New research from Flinders University finds that prolonged gaming sessions before bed resulted in restless nights for teenage boys, regardless of whether or not they went to bed at their normal time.
The study, conducted at the Australian school's Sleep Laboratory, put participants into two trials -- one that played recently released, fast-paced action games for 50 minutes, the other for 150 minutes -- then monitored their sleep disruption that night.
Those that played the extended sessions lost 27 minutes of sleep (including 12 minutes of critical REM sleep) and took nearly 40 minutes longer to fall asleep than those who played the shorter session.
"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," says Flinders University child sleep psychologist Dr Michael Gradisar.
Whether the players were unable to sleep because of the adrenaline rush of the game or for some other reason was not explored, and researchers note they weren't looking at the content of the games.
Any gameplay sessions under an hour, they say, seem to be fine.
Last year, a study by the University of California at Berkeley found that using any sort of electronics -- whether they're TVs, cell phones or computers -- before going to bed disrupts sleep patterns.
Those researchers suggested people put themselves on an "electronic curfew" for an hour before going to sleep to get better rest.
"Falling asleep isn't like flicking a switch. We don't put our heads on the pillow and fall off to sleep," said Allison G. Harvey, a sleep specialist and professor of psychology at UC Berkeley. "We take time to wind down at night. If we've got bright light conditions, we're not giving ourselves a chance to get off to sleep and stay asleep."
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