Video games and sleep problems
In the case of the people who played the video games, the median was of 7.5 minutes. They also tested the time they needed to fall asleep when conducting a more relaxed activity prior to sleeping, such as watching a documentary. In the case of those people, the median was of 3 minutes. The thing is that the activities are very different and produce different results.
In the case of the ones who watched the documentary, one third of them fell asleep. The situation of the ones who played the game was completely different, as none of the ones who played the video games fell asleep while they performed the activity. Subjective sleepiness after watching the DVD was slightly higher than after playing the video game. The video game raised the cognitive alertness a little though. Even so, there were no differences between sleep architecture and physiologic arousal when the two events were compared.
Michael Gradisar, PhD, senior lecturer in clinical child psychology at Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, who was also the main supervisor for the experiment, said that the results were surprising to him. The reason for this is that the ones who played the game, played violent games, but even so, they were not affected by the process.
He stated that most of the people complain about their difficulty of falling asleep after they play video games, however the results proved to be quite different. The test was done on a group of thirteen males with ages between 14 and 18. All of them belonged to the group of so-called “good sleepers”, meaning that they usually fell asleep in less than 15 minutes. They were asked to fill a sleep diary with seven days prior to the beginning of the experiment. They had to mention the times when they felt sleepy, when they went to bed, and so on.
The results showed that they slept only during the night, as they did not feel sleepy during the day. This is important because sleeping during the day might have affected their sleeping patterns, and it would have been much more difficult for them to sleep in the night if they did it during the day as well. The experiment took place at the Flinders University Sleep Laboratory, under controlled conditions.
The participants went to sleep beneath covers which had electrodes attached to them. Each session lasted for 50 minutes. During the gaming night, they played 50 minutes of Call of Duty Modern Warfare, which was the best selling game for a certain period of time. They went to sleep and the doctors analyzed the time it took them to fall asleep. They came the following week for the second part of the experiment in which they had to watch the documentary March of the Penguins, the winner of the Best Documentary Feature at the 2006 Academy Awards.
Gradisar mentioned that the two were picked on purpose. Call of Duty Modern Warfare is an action packed video game which places the player in the roles of two different soldiers. One is an American deployed in Iraq, while the other one is a new member of the SAS. The player is engaged in the action, as his decisions are very important in the game.
On the other hand the documentary is set at a very different pace; it is slow, and as all the other documentaries, it lacks the action. They used electroencephalography, electromyography, and electro-oculography in order to measure the sleep architecture and sleep-onset latency. They also measured the heart rate of the participants, which is the main index of physiologic arousal. From the 13 participants, two of them fell asleep faster after playing the video game, the rest of them going to sleep faster after seeing the documentary.
Seven of them said that they felt less sleepy after they played the game, four said that watching the documentary cause this effect on them, whereas two of them said that they were not affected from this point of view. The conductors of the experiments stated that the experiment might not be very accurate, as the influence of certain factors could have been decisive in the overall results. They also mentioned that 50 minutes might not have been enough for the experiment because in most of the cases, the teens who complain that they can not go to sleep after a gaming session spend hours in front of the computer or video game console.
Gradisar mentioned that the more time the teens spend playing the game, the more emotionally involved they become. This happens especially in the case of the Role Playing Games, where the players might feel a bond with their characters. As a result the events in the game can influence them in real life as well, as they might feel anxiety, and other negative feelings. Even if the feelings are positive, but are in excess, the result might be the difficulty of falling asleep. Gradisar and his team mentioned that everything should be done in moderation, including both gaming and watching to TV before the sleep.11