Why Playing Games Until 4AM Will Ruin Your Sleep And Your Health

"Just one more go," you say to yourself as the clock nears midnight. You know that this time you won't make that stupid mistake. You've solved the puzzle, you've cracked the code. You are in control. Just one more go. The next thing you know, it's 4am and you have work the next day. Gaming has stolen your night and your precious sleep once again. We've all been there — but we need to stop going there if we don't want to ruin our sleep patterns and our health.

Picture by Aaron

The simple truth is this (and collating Sleep Week content for Lifehacker all week has reinforced this for me): you need sleep. The exact amount that each person needs varies (it's not the case that eight hours is the absolute minimum, for instance), but sleep scientists do agree on two points.

Firstly, if you don't get enough sleep, your health will suffer in both blatantly obvious and less visible ways. Secondly, a regular sleep pattern is the best way to get quality sleep. Going to bed at around the same time and getting up at around the same time is the healthiest approach. That might not sound as exciting as completing every platinum achievement on Trials Evolution, but being permanently tired is no picnic either.

Human bodies are remarkably resilient. They can cope with alcohol abuse, eating KFC, watchingBeing Lara Bingle and obsessively collecting Vita games. But just like your controller, if you treat your body with respect it will last much longer. If you sleep regularly, you'll perform better when you do want to play games.

Don't kid yourself by saying "I'll catch up on that sleep over the weekend". This is delusional for two reasons. Firstly, if you haven't got the willpower to shut down your gaming on a weeknight, what makes you think you'll do any better on a weekend? Secondly, sleep doesn't work like that. It's part of a daily cycle, not a weekly one. Kotaku editor Mark has already shown that dramatic alterations to that cycle are very difficult to adjust to. But regularly skimping on sleep because you're gaming is, frankly, an equally stupid approach.

I'm trying not to turn into the fun police here. Like any vice, all-night gaming frenzies shouldn't do you lasting harm if they're an occasional event and you otherwise look after your health. But if you're doing it all the time, something has to give. Better to make that a conscious choice than to find yourself unconscious on the office floor.

If your career/education means you can go to bed at 4am and not get up until 2pm, more power to you. But the same rules apply no matter which part of the day you're awake in. You need to take breaks.

No Magic Bullet

I wish I could offer some easy solution to how to stop that unexpected two extra hours of gaming, but sadly there is no magic bullet. It comes down to willpower. You have a choice. You need to exercise it. We have some tactics to help you boost your willpower, but you need to make that decision first.

Admittedly, there are extreme tactics you can use. You can set an automatic power timer to turn off your console at midnight, no matter what. But the first time that happens and you're in the middle of your best race ever, you will swear and curse and then disconnect the timer and sell it on eBay.

If you've got your own way of ensuring you stop gaming even when the action is addictive and the clock is way past the midnight hour, we'd love to hear it in the comments. But maybe not at 3am.

Republished from Lifehacker


    Get a nagging wife/girlfriend/significant other.

      ^ this.

        I recently moved my gaming setup from spare room to the lounge, has been nothing but arguements since.

          The missus and I just had a massive discussion about the tv sharing issue and the upshot of it is I'm buying a second tv and moving all the gaming stuff to the spare room. Which effectively means I'm moving into the spare room.

        Kids will do the same. No more TV based games anymore, can only do iPad and 3DS

      It's funny because it's true.

      My significant other is the one that plays the games until 4am

        Same here. Ever since she got an Android smartphone its been nothing but Bejeweled etc and then she can't get up the next morning and guess who is stuck getting the kids up and dressed? What's worse is that she doesn't even have to go to work...

          *whip crack*

    I don't stay up till 4 AM if I have to wake up early. I stay up until 4 AM if there's nothing going on, or only if something going on late in the afternoon. Which is why I only stay up until 4 AM on weekends and holidays.

      Yea im the same pretty much dont game much during the week because of the wife but fri/sat night comes around I do find myself staying up till 3-4am then having a rough sleep cos the mind is so active and not being able to sleep in either haha.

    I heard somewhere that the more fit you are, the less sleep you'll need. so if we exercise plenty, we could stay up all night. Of course, if that's true you'd probably have to spend all your spare time at the gym instead of gaming :/

      I think it's that once you're used to an exercise regime you have more energy. You don't need to sleep as much to feel refreshed, and you're probably sleeping better as well.

      Even a 2-3 hour session once or twice a week can make a huge difference.

      That's a gross oversimplification. Not that it's entirely wrong as such, but a LOT of factors determine how much sleep an individual needs, genetics being one of the biggest ones, there's a gene that some people have that literally requires them to get less sleep than others. Tabula Rasa, such a pathetic joke :P

      not for me! I exercise very heavily everyday and yet I need like 9 hours sleep.

        yu probably overtrain if that's the case, when our mma group was one regimen My body woke up at 630 every morning feeling like a champ, a little sore from workouts but had a lot of energy!

    I remeber once i stay up ttill about 4am on a wednesday (school nite) playng Wing Commander 3, parents screamed at me for stayng up, by pure chance one got up to get a drink of water and saw teh light on under the door.

    This is just telling us what we already know. If you're so logically incapacitated that you don't realize playing games constantly until 4am is ruining your sleep pattern and probably stressing you out more than necessary then i feel bad for you son. I got 99 problems but sleep ain't 1.

    Get a 9-5 job. I find it hard staying up past 11pm now!


      Get insomnia and a 9-5 job. Now you'll find it hard surviving !

        Or you'll finally be able to kickstart Project Mayhem!

    Have a baby. Issue solved.

      ^ THIS A MILLION TIMES OVER ! I love the little guy (just 3 weeks old), but no xbox for me anymore :-( i managed 20 minutes last week end !

    The other thing about gaming at this hour of the night is it inhibits the production of melatonin, which is incredibly important for getting a deep and restful sleep. It is also a powerful antioxidant – in studies with shift workers, it was found that those who worked at night for a long period of time (over several years) increased their chances of developing certain cancers because their bodies produced too little melatonin. Melatonin will only release when you're falling asleep in the dark, this is why doctors recommend that you stop watching TV/turn off your computer at least an hour before heading to bed so that your body can start producing melatonin, which will help you sleep. The light emitted from monitors and other screens inhibits that melatonin production.

    Dr. Tracey

      Thats good advice Doctor, but the issue I have is I will say, Oh, lets just read a book and unwind, then open the ipad/phone and read an e-book that actually now has the same issues with it (backlit screen!)


      Yeah I make sure I sit outside in the dark and smoke a couple of cigarettes before bed to make sure I maximise my melatonin production.

    Exactly right about watching Being Lara Bingle LOL

    Even during holidays I do not stay up past midnight. But I am also never one to sleep in past 8am. Each to their own.

    I can't standing playing games past 9pm anymore... They over stimulate me and I wind up getting a shit night sleep.

    On school nights (I am actually full time employed) I try and stick to a 23:00 stop time and then do winding down activities until I go to bed. I'm not always successful but it seems to work well for preventing me from engaging in any lengthy quests or boss fights if it's close to then.

    It should be noted that playing a game close to the time you go to bed will actually make it harder for you to get to sleep as well so it is equally as important to make sure you stop playing games well before you intend to sleep.

    Really not a fan of these sleep articles plastered everywhere at the moment, by the sounds they're about done now yeah? Yeah!? Headlines that are technically false are just harder to pass by when you're well acquainted with their source material. I know it's just how journalism works, gotta grab people with a headline that actually looks like it's saying something important and definite, but still.. grr.

    I set an alarm, this way I can lose myself in the game without worrying about it being 2am when I next check the time. I set the alarm for half an hour before I actually want to go to bed as well so I have time to save if I'm in the middle of something. This is a pretty great system as long as you don't ignore the alarm going off.

    Im regularly up til midnight or 1am and i have to be up for work around 6 or 6.30am. I know this is not ideal, but ive also got all the platinums in Trials Evolution!! haha (I kid I kid, I have 3 left).. This is my regular sleep pattern as ive done it for years, but I also realise that its not healthy. I have an issue though, I find that Im at my best around the hours of about 9pm til midnight, so if im working, studying, gaming or anything else that requires concentration, this is when im best to be doing it. Also, I have a wife and a child and while they are awake, I hang out with them and dont do this other stuff. For example I will only ever game while my son is awake if he specifically asks to play man-bike (Trials).

    Im stuck in a pattern of trying to work, then travel home and spend time with the family, and then once they go to bed, I get to do stuff I enjoy.. and sleep ultimately is what i lose. I could give up on gaming or the other stuff, but then I would not feel like any part of my life is truly for me, just making other people happy. I can't move house so my commute is a bitch, and I won't sacrafice the small amount of time I have with my family...

    So really I should try and cut down on my game/hobby time and perhaps try getting to bed at say 11pm, but its hard when there is so much fun stuff to do.... Something to ponder *strokes his manly beard!*

    Maybe I'll try sleep at midnight and perhaps gradually make it earlier...?

      Oh, but I can't do all nighters any more. Have not tried recently, but no matter how much sleep I have my 3yo will be up at 6, so really I just have to sleep, because i aint dealing with a 3yo all day on no sleep!

    Im glad to hear some people actually survived the abuse that is lara bingle

    I'm nearly 31 now and I game on most weeknights if my wife is working late shift (damn nurses). I pretty much have a set routine of getting up at 6:30am every weekday and going to bed around 11'ish on a weeknight. I usually play first person shooters and MMORPG's (Diablo 3 etc) and have a teamspeak server for mates. As soon as that 11pm comes around, I don't give a rats what's happening in the game, I'm out. I can disconnect and return to the real world at the flick of a switch. I can understand the people who have addictions, it can be and is a real thing, proven many times over, however having a routine lets me draw the line when required. On a weekend however... that's a different story........................ ;)

    I value my sleep highly

    also I cant really make myself stay up later than 12 on weekends...I feel like I'll just ruin the following day

    I can sleep in till 11 everyday, thanks working from home and flexible uni schedule!

    I'm in fatshadys boat except without a kid, my parents never really slept more than 7 hours a night so that is the schedule I am used to. Uni was different while I was there, but now I am working full time I find bedtimes between 12 and 1 for a 7am wake up is fine.

    I like sleeping but also see it as a waste of time, one thing that helps me need much less sleep is not snoozing. When you wake up, get up. At least on weekdays. That way on the weekend when you can get up whenever you will value the lie in more. I try to only use my bed for sex and sleep as much as possible as well which helps, don't spend time in my bedroom and only bring in my phone as an alarm. I have been thinking about buying an old alarm so that I can leave all screens out of my room, but then I wouldn't get to wake up to ween in the morning.

    Do overtime - I work from 7am to 5pm and on Friday's 7am to 7pm.

    Whether I did the overtime or not, I wouldn't get any substantial game time in - I'm lucky to get about 4 hours a fortnight.

    I might as well get paid for not gaming.

    My solution is to get a 5pm-12am job and be a Night Owl :j Works wonders.

    Hi. Im 16 and 113 pounds. Im in high school and im underweight. 5 years ago i got my first handheld electronic device. A kindle fire. Ever since i got it, literally every night i stayed up till and currently stay up till 1-2-3am when i got the tablet i was in middle school and had to wake up at 5:30am to get ready for school and in high school i have to be up by 6:00am. I dont know why i keep staying up late and i feel like thats why im underweight and i dont gain as much muscle. I need my alarm on my phone to wake me up in the morning so i cant shut down my phone or else my alarm wont turn on. I feel like its the only way to keep me from playing games so late though. Any recommendations? I cant believe i waited so long to find a solution to this and i feel like i am already in a deep deep hole. Between me being underweight and me not getting enough muscle at the gym, i feel like i messed my life up bad and i wont be able to fix it for the rest of my life. Please help. Thank you in advance.

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