off-kilter can do a lot more to your body than interfere with your Zzz’s. Researchers believe there’s also a connection to:
- Heart disease
So, what do these Harvard eggheads suggest? Well, one effective remedy they recommend is blue-blocking eyeglasses. Tinted eyeglasses or regular sunglasses won’t get the job done, as confirmed by this University of Toronto study.
Well, there you have it. It’s no wonder so many gamers are insomniacs. And thankfully, as we’ve shown, it doesn’t have to be that way.