Young people * Healthy living * Mental wellbeing

Video games have little effect on teens' sleep

video games dont affect teenage sleep habits Similar to watching DVDs

Video games are one of the modern world's scare stories, being blamed for many ills including disturbing the the sleep of teenagers addicted to violent games such as Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.

But new research from Australia has shown that playing such games barely affects a teenage boy's ability to fall asleep compared with watching a DVD shortly before going to bed.

In fact just over 7 minutes was the most common time for a study participant to fall asleep after playing Call of Duty 4 compared to 3 minutes after watching a DVS.

The researchers did find that the teens playing video games were mentally more alert, and none of them fell asleep playing the game – whereas one third of those watching the DVD did fall asleep during the film.

“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, “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 actual study involved a group of 13 male teenagers aged between 14 and 18. All were normal sleepers who typically fell asleep within 15 minutes of going to bed.

On two separate occasions they were monitored in a lab, once to play Call of Duty 4 and the second time to watch the movie March of the Penguins – deliberately chosen as a film that would not typically arouse excitement in the average male teenager.

Eleven teenagers took longer to fall asleep after playing the video game than after watching the documentary, whilst two of them fell asleep faster. Seven teens reported that they felt less sleepy after playing the video game than after watching the DVD, four indicated the same level of sleepiness and two felt less sleepy after watching the movie.

No significant differences were found between conditions in the percentage of total sleep time comprised of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep or slow-wave sleep.

Although these initial experiments show that the effect of playing video games is minimal on teenagers sleep habits, the researchers point out that the group were older teenagers and that the length of time spent playing was less than the intense sessions often undertaken by games players.

Therefore they caution that more work needs to be done to see how playing video games affects sleep patterns in younger children, and parents should not allow their children to use these results to demand longer and later video game playing time.

The results are published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine

This article was published on Thu 15 April 2010

Image © Cherry-Merry -

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