Video games have come a long way from the Atari console under the TV in the family living room or large machines in shopping mall arcades.
In fact, eSports have evolved to the point that not only can it be a money-making venture for gamers, but colleges are even offering eSports as a sport alongside football and basketball.
Gaming is no longer a home-based activity; eSports are professional. But the commitment to becoming successful in eSports can take its toll, and this is especially prevalent with younger kids and teens who make up the majority of gamers.
Gaming can be a healthy activity for kids and teens, but if it starts affecting their sleep or health, it may be time to have a conversation about healthy habits.
But how do you know if your child gamer is getting enough sleep? Let’s dive in to what you need to know about your gamer and healthy sleep.
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Because Video Games Are An Extracurricular Activity For Most Kids, They Can Disrupt Sleep Patterns
According to recent studies about the sleep habits of school-age children, less than half are getting the recommended nine hours of sleep per night.
With children aged 8-12 spending up to two hours a day playing video games, many experts see a correlation here.
Those same studies found that children who were avid gamers took much longer to fall asleep than non-gamers and had less slow-wave sleep and random eye movement, or REM, sleep. Slow-wave sleep is linked with growth hormone production and brain health, as is REM sleep.
The proximity to bedtime is crucial, experts have found. So, if your child likes to play video games and sees themselves involved eSports as they get older, getting them into the habit of disengaging from the screen at least an hour before bed will help promote slow-wave and REM sleep.
The Global Nature Of Online Games Makes Playing With Friends Challenging
A chief reason as to why so many young people play games into the night is due to the global nature of online play. They are literally compromising with other gamers around the world to find a time to play together.
To put it into perspective, a gamer on the East Coast of the United States is five hours behind their friend in London. If your child has online in friends in Tokyo, that time difference is now 15 hours.
It would be literally impossible to find a perfect time to play for either side, so someone is going to have to suffer from a lack of sleep.
Challenges Face Gamers When It Comes To Sleep
While a lack of sleep is health hurdle many gamers stumble on, there are other potential health challenges they may face.
The Added Eye Strain And Fatigue From Video Games Can Compound Challenges With Lack Of Sleep
The eyes are constantly working at their peak while gaming, so fatigue and strain are common from excessive gaming, which also contributes to poor sleep.
While gaming, the eyes make short and rapid movements. They also tend to be open for longer periods of time with less blinking. This is like lifting weights for the eye except instead of taking it slow and steady and resting in between sets, the eye keeps lifting weights quickly.
With less blinking, the eyes dry out, causing the eye muscles to become strained and irritated. If eye pain occurs, it will likely make sleeping difficult for children.
This condition is compounded even more when you consider that your child is likely using a computer for their studies, too. Staring at a bright screen for hours on end is not good for the eyes or for promoting sleep.
Gaming Right Before Bed Can Cause Issues
Sleep onset latency (the time taken to fall asleep) is greatly increased if children game before bed, recent studies suggest. They also spend significantly less time in slow-wave sleep, as previously discussed.
The exposure to blue light also interferes with sleep. Electronic devices (like screens used for gaming) emit blue light, and their wavelength interferes with our body’s natural production of melatonin, which is the hormone that regulates our circadian rhythm.
If the body’s circadian rhythm is thrown off, it literally decides it’s not ready for sleep at bedtime. It’s like being in a constant state of jetlag.
Addressing Sleep Issues With Your Gamer Child
Adults know the importance of a good night’s rest but communicating this with children can be difficult. It’s important to communicate as well as you can why their gaming may be adversely affecting their health.
Communicate With Your Gamer Child About Their Sleep
Talk to your child about the connection between good health and good sleep and that if gaming is negatively impacting their sleep, they need to cut back on it.
This should be discussion that is aimed to educate, rather than punish. Children will struggle to see how something so fun is potentially making them unhealthy.
Help Them Understand That You Support Their Gaming, But They Must Also Meet School And Family Commitments
If you approach the discussion with your child from the notion of balance and a need for them to have an equal commitment to all aspects of their life, they may begin to see the connection.
Family, school, sports and gaming should all be balanced in their daily life, and they’ll be happier for it.
Connecting goals across aspects of their life may also be beneficial in the discussion.
For example, they may have to go to practice and play a match once a week, maintain grades better than a B average, see Grandma once a week and then also play games.
Don’t Be Afraid To Enforce The Rules, But Don’t Forget To Communicate
Ultimately though, you are their parent, and they need to follow your direction. If a discussion about balance is unsuccessful, you can’t be afraid to enforce rules.
If your child fails to meet the expectations you have outlined and you are noticing an imbalance in their life caused by gaming, then limiting their time gaming may be necessary.
You know your child and will know the warning signs, but keep the lines of communication open.
Help Your Gamer Child Understand The Correlation Between Sleep And Better Gaming Performance
Communicating with your child that everyone performs at their peak when they are well rested is important. Athletes sleep a great deal each day, so they perform at their peak.
eSports require quick reaction times, which can be dulled by lack of sleep. Make the connection for your child between sleep and better gaming results to get them to be on board with creating healthy sleep patterns.
Whether you talk to your child about creating better sleep habits or you need to set limits, we hope this information will inform your decisions.
And if you have any tips for talking to your child gamer about healthy sleep, drop us a note in the comments!