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Effects of video games and social media on sleep quality

Many people, especially teenagers and young adults, enjoy playing video games, chatting with friends, and are active on social media. The effects of these activities on sleep quality are a current subject of sleep research. Research groups from all over the world presented their latest findings last week during the APSS sleep congress in Boston.

In 3 of these studies from groups in Germany, UK and US, students were asked to engage in one of the following activities during the last two hours before their regular bedtime: play video games on a pc or smartphone, use social media, watch tv, read or listen to music. The researchers found that playing video games and using social media resulted in a shorter and lighter sleep compared to the other activities.

There are two explanations for these findings. First of all, games and social media are thought to have a more activating effect on our brain. Earlier research has shown that increased brain activation right before bedtime has a negative impact on sleep.

Furthermore, earlier research has shown that the bluish light emitted by tvs, computer monitors and smartphone screens suppresses the melatonine production. Melatonine is a hormone produced in our brain that regulates our sleep. Melatonine allows us to keep our sleep-wake rhythm in sync with the day-and-night rhythm we live in. In order to do so, the melatonine production depends, amongst other factors, on the presence or absence of light. Exposing yourself to bright light by looking at a computer or smartphone, right before daytime comes down to ‘telling’ the brain to stay awake.

June 19th, 2012

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