A new study by the Sleep Laboratory at Flinders University (a public university in Adelaide, South Australia) finds that teens who play video games for long periods of time have trouble getting a good night's sleep. The study conducted by masters student Daniel King (supervised by child sleep psychologist Dr. Michael Gradisar) found that long periods of game playing before bed time caused significant sleep disruptions in a group of teenage boys - even when they fell asleep at their usual bedtime.
The study let its 17 participants play a "fast-paced, violent video game" for 50 - 150 minutes on two different nights in the Sleep Lab. Participants were monitored for sleep and heart-rate readings, as well as subjective reports from the teenagers. All of this data was used to assess the effects of prolonged gaming.
Dr. Gradisar said the tests found that there was a 27-minute loss in total sleep time after 150 minutes of gaming based on the polysomnography tests and a 39-minute delay in sleep onset according to the participants' sleep diaries.
"While they went to bed at their regular bedtime, the adolescents' still experienced significant sleep disruptions caused by frequent awakenings throughout the night," Dr. Gradisar said. "Sleep is made up of many different stages and the REM sleep, also known as the dreaming sleep, was reduced by 12 minutes among the teens who played for over two hours."
"This may not seem like a significant reduction but REM plays an important part in helping us remember content we learnt that day so for adolescents in their final years of school who are revising for exams, winding down at night with a video game might not be the best idea," he added.
Dr. Gradisar went on to say that teens who played for 50 minutes had no trouble falling or staying asleep, but "significant disruptions" were found after 150 minutes of game time.
He also noted that the study did not compare the effects of violent versus non-violent video games.
"The aim of this investigation wasn't to assess the content of video games but to look at the effect of the worst possible thing to do before bed because at the end of the day we want to better understand what affects adolescents' sleep. At the moment, less than one hour seems okay," he said.
The results of this study were recently accepted in the international Journal of Sleep Research.
Source: Medical Express