Sleep is a variable you can control to enhance your esports and gaming performance. There are well-documented positive effects of sleeping longer and well-documented effects of lack of sleep that translate to the esports world.
Gaming mainly has negative effects on sleep due to short-wavelength blue light reducing melatonin (sleep hormone) secretion. Further, the amount of gaming is inversely related to sleep quality and duration.
As a professional esports athlete or aspiring professional, you don’t have a choice in reducing your gaming time. So it is important to understand the potential negative effects this can have and the strategies you can use to mitigate any of these negative impacts.
Table of Contents
- How Much Sleep Do Professional Esports Players Get?
- How Gaming Affects Sleep
- How Sleep Affects Gaming
- Why You Can’t Sleep After Playing Video Games
- Should You Play Video Games In Bed?
- Does Playing Video Games Make You Tired?
- How To Get Better Sleep For Gaming & Esports
- Summary Box
How Much Sleep Do Professional Esports Players Get?
Research in 34 professional Korean esports athletes found they averaged 7:20 hours of sleep per night with 70% of these athletes ranging between 6:00 – 8:30 hours . Professional USA players averaged around 8 hours of sleep a night with 70% of them ranging between 7 – 9 hours .
In professional German esports athletes, they averaged 7:45 hours of sleep per night with 70% of them ranging between 6:30 – 9:00 hours .
LoL legend Faker sleeps typically 7:30 hours per night and states in an interview that any extra time he would have would go towards more sleep.
It seems these studied esports athletes have relatively good sleeping habits getting close to 8 hours per night. But it’s important to know how gaming can affect your sleep.
How Gaming Affects Sleep
You may have been told to avoid screen time an hour before bedtime. As an esports athlete, this may not be possible due to the late training times that go to the early hours of the morning.
The use of devices before sleep has been studied in children and adolescents through meta-analysis, the strongest form of scientific study .
They found that device use was associated with an increase in inadequate sleep time and excess daytime sleepiness of over double compared to children that didn’t have device access.
This seems to coincide with the professional Korean esports athletes who experience high levels of daytime sleepiness .
Children who used devices before bed had double the odds of having inadequate sleep time and a 46% increase in the odds of poor sleep quality.
Even just having the presence of a media device in the sleeping environment without using it increased the odds of inadequate sleep time by 79%, poor sleep quality by 53%, and over double the odds of excessive daytime sleepiness.
This may only be applicable to those playing in their room. Many professional esports athletes have their sleeping quarters away from their training room.
Why might screen time before bed be such a hindrance to sleep?
Blue light emitted from LED screens is considered the main culprit. Blue light has been found to suppress nighttime melatonin production, your natural sleep hormone that makes you tired .
Not only is it blue light, but the intensity of the light and the length of exposure to it directly affect melatonin production. Further, core and peripheral body temperature do not drop at night after being exposed to bright lights.
Artificial bright light a night has also been shown to reduce sleep quality and increase the time it takes to fall asleep.
In fact, blocking blue light using blue light blocking glasses significantly reduced insomnia, and improved distress, sleep, and quality of life scores compared to a placebo set of glasses that didn’t block blue light .
These specific glasses blocked 65% of the peak blue light emitted from LEDs. However, the peak wavelength of light blocked from the lenses was not mentioned as lenses differ dramatically.
On the light wavelength spectrum, around 550 nm is the cut-off before longer wavelengths of green, yellow, and red light occur.
Screen LEDs emit peak wavelength in the blue range of approximately 460 nm . To completely block all blue light, lenses should block all wavelengths of light below 550 nm. Many lenses don’t so I would highly recommend these blue light glasses from Low Blue Light.
This model of glasses and lenses was used in a study that was compared to glasses that blocked approximately 50% of blue light from LEDs but only blocked 90% of blue light at 500 nm which is still within the blue light range .
They found that those wearing the Low Blue Light glasses gave a greater quality of sleep rating and a greater feeling of positive effect over the other blue light glasses.
Their brand isn’t as well-known as some of the other gaming glasses but they have been proven to do what they say they do so you know when you’re buying these, they will work. Further, they are much cheaper than some of the more well-known brands that don’t block as much blue light.
Wearing Low Blue Light glasses has also been shown to advance the secretion of melatonin by 78 minutes time to fall asleep by 132 minutes .
When blocking all blue light compared to allowing blue light with an LED screen, the blue light condition shortened sleep duration, increased their percentage of wake time after falling asleep, and decreased sleep efficiency compared to the no blue light condition .
The blue light condition also led to higher body temperatures before bed, less melatonin, and greater negative emotions in the morning.
Regarding performance, wearing blue light glasses led to greater work engagement and task performance compared to not wearing them in office workers .
It’s not just gaming before bed that may affect sleep, it’s the volume of gaming done throughout the day. Sleep quality seems to be negatively affected where every additional hour (above 1) of gaming increases the odds of poor sleep quality by 31% .
Additionally, the greater number of hours you play, the greater risk of insomnia, fatigue, and the later bedtime and earlier rise times you may have .
This seems to be in agreement with the professional Korean esports players who went to bed and woke up later than non-athletes .
How Sleep Affects Gaming
Further, in tennis players, just 5 hours of sleep per night reduces serving accuracy when compared to a normal night’s sleep .
Heavily disturbed sleep from disordered breathing increased reaction time to levels higher than healthy, non-sleepy, but slightly drunk (over the legal drinking limit) individuals .
Lack of sleep causes other cognitive deficiencies as well as reduced processing speed and slower processing of visual information . This means sleep restriction can literally “slow down” an esports athlete.
Further, lack of sleep can result in reduced selective and sustained attention as well as working memory which are key components to esports performance given that matches last upwards of 40 minutes.
Why You Can’t Sleep After Playing Video Games
One reason we have covered is the blue light emitted from LED screens. This blue light suppresses melatonin secretion which means you don’t start to feel sleepy.
The other reason you may struggle to sleep after gaming is the mental and physical arousal responses. Average heart rate was found to be higher while gaming compared to pre-gaming rest as well as increases in the sympathetic nervous system response… fight or flight .
So an increase in adrenaline, heart rate, mental focus, and reduced sleep hormone secretion leads to feeling awake when gaming into the night.
Should You Play Video Games In Bed?
With the growing mobile gaming industry, gaming in bed is now possible. That doesn’t make it a great idea.
If sleep is a priority, then you should avoid this at all costs. Especially as even having a device in your room can potentially increase your odds of poor sleep quality by 53%.
Does Playing Video Games Make You Tired?
While most of this article has laid a scientific foundation about why playing games before bed may negatively affect sleep and reduce your feelings of tiredness, one study found LED screen light led to higher subjective sleepiness .
However, this shouldn’t be interpreted as gaming will help you sleep. All of the negative effects were still present regardless of feeling more tired.
How To Get Better Sleep For Gaming & Esports
Blue Light Filters
Reducing the screen brightness isn’t enough . Blue light glasses or filters are a must. I recommend the Low Blue Light glasses because they have been scientifically validated in two studies, block all light below 550 nm, and have proven to be more effective than blue-blocking glasses with lenses that only block <450 nm which many on the market are.
Use Orange & Yellow Colored Lights
Replacing your usual bright lights with orange- and yellow-colored lights is an easy way of reducing your blue light exposure outside of your monitor .
Himalayan salt lamps are great for this. You can also buy white lights that allow you to change their color and light intensity. Dim, orange, and yellow lights will help to work with your circadian rhythm rather than disrupting it.
This is something that has been studied extensively within traditional sport. Sleep extension is simply increasing total sleep time. In elite level rugby, extending sleep to 10 hours a night resulted in greater sleep quality, decreased stress, and faster reaction times .
Similar results have been replicated in collegiate basketball where sleep extension of 10 hours of sleep per night led to faster sprint times, shooting accuracy, and improved physical and mental well-being .
High glycaemic index foods such as white rice, pasta, bread, and potatoes may promote sleep and should be consumed 1 hour before bedtime . A diet high in protein may result in improved sleep and eating 300g of turkey before bed can provide enough of the amino acid tryptophan to fall asleep faster.
Make sure to eat enough throughout the day (generally your bodyweight in pounds multiplied by 15-16 will be around your maintenance calories) as low-calorie intake can lead to disturbed sleep.
Avoid Caffeine Close To Bed
Caffeine has a half-life of 5-6 hours. Meaning its effects can be felt for 5-6 hours potentially increasing the time it takes you to fall asleep.
Create A Pre- and Post-Bedtime Routine
This could be as simple as taking a bath or reading a book. It should be an activity that you can make a routine out of to train your body that when you start the activity, it is a sign to start preparing for sleep .
When waking, try waking up at the same time every morning.
Avoid Strenuous Exercise Before Bed
Set Your Room Up For Sleep
Make sure your room is dark, quiet, and cool. The excess light will disturb your sleep and a hot room makes it very difficult to fall asleep. Your body temperature naturally drops as you feel sleepy which the heat prevents.
- Block blue light from LED screens with blue-blocking glasses that block light wavelengths <550 nm.
- While the volume of gaming is inversely related to sleep time and quality, professional and aspiring gamers don’t have a choice. Instead, use the strategies above to mitigate any negative effects from long screen times.
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