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Too Much Computer Gaming Can Steal Your Sleep

MONDAY June 8, 2009 -- The thrills and chills of computer games can be a nocturnal nightmare for some people, new research suggests.

Excessive gamers get too little sleep at night, then spend their days struggling to stay awake. But many of them aren't aware of the link between the two, the study found.

The study revealed that college students, who play video games more than seven hours a week and consider themselves addicted, sleep almost two hours less a night than occasional or non-gamers.

The research team, led by Amanda Woolems of the University of Arkansas in Little Rock, collected data on 137 students. Nearly 11 percent said gaming interfered with their sleep, and 12.6 percent said they were addicted to gaming.

"Our statistics revealed that those who admitted addiction scored higher on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale," Woolems said in a prepared statement. "It surprised us, however, that of the people who admitted being addicted to gaming, only about a third of them recognized an interference with their sleep."

Other health-care professionals weren't surprised by the study's findings.

"These findings are not unexpected," said sleep expert Dr. Alexandre Rocha Abreu, an assistant professor in the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Florida, who was not involved with the study.

A concern is that people who are sleep-deprived don't function optimally in the daytime. "These people may have some cognitive impairment," he said.

It's not just the excitement of gaming that keeps folks wired. Another factor in sleep loss is the environment. "These people tend to be in a room where there is a lot of indirect light from the TV and the screen on the computer. The computer screen tends to simulate sunlight, so even at night you can delay your sleep phase," Abreu said.

Also, because of different times zones, it's possible to play computer games around the clock. "You can be playing games 24/7 with different people from different countries. These people tend to sleep less," he said.

The results of the study were to be presented Monday at the Associated Professional Sleep Societies annual meeting, in Seattle.

Another study presented at the meeting concluded that sleep problems among children often go unnoticed by their doctors.

According to the study, data from pediatricians on nearly 155,00 patients, ranging in age from infancy to 18 years old, showed that fewer than 4 percent were diagnosed with a sleep problem. The most common diagnoses were sleep disorders that were "not otherwise specified" (1.42 percent), bedwetting (1.24 percent), sleep disordered breathing (1.04 percent) and insomnia (0.05 percent).

Lead researcher Lisa Meltzer, of the Sleep Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, noted the rate of diagnosis in this study is far below the prevalence of children's sleep problems reported in epidemiological studies.

"Sleep is often discussed during checkups for young children, but it may not come up as a topic with teenagers, resulting in an under-diagnosis of sleep disorders for this group of adolescents," Meltzer said in a prepared statement. "Pediatricians should ask about sleep during every well-child visit. Children who snore, have problems falling asleep, are difficult to wake in the morning or who fall asleep in school should be further evaluated for sleep disorders."

More information

For more on sleep, visit the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Posted: June 2009


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