Home Health & Wellness 6 Ways to Improve Sleep Habits in Teen Gamers, According to an Expert

6 Ways to Improve Sleep Habits in Teen Gamers, According to an Expert

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Children who play video games are more likely to experience difficulty falling asleep than those who avoid them. 

This, combined with insight from the Sleep Foundation, highlights the negative impact prolonged sleep loss can have on a teen’s emotional development² means parents of game-loving teens may quickly be concerned about their child’s sleep quality.

To help parents encourage healthy sleep habits, Dr Hana Patel, a resident sleep expert at Time4Sleep, shares six tips for helping adolescent gamers get better quality sleep.

1. Enforce regular, active breaks

Dr Patel says: “You’ve probably heard this one before, but for a very good reason; giving yourself a break from the screen is vital to keeping yourself healthy. Ideally, you want to be enforcing breaks from gaming at least once an hour. This will ensure your child’s brain is able to rest and doesn’t become overstimulated before bed.”

“If you can, try to encourage active breaks such as kicking a football around or going for a walk. These activities will help your child become less sedentary and will make sure they are tired enough to sleep at a reasonable time. A standing desk might be another option to consider if you think your child would benefit from a more active lifestyle.”

2. Make sure consoles are shut off at least an hour before bedtime

Dr. Patel adds: “Ideally, you want to leave a full hour between gaming and sleep, but even half an hour will make a difference. This is crucial, as your brain needs time away from strong light sources before it can begin its rest cycle. Aim to switch consoles off at a consistent time every night so that kids understand that they can’t push this particular boundary and are able to sleep when bedtime comes around.”

3. Confine consoles to communal areas

Dr Patel mentions: “On a similar note, try to avoid allowing video games in the bedroom if you can, as this can cause the brain to associate sleeping areas with pleasure rather than rest. This means that every time your child enters their bedroom, their brain primes itself for stimulating activities, making it harder for them to fall asleep. Instead, keep computers and other devices in communal areas only, such as living or office spaces.”

4. Restrict access to caffeinated drinks or sugary snacks

Dr Patel explains: “Too much caffeine or sugar can have a significant impact on your sleep quality. While it is common for teens to use energy drinks to keep them alert while gaming, this can have detrimental effects on their health.”

“A good rule of thumb is to avoid children’s access to overly sugary or caffeine heavy products after 12 o’clock, or at the latest by mid-afternoon. One way to do this might be to use sugar- or caffeine-free alternatives that still fill that sweet craving. Allowing your child time to digest these compounds will give them enough time to fully relax before their head hits the pillow.”

5. Show kids how much time they are losing to gaming

Dr Patel says: “Depending on the age of your child, and the quantity of video games they play, you may be able to get them to see your point of view.

“Consider adding up the hours they spend playing video games and show them exactly how much time they could be spending on other activities they may enjoy. If you explain what they could be missing out on, you might find they are willing to make a compromise.”

6. Consider getting help from a specialist

Dr Patel explains: “For some kids, video game addiction can have a serious impact on their general wellbeing and attitude towards life. The World Health Organization has recently classified gaming disorder as a mental health condition for the first time, meaning more and more health providers are starting to provide the necessary treatment.”

“If your child struggles to control how often they play video games, games up to 14 hours a day or more, or becomes violent or avoidant as a result of their gaming habits, it may be helpful to seek specialist therapy.”

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