(Relaxnews) – A small new study has found that video game-playing teens were able to get a good night’s rest as long as they played no more than 60 minutes immediately before bedtime.
A team from Flinders University in Australia found that prolonged video game playing — around 150 minutes — right before bedtime caused significant sleep disruption in teenage boys. However, playing 50 minutes or less didn’t cut into required snoozing as long as teens were going to bed at their usual time.
In the small study, 17 subjects played fast-paced violent video games on two different nights in a sleep lab, with sleep and heart-rate monitors recording the game’s arousing effects. Teens who played 150 minutes lost 27 minutes of sleep, and it took 39 minutes for them to fall asleep — typically teens take 30 minutes or less to doze off, the researchers note.
“While they went to bed at their regular bedtime, the adolescents still experienced significant sleep disruptions caused by frequent awakenings throughout the night,” says lead researcher Dr. Michael Gradisar.
“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,” he says.
“This may not seem like a significant reduction but REM plays an important part in helping us remember content we learned 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.”
The study didn’t attempt to compare 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.”
Results of the study have just been accepted in the Journal of Sleep Research.
In separate research, teens who played a lot of video games were found to be likely to sleep less than the recommended eight to nine hours a night. The study did have one piece of good news for teens: watching television does not appear to affect sleep time. Those findings were announced at a conference of the American Psychiatric Association last May.