Within the gaming community it’s no secret that many gamers struggle with sleeping. And with the amount of screen time involved with serious gaming and the typical late-night hours, it makes a lot of sense that for some, it would result in poor sleep patterns and quality. At the beginning of the year, we were able to quantify it through our 2020 “Win Well” Gamers Health Survey, which found that as much as 65.9% of gamers have trouble sleeping.
While gaming well is definitely important, so is sleeping well, and in fact, the better you sleep, the better your health and, thus, your gaming will be. To help you in this endeavor, check out the following tips on what you can do to improve your sleep (and your habits) as a gamer.
1. Don’t eat too late at night and make conscious snacking choices.
We highlighted this point in our write-up of the results from our recent survey of gamers’ nutrition. Scientists have debated over the years whether or not eating late at night really does affect your sleep, and what they’ve decided is twofold. For one, our bodies thrive on routine and ritual. If eating a bedtime snack is part of your nightly routine, it may actually be to your detriment to stop eating that snack—just be sure it’s a healthy snack and not one filled with sugar. The second part of the debate, however, revolves around studies that have shown that eating late at night disrupts the body’s natural circadian rhythms (which also regulate hunger and energy in addition to sleep) and the wind-down of your systems and metabolism. See, the body naturally slows down its metabolic processes at night. It prepares itself for rest and starts to focus on other bodily functions that occur while we’re sleeping. When you eat after the point at which your body has already slowed its metabolism, it causes the digestion of those foods and the conversion of energy to slow, too—which can not only cause disrupted sleep but also lead to weight gain and a slower metabolic rate overall.
2. Wear blue light glasses while playing, and turn off your screens long before bed.
As you may have heard, the screens on our technology devices all emit what’s called blue light, which, like red light or ultraviolet (UV) light, is one of the many wavelengths of light on the spectrum. Blue light has short wavelengths, very high energy, and scatters easily. The scattering means the light itself is less focused, which makes your eyes work harder when you’re looking at devices and, thus, contributes to digital eye strain. Some blue light is good, though. For instance, blue light during the day helps our body regulate its natural sleep/wake cycle. Too much blue light at night, however, can disrupt that regulation and mess with our production and secretion of melatonin, which your body typically produces more of at night in order to keep the sleep/wake cycle in its appropriate rhythm. Playing video games, or looking at any screens, for hours on end, then—and especially at night—definitely affects that.
Thankfully, wearing blue light glasses can help. Blue light glasses are specially designed to help filter out blue light and keep our sleep/wake cycles working properly. There are many options for gamer-specific blue light glasses, including our own Gaming Glasses by Foster Grant that come in several shapes and styles. It’s also recommended that you turn off your devices, or at least stop looking at them, 30 to 90 minutes before you plan to go to bed (and the earlier the better).
3. Skip the caffeine late in the day.
Caffeine while playing or earlier in the day can help you focus and stay in the zone. But caffeine stays in our system for a while, so having more coffee or soda (or any other caffeinated product or supplement) can really impair our body’s ability to calm down and sleep properly. If you need an energy boost while you’re gaming in the evening, stick to water and snacks with protein and complex carbs.
4. Go to bed earlier and on a set schedule.
This might not be a very popular piece of advice, but it’s worth heeding, and here’s why: When we sleep, our bodies go through 90-minute cycles of REM sleep and non-REM sleep. REM stands for “rapid eye movement” and is the lighter phase of sleep between the two, the one responsible for all the crazy dreams we remember when we wake. Non-REM sleep, on the other hand, is deeper and more restorative. We get both types in every 90-minute cycle, but the ratio of the two changes at a certain point in the evening—and it changes at that point regardless of the time you went to bed. In the earlier hours of the night, the ratio is tilted heavily towards more non-REM sleep, whereas in the post-midnight and early morning hours, the ratio tilts towards more REM sleep. This means that the later you go to bed, the less restorative sleep you’re getting, and the more prone you are to have less brainpower and focus throughout the day.
Now, this is not to say that everyone should adopt an early bedtime. Our genetics help to determine whether we’re natural night owls or early birds, and forcing the opposite of whichever you are naturally usually doesn’t work out too well. But being sure to get enough sleep every night, generally around 8 hours, and going to bed on the earlier side if you tend to stay up later will help you get the most of that deep non-REM slumber.
Lastly, as we said above, our bodies do better with routine. Well, the same goes for our sleep schedule. Studies have shown that the more irregular your bedtime schedule is, the more likely your sleep quality is to suffer, which leads to daytime sleepiness and fatigue (which then leads to lower brainpower and less ability to game at a high level).
5. Meditate after gaming.
In previous posts, we’ve written about the benefits of mindfulness in gaming and how meditation can help improve in-game focus. But it’s not just in-game focus that gets improved: Because meditation and deep breathing are proven to help calm the mind, they can be incredibly useful as part of a post-gaming ritual to come out of the high-intensity zone you’ve been in and slow your brain down to a place and speed more beneficial for sleep. In fact, Headspace, one of the most popular apps for guided meditation, provides its own list of suggestions for gamers on how to manage sleep and gaming. Check it out here.
6. Try natural supplements.
Nutrition and psychology specialist Jacob Lay also affirms the importance of getting enough good-quality sleep in his YouTube video for Game Without Pain. In addition to recommending getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night and going to bed before midnight, Lay suggests adding some natural supplements to your regimen—particularly if you still have a hard time falling asleep after implementing some of these other measures. He recommends magnesium, inositol, and melatonin. Each of these are things our body naturally has and uses to induce and regulate sleep, but taking supplements can help boost our body’s supply and allow for improved regulation.
You can check out our latest nutrition products to help you get a good night’s rest here, but for now, sweet dreams, and Win Well.