Esports players are consistently in front of a screen, oftentimes for long durations. I know when I was little my parents always said, “Don’t sit that close to the TV!”
In my undergraduate studies I have had the pleasure of taking a class called Introduction to Esports taught by Dr. Seth Jenny. In this class we learn about the basics of what is esports (i.e., organized competitive video game competitions), the life of gamers, and the history behind it all. While doing research in this class and working on assignments, I have found the health-related aspects to esports interesting as a whole, and how everyone can be affected differently. Specifically, I was intrigued most regarding how sleep may be impacted by those who play video games.
Sleep hygiene recommendations include setting consistent sleep and wakeup times, allowing for the recommended hours of sleep per night, establishing a nighttime routine that does not include looking at a screen, and modifying the environment to reduce light. The table below displays adequate sleep recommendations for individuals by age.
Sleep Recommendations by Age Group
Sleep is an essential component in performance when it comes to esports and gaming. When athletes are in tournaments or gaming competitions, it is more common for them to be following a stricter gaming schedule, which increases the training load in relation to time, and decreases the sleep load. (1) When physical exercise is performed, it disturbs the circadian rhythms in individuals, which is more likely to disrupt the sleep of an individual.
Most esport players are within the age range of 15-25 years old, meaning they may have prior engagements during the day such as school, work, or other extra-curricular activities. This in turn can create gaming schedules to be more fixated on later evenings and during nighttime hours. When this is the case, that circadian rhythm is disrupted, and in turn can create a sleep disturbance. This may result in lower alertness and performance during subsequent daytime hours within activities such as school, work, or other activities.
One study on 12 professional esports players between the ages of 17 and 25 years old found this sample to have poor overall sleep quality and high daytime sleepiness. (2) This was attributed to a poor sleep schedule, such as, not falling asleep at a normal time in the evening or not sleeping at all.
Similarly, another study researching esports players from multiple different countries found that this sample had sleep disturbances based off the time of sleep being completed and the quality of that sleep. (3) Sleep restriction and sub-optimal sleep can lead to deleterious cognitive performance, reduced memory and attention, and slower reaction times – all of which can impact gaming performance. Poor sleep correlates with possible poor mental health outcome such as depression and anxiety. With the increasing mental health issues in the teenage population already, poor sleep can play a substantial role in that increase.
In summary, maintaining an adequate sleep schedule is extremely important, especially for esports players. Without not only an adequate amount of sleep, but good quality sleep, gamers are often more susceptible to mental health disturbances, poor daily performance, and decreased esports game play performance. While some may believe sleep is a non-essential, it is necessary to realize the way the brain needs rest and inadequate or irregular sleep decreases performance in stimulating situations such as gaming and other cognitively demanding tasks.
Exercise Science Major
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania
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1 Costa, J., Figueiredo, P., Nakamura, F. Y. , & Brito, J. (2022). The Importance of Sleep in Athletes. In R. Ferraz, H. P. Neiva, & D. A. A. Marinho (Eds.), Exercise Physiology [Working Title]. IntechOpen. https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.102535
2 Sanz-Milone, V., Yoshinori, P., & Maculano Esteves, A. (2021). Sleep quality of professional e-Sports athletes (Counter Strike: Global Offensive). International Journal of Esports, 1(1). https://www.ijesports.org/article/45/html
3 Bonnar, D.; Lee, S.; Roane, B.M.; Blum, D.J.; Kahn, M.; Jang, E.; Dunican, I.C.; Gradisar, M.; Suh, S. Evaluation of a Brief Sleep Intervention Designed to Improve the Sleep, Mood, and Cognitive Performance of Esports Athletes. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 4146. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19074146