Study objectives: Video-game use before bedtime has been linked with poor sleep outcomes for adolescents; however, experimental evidence to support this link is sparse. The present study investigated the capacity of presleep video-game playing to extend sleep latency and reduce subjective feelings of sleepiness in adolescents. The arousing psychophysiologic mechanisms involved and the impact of presleep video-game playing on sleep architecture were also explored.
Method: Thirteen male adolescent "evening types" (mean age = 16.6 years, SD = 1.1) participated in a counterbalanced, within-subjects design with experimental (active video gaming) and control (passive DVD watching) conditions. The experiment was conducted in the Flinders University Sleep Research Laboratory.
Results: Relative to the control condition, presleep video-game playing increased sleep-onset latency (Z= 2.45, p= .01) and reduced subjective sleepiness (Z = 2.36, p = .02)-but only slightly. Video gaming was related to changes in cognitive alertness (as measured by a power: p < 0.01) but not physiologic arousal (as measured by heart rate: p > 0.05). Contrary to previous findings, sleep architecture was unaffected (both rapid eye movement and slow wave sleep: p > 0.05).
Conclusions: Results suggest the direct effect of presleep video-game playing on adolescent sleep may be more modest than previously thought, suggesting that surveys linking stimulating presleep activities to poor sleep need substantiating with empirical evidence.