Is it bad to play before bedtime?

We all need sleep, but we don’t always get enough of it. Playing video games can increase the temptation to stay up late at night and you probably know, as a gamer, how it can be hard to turn off the computer and go to sleep. But does it in fact ruin your sleep if you play games before bedtime?

In this article, we explore the science behind playing video games before bedtime and how it affects your sleep.

Why do we need sleep?

The need for sleep is essential for every one of us. It allows our body and mind to recharge, leaving us refreshed and alert for the next day of gaming. The importance of sleep for our well-being has been recognized by science for a long time. We know that sleep deprivation is a major problem that can lead to serious health problems both physically and mentally.

What sleep is good for:

  • Restoring focus and concentration
  • Alleviate stress and anxiety
  • Manage depressive symptoms
  • Consolidate memory
  • Regulating mood
  • Strengthen the immune system

The negative effects of gaming before bedtime

Playing video games before bedtime may have a negative effect on sleep quality and lead to sleep deprivation. There are many reasons as to why this happens, but the main one is that video games are stimulating and exciting while sleeping needs to be calming to fall asleep quickly.

A study from 2014 with more than 800 participants investigated the impact of time spent playing video games on sleep quality. Participants were asked how many hours they played video games on a regular week, knowing that people often play more on the weekends.

What the study found was that longer gaming sessions indicated an increased amount of time needed to fall asleep, lower sleep quality, and a higher risk of using sleep medication. The study suggests that spending more than an hour a day on gaming can lead to a 30% higher risk of poor sleep quality (1).

The scientific literature illustrates that gaming before bedtime can lead to:

  • Longer time before falling asleep
  • Higher daytime sleepiness
  • Delayed bedtimes
  • Spending less time in REM sleep  (important for learning and memory).

Reduce bright light before bedtime

The screen produces a lot of bright light when playing video games. Getting too much of this bright light into your eyes in the evening is not good. This is because light suppresses the production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which is essential to fall asleep. It’s worth noticing that the sensitivity to the suppression of melatonin is going up late in the day.

Researchers have found that bright light during the hours between 11 pm and 4 pm may have a negative effect on memory and learning.

Increased arousal makes it harder to fall asleep

Arousal is the state in which you are awake both physically and mentally. Gaming before bedtime can make it difficult to sleep as it may be mentally and physically stimulating.

A study conducted on a group of young adults revealed that gaming late at night led to increased heart rate, decreased feelings of sleepiness, and lower levels of brain activity during the transition to sleep (3).

How to manage gaming sessions for optimal sleep

Gaming is a popular activity that many people enjoy. However, it can harm sleep quality and delay the time to fall asleep. The key to managing your gaming session for optimal sleep is to understand when it’s time to turn off the computer and get ready for bed.

If you are playing games that demand a high degree of concentration and mental effort such as CSGO you should keep an eye on how much time you spend playing and consider not playing in the hours before bedtime.

If want to learn more about how to be a healthy gamer you should check out the Healthy Gamer’s Handbook

When to quit playing

Some people have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, while others have trouble with their sleep quality. If you are having trouble sleeping, one strategy is to get rid of bright lights in the evening and use only dimmed lighting. This means that you need to stop playing hours before bedtime.


So, does gaming before bedtime ruin your sleep? Probably not much for one night, but based on the above information you should consider quitting your last game a few hours before bedtime. This is because you want to reduce the stimulation of the body and mind and the amount of bright light that comes into your eyes in the evening for optimal sleep.


Exelmans, L., & Van den Bulck, J. (2015). Sleep quality is negatively related to video gaming volume in adults. Journal of sleep research, 24(2), 189-196.

Peracchia, S., & Curcio, G. (2018). Exposure to video games: effects on sleep and on post-sleep cognitive abilities. A sistematic review of experimental evidences. Sleep Science, 11(4), 302

Hale, L., & Guan, S. (2015). Screen time and sleep among school-aged children and adolescents: a systematic literature review. Sleep medicine reviews, 21, 50-58

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