Have you ever tried to get a good night’s sleep after an evening spent gaming, but find that you just can’t shut your mind or body off? We’ve all been there: you have an incredible match or a great session, tell your friends good night, and lay down in bed expecting to sleep…but you can’t. Insomnia is an extremely common problem among Americans. As fun as gaming is, failing to properly disengage from play before you try to hit the hay can make sleeping harder than it needs to be.
As difficult as it can be to achieve, a proper sleep schedule and plenty of hours each night are essential to good physical and mental health – and more energy while gaming! The more you get into a routine and get used to resting your body, the better you’ll feel. Here are our top tips for cooling down after gaming and tuning out the noise so you can get some much-needed rest.
The usual disclaimer: if you struggle with racing, anxious, or depressive thoughts while trying to sleep or if your insomnia becomes more frequent or chronic, you should contact a doctor or mental health professional for additional assistance.
Use a blue light blocker
Much has been said about sleep disruption thanks to the blue light emitted by screens. While blue light isn’t necessarily bad for you and won’t harm your eyes, it can disrupt your body’s natural sleep rhythm, particularly if you’re playing late at night after the sun has gone down. If you’re playing on a smartphone or on your PC, you can install a blue light blocking program or app to change your screen’s colors temporarily and avoid the negative effects of blue light. I use f.lux, which changes your screen’s colors automatically depending on the time of day and the bedtime you select. It’s free to download and use, and I’ve definitely seen an improvement in my sleep thanks to it. (One note – if you work in art, video, or graphics, you may want to disable your blue light blocker if you’re working at night, as it can cause colors to look inaccurate in programs like Photoshop.)
If you’re a console gamer or you just want a blocker that you can carry around with you, try a pair of blue light-blocking glasses. There are tons of inexpensive and stylish pairs out there in both masculine and feminine styles, and you don’t need an existing prescription to order them. If you do wear glasses or contacts, ask your eye doctor if you can get blue light blockers added to your lenses. Blue light blockers are an easy, inexpensive way to passively increase your quality of sleep without changing your gaming habits. While the color shift might seem weird at first, you get used to it fast – I don’t even notice the change in color on my monitor anymore.
Watch or listen to something calming
How many times have you logged off of an intense or thrilling game, then tried to crash directly into bed and sleep? Usually, your adrenaline is still so high that your body won’t let you calm down. In times like these, it’s helpful to have a go-between that allows you to relax and prepare to get some rest. If you like to watch videos, try watching some clips with cute animals or landscape scenes. My partner swears by old episodes of the TV show How It’s Made for good sleep. Just don’t pick anything that’s too bright, loud, or wild – those will have the opposite effect and will likely keep you up longer than you want.
If you’re more into audio, listen to the famous Lofi Girl’s chill beats to sleep to or make your own playlist of calming music. You can also try listening to a relaxing audiobook from a place like Audible. If ASMR is your thing, there are tons of audio-focused videos on YouTube that can help you calm down. You can even find soundscape tracks on Spotify and Apple Music or invest in a white noise machine if you like having gentle sound all night long. If you feel your muscles un-tensing and your mind slowing down, you’re doing it right! The goal is to put your body and mind into a state that’s more conducive to relaxation and sleep.
Keep a steady sleep schedule
This one is hard, particularly if you’re a freelancer like me or a student whose workload might vary on different days, but it’s worth trying. Studies have shown that people sleep better on average if they go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. It doesn’t matter whether you go to bed at 10 PM or 4 AM – as long as you’re consistent, getting to bed at the same time every night is arguably more important than the particular time you choose. If you regularly go to bed at 7 PM on some nights and 2 AM on others, your body can get confused, making it so that you’re still awake when you try to sleep early and exhausted when you try to stay up late.
To combat this, pick a particular bedtime and wake-up time and try to stick to them. Set a routine around the time you go to bed – for example, you might shut your PC down, brush your teeth, listen to some calming music, hug your cat, and curl up in bed. If you do this every day, your body will naturally start to get tired around the time you normally sleep, which can help combat insomnia and general sleeplessness. Tell your gaming friends about the time you normally log off and have them make you stick to it. (I’m a bad friend in this regard – I always tell my friends that they should play another round instead of going to sleep. Oops!) A lot of physical and mental health aspects can be improved by a routine, and sleep is no exception.
Play something calming
If you don’t want to stop playing early to watch a video or listen to some calming audio, try switching to a more relaxing game for the last 30 minutes of your play session. Games like Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, and Minecraft (on peaceful mode!) are the perfect way to calm down before bed and fight insomnia. If you normally play these games like I do and plan our your every more, try playing more aimlessly and just doing things that seem fun. In Animal Crossing, catch a bunch of fish or pick up a bunch of shells instead of searching for that last furniture piece that you desperately need; in Minecraft, make a new world and just wander around, taking in the sights and exploring. Playing without a goal or objective in mind and letting your mind enter into that flow state can help calm you down and get you ready for sleep.
If you’d rather play from the comfort of your bed, there are plenty of mobile games that offer relaxing experiences. Titles like Monument Valley can help you take it easy before bed while also keeping you engaged in your favorite hobby. It doesn’t matter exactly what you play; what matters is how it makes you feel. If you’re feeling relaxed, chilled-out, and happy while playing your game of choice, you’re on the right track. Take some time to explore the wide world of relaxing games and pick one that looks interesting. If you have something to look forward to before bed, you’re more likely to associate sleep with good thoughts.
Take some notes or journal
No, I’m not talking about school notes. If you come off of an intense gaming situation with a full brain and itchy hands, it might be good to do a brain dump in a notebook or on a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to read like an essay for your English professor; heck, it doesn’t even have to include full sentences. Just taking the time to write out a few of your favorite memories from the night or record some new tips or tricks you found can help you get information out of your head and into another storage location. If you try to remember everything without writing it down, the effort that takes can make it more difficult to fall asleep.
If you want to get really fancy, you can buy a notebook and make it your gaming notebook. Make different-colored tabs for different games and record your favorite highlights, weapons, characters, specs, and maps. Every time something new happens, write it down so you’ll remember it. You can even take screenshots and print them out for a little visual flair. Most people won’t go this far, but it’s a creative way to memorialize something you enjoy doing. Plus, journaling in general has significant mental health benefits and can take some of the stress off of your mind. Everything looks easier to tackle when it’s down on paper than when it’s floating around in your head.
Since the vast majority of gamers have work, school, or other commitments that take up most of their day, night is the only time many of us have to play. With a little effort and adjustment, you can make your evenings and nights a fun, satisfying time to game without cutting into the rest and sleep that you need to look and feel your best. Do you have any tips and tricks that you use to help yourself sleep after an extended gaming session? Let us know in the comments, and happy gaming!