Gaming is the most popular form of entertainment worldwide, having eclipsed industry heavyweights like TV, movies, and music in terms of revenue. While TV revenue decreased by 8%, the gaming sector experienced a 10.7% growth, with even higher figures reported in emerging markets like China (14%).
This translates to an average of just over seven hours spent gaming per week, although for some, it’s much more. Gamers of all ages increased the number of hours they spent gaming between 2018 and 2019, and more than 10% of gamers between the ages of 18 and 45 spent more than 20 hours per week playing video games.
All this to say: Video games are taking up an increasingly large chunk of our day-to-day lives, so we wanted to know where those extra hours come from. We surveyed 982 people who played video games at least once a month to learn how this hobby affected their sleep – from quality to quantity – and more.
Nighttime Gaming Ritual
The largest proportion of both male and female respondents reported playing games before bed “every day or often.” In fact, 12% of men and 7% of women said they gamed before bed every night, and less than 6% of both men and women said they “never” did.
Over the last decade or so, consistently more men than women considered themselves “gamers,” although the number of female video game enthusiasts has slowly but surely been on the rise. In the coming years, we may, therefore, see an increase in self-identified female gamers as the hobby’s popularity continues to grow among this demographic.
While respondents in every frequency category each clocked in at least seven hours of sleep on average (impressive, given that nearly 40% of Americans don’t get enough rest regularly), gaming before bed did take a toll on respondents’ sleep. People who never or rarely played video games at night enjoyed an average of 8.3 hours of sleep every night, compared to those who played frequently or every day snoozing 7.7 hours.
Cost of Nighttime Gaming
Even though there was relatively little difference between how much time gamers and nongamers spent asleep, indulging in video games before bed had a much larger impact on the quality of respondents’ rest.
One-third of people who gamed before bed either “every day” or “often” said the quality of their sleep was poor, compared to less than 20% of people who played video games less frequently (however, it is important to note that those who “never” or “rarely” gamed before bed had slightly worse sleep than people who “sometimes” did, so the correlation is not entirely linear).
Frequently playing video games before bed was also strongly associated with taking longer to fall asleep, as well as waking up during the night. These adverse effects are likely due to the fact that stimulating your brain with screens right before you’re supposed to fall asleep actually messes with your biological clock, causing your body to release less melatonin (the hormone that makes you feel drowsy and ready for sleep).
To top it all off, 84% of respondents said they stayed up later to continue gaming. If you need to wake up early to get to work or school, gaming into the wee hours means you’re taking a loan out on tomorrow’s energy – so you might want to think twice!
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Pick Your Poison
People were most likely to indulge in action and mobile games before bed, at 34.2% and 26.8%, respectively – choices that line up quite naturally with the games that are most popular right now.
Trailing far behind in popularity were simulation games, with just 11.5% of respondents reporting playing this type of game before bed. However, people who chose simulation as their genre of choice were, by far, the most likely to experience poor sleep quality at 31.9%. The two most popular choices, action and mobile games, nearly tied for second place at just over 25% each.
The type of game you choose to play before bed can also dictate way more than just sleep quality, with 35% of respondents reporting they had dreamed about their chosen game. While nobody knows why we dream during sleep, many experts posit that dreams are meant to help solve problems, create memories, and process emotions – so if a game is the last thing on your mind before bed, it’s no surprise that the thoughts and feelings associated with the experience can weave themselves into your dreams.
Role-playing and action titles were especially influential in dreamland. Most people’s dreams were neutral (12.2%), and good dreams were the second-most common (10.8%). Another 9.2% of nocturnal gamers experienced a mix of good and bad dreams. However, respondents who played simulation, sports, and action games before bed were the most likely to report nightmares when dreaming about the game they played.
When broken down by subgenre, casual games were the most popular type of game to play before bed. Just over one-quarter of respondents reported choosing lighthearted games like Candy Crush (which boasts nearly 300 million active monthly users) before heading off to sleep, while two different kinds of action games – shooter and platform – took second and third place (15.4% and 14.4%, respectively). These preferences were dissimilar between the genders, with men more likely to choose action titles and women more likely to opt for casual games.
While there were slight variations regarding how each of the top three subgenres affected respondents’ sleep, they weren’t particularly large gaps: People who played shooter and platform games before bed reported slightly higher rates of poor sleep (28.5% and 27%, respectively) than those opting for casual games (25.5%).
A similar trend revealed itself when it came to the amount of sleep enjoyed by players in each category: eight hours for platform action games and casual games and 7.6 hours for shooter game enthusiasts. These numbers line up just fine with the recommended sleep hours for adults.
Choose Your Own Adventure
How many people were willing to trade canoodling for controllers before bed? On the whole, a modest 15% of respondents said they had brushed off their partner’s sexual advances in favor of continuing to play a video game, a behavior slightly more common among women (16% versus 13.9% of men).
A thriving sex life doesn’t mean you need to be intimate with your partner every night – but maintaining a healthy sexual relationship with your partner is key to long-term happiness, so always be cognizant of how often you’re choosing games over quality time together.
Before Bed, Tame the Urge to Game
Not everyone who played video games before bed experienced subpar sleep, but those who did so always or often were much more likely to suffer the consequences of an overstimulated brain. Side effects like waking up in the middle of the night, having trouble drifting off, and sleeping fewer hours were more common among those who frequently fired up their phones or consoles before bed, with certain genres (like simulation games) associated with particularly high rates of poor sleep.
If you want to stack the odds in your favor, we have two suggestions: First, create some space between game time and bedtime, and second, consult The Sleep Judge. Head to our site for the most comprehensive selection of mattress, pillow, and sleep accessory reviews, as well as resources like how-to guides and coupons for a ton of important bedroom purchases. Don’t spend a dime on mattresses, pillows, or more before reading customer reviews and doing essential research via Thesleepjudge.com.
Methodology and Limitations
For this project, we surveyed 982 respondents who played video games at least once a month about their sleep quality and sleeping habits. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 78 with an average age of 35 and a standard deviation of 10.8. Forty-five percent of respondents identified as men, and 55% identified as women.
Gaming genres most frequently played before bed had the following distribution among respondents: mobile games: 263; action games: 336; role-playing games: 172; sports games: 118; simulation games: 113.
Subgenres most frequently played before bed were distributed as follows: other – casual games: 263; action – shooter games: 151; action – platform: 141; simulation – life simulation: 77; role-playing – open world role-playing: 63; role-playing – MMORPG: 63; sports – competitive: 58; action – battle royale: 58; role-playing – action role-playing: 56; other – trivia: 52.
Data were not weighted, and no statistical testing was performed. Answers relied on self-reporting by the respondents.
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