A new study suggests that playing a video game before bedtime has only a mild effect on the sleep of older male teens.
The study appears in the April 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
Results show that after playing a stimulating video game it took adolescents a median of 7.5 minutes to fall asleep, which was only slightly longer than the three minutes it took them to fall asleep after passively watching a documentary on DVD. Although no participants fell asleep while playing the video game, almost one-third of them fell asleep while watching the DVD. Subjective sleepiness after playing the video game was only slightly lower than after watching the DVD, and playing the video game was associated with a small increase in cognitive alertness. However, no significant differences in physiologic arousal or sleep architecture were found between testing conditions.
"Initially we were surprised that playing the violent video game did not lead to a much longer time taken to fall asleep," said research supervisor Michael Gradisar, PhD, senior lecturer in clinical child psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia. "Although the scientific literature is sparse when it comes to measuring sleep latency associated with playing video games, anecdotally a lot of people report difficulty falling asleep after playing video games at night."
The study involved thirteen male students between 14 and 18 years of age who were good sleepers, normally falling asleep in less than 15 minutes. They were "evening types" who did not have excessive daytime sleepiness and had no identifiable sleep disorders. Participants completed a seven-day sleep diary for the week prior to their initial testing night. This information was used for the testing conditions so that participants attempted to sleep at their usual bedtime.
The study was conducted at the Flinders University Sleep Laboratory, where participants sat in bed beneath the covers with electrodes attached and lights dimmed for both testing conditions.