So, is playing video games before bed a good idea?
Actually, I would say yes and no. Because several factors need to be taken into consideration. It depends on where you play, on what platform, what type of game, and most importantly, for how long!
In my opinion, the video game experience that over-stimulates the brain to the maximum is the one offered by virtual reality (an experience that I love, by the way). If you ask me, I think that virtual reality can have some impact on the quality of sleep. This "video game platform" is different from the others, of course, because of its unparalleled immersion and the fact that it plays on the logical mind of the brain, as our body’s reflexes.
When playing with a Virtual Reality (VR) headset, the brain is over-stimulated by the excitement and immersion offered by the gaming experience. Whether it is relaxing, exciting, slow-paced, fast-paced, or even horrific, playing VR will have its effect on the onset of sleep (such a level of intellectual and physical stimulation does not fade in 2 minutes). Of course, the effect will usually not be felt over the entire night, but forget about going to bed in the next half hour.
So with virtual reality, my take is that it won’t impact your whole night, maybe just the beginning of it. On the other hand, if you are playing a VR horror game like Resident Evil 7, it is possible that your sleep will be a little more restless. See here for yourself some examples of the effects of stress on sleep.
Playing Video Games Before Bed: Choosing the Right Games
When speaking about the effect of video games on sleep, I think that the impact will come mainly from the genre. If it's complex, like a puzzle to solve, you may be dreaming about it all night long!
The giant three-eyed owl affectionately named Tatarimokke gave you a hard time at Nioh 2? Like me, you might have woken up in the middle of the night to hate it a little more, almost wanting to open the console for yet another attempt. Bad idea! This should be avoided (too much excitement and potential frustration) unless a victory is guaranteed. But since it's hard to predict, you better just not and way till morning.
But if you still do open your console again and find a way to win, maybe the satisfaction will be so great that you'll sleep like a baby with a smile on your face.
What happens if I dive into a competitive game of Rainbow Six Siege, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, or TETRIS 99 before bedtime? Chances are that the excitement level will be particularly high for about 15 minutes (especially if I managed to reach the TOP 10 of a TETRIS 99 game... then my heart beats at 100 per hour!). Playing this type of game and believing that I will be able to go to bed in the next few minutes is as naive as coming back from a field hockey game at 11pm and hoping to sleep right away. It is important to plan a period of relaxation, a moment of calm before considering going to bed.
Playing Video Games in Bed
Do you really want to play video games just before bedtime? Think about playing on a portable console, your phone, or controller in your hands, snugly installed in your bed. Of course, play a relaxing game, such as a turn-based strategy game or slow-paced role-playing games. And for maximum comfort, it might be a good idea to put a good pillow under your head or behind your back.
But still, there is the impact, or rather the effect, of blue light on the eyes: "A light spectrum that destabilizes the hormonal secretion of melatonin in the body. Melatonin is the hormone that manages the proper synchronization of sleep cycles" (Source: Index Santé (in French)). It is better to know how to dose and not to exaggerate the exposure to blue light before going to sleep, whether you’re on a cell phone, a computer screen, or on a TV.
There are various tricks to reduce the impact of blue light on the eye and sleep, such as :
- Adjusting the brightness
- Using warm ambient lighting
- And of course, reducing your screen time.
To get back to the original question, "Is playing video games before bed a good idea?”, I would answer that question from personal experience. Do I currently have any sleep problems related to video games? None. Have I ever dreamed that a huge, dripping, 8-headed bug chased me through space while I flew the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca, while I ate sushi with my free hand? Yes, of course, I did.
Is this because I last played Star Wars Squadrons on my PlayStation VR? Without a doubt.
The impact of the video game here is simply related to my imagination and will not affect the quality of my sleep... though.
Of course, if you get into the habit of playing for long periods of time and especially going to bed late several days in a row, or staying up all night to play video games, this might have an impact on your health. Lack of sleep has an undeniable effect on health.
Sometimes I play several times a week (I don't really have a choice, with the management of my website, my YouTube channel, my podcast, and all that it implies), but only for short periods of time. One hour here, forty minutes there, and no games that will make me anxious or angry before bedtime... as much as possible.
I'm telling you, I sleep very well and I don't have any problems related to video games.
Of course, like many, I played a Final Fantasy on my old NES as a young teenager until dawn, but I've learned to balance my passion over the years! As you've seen in this article, video games can have different effects on sleep, but like many passions and hobbies, you just have to avoid abuse.
So playing video games before going to bed isn't all bad. It’s all about how you play, what you play, and for how long.