I can tell you exactly when it all started — two years ago, on a December night, at the behest of an online pal who was surprised that I'd never stayed up all night before. That was the night that I ruined whatever semblance of a normal sleeping schedule I had before, instead adopting something that includes a number of power naps.
I don't have a particular set number of hours when it comes to sleeping — sometimes it's a few naps, sometimes a couple, sometimes I do actually manage to sleep like normal people do. Technically, I err toward something called polyphasic sleep, or "the practice of sleeping multiple times in a 24-hour period" according to Wikipedia. Mike Fahey and our own Mark Serrels have had similarly strange sleeping schedules previously.
Judging from my own personal experience — friends, people online at any given hour on social media, and opponents on games — I have a feeling me and Fahey not alone when it comes to a complicated relationship with sleeping. Part of it, as I understand it, comes from how much time I spend in front of a screen, which is to say, having a good relationship with sleep is something that many gamers might have trouble with.
Lifehacker reports that people who stare at backlight screens before bedtime testify to "lower-quality sleep even when they get as much sleep as non-pre-bedtime screenheads." Artificial light before bed can increase alertness and decrease melatonin, which is a hormone that is supposed to promote sleep. And those of us with more sedentary lifestyles — which gaming, office jobs or spending a lot of time at the computer can sometimes promote — sometimes don't get enough exercise to get good sleep either.
This is to say, those of us who like to game well into the night or are hooked on our computers may have trouble sleeping or getting good enough sleep. The amount of sleep you need varies: we often hear eight, but people might do fine with 6.5-7.5 hours. It depends, and it sounds like the best thing to do is to test out whatever feels best for you.
But as a gamer or techie, there's a lot of factors that might influence how much you sleep on any given day. Like, what if you're playing an addictive game? Something that makes you lose track of time? You might find yourself playing well into the night, regardless of what responsibilities you may have the next day. Such is sometimes the case with Kotaku's Tina Amini.
I have an addictive personality when it comes to first-person shooters. I know this, and yet I used to start rounds of L4D at 9pm knowing that the rounds last super long and I'll have to wake up at 7am the next day, but screw it.
And almost every round ends with me thinking, "I can do better." There I go, re-loading a new lobby or joining a new server just to sink into yet another lengthy session of adrenaline-building.
Mixing an addictive game, which makes you lose track of time, with bright screens, which naturally make us stay up longer, may not be such a great idea if you're supposed to be winding down and sleeping. I know that all I have to do is pick up a controller when I'm a little tired and hop into an intense match of, say, Halo and I can feel the adrenaline start to pump.
I don't feel as alert when playing handheld games in bed — like many folks here at Kotaku sometimes do — but they still don't help me get to sleep. They just mentally prime me to stop thinking of my bed as "this is where I sleep," which isn't helped by my laptop, either.
Technically the best thing that can help all of this is to buck up and to try to change habits: to wind down before sleep, to cut out the screen-time, to exercise more, to stop eating high-sugar things before bed (if not eat better, period!) to make sure to sleep well.
But if it were that easy, I'm sure some of us wouldn't have a complicated relationship with sleep in the first place!
Perhaps there are games to help you wind down? Tina has her own take on what games are good:
A game like ilomilo or Journey or Stacking or Portal (or whatever else honestly) would probably be better suited to before-sleeps gaming, but I don't choose what game I play when I get home from work. My heart does. I'll look at a box and immediately know whether I want to play it or not. Like how I let my stomach make my decisions for me when looking at a menu, it's very much the same.
Games that are less "exciting" in the traditional sense of the word go down easier than something that begs every ounce of your energy and attention. Easier than games that speak to your competitive drive. Easier than games that burn the memory of zombies in my brain so much so that I'll dream of killing zombies. Seriously, I used to have so many Left 4 Dead dreams. So many.
Personally, a slower game — like a turn-based game — will make it easier for me to get sleepy. Even so, I'm kind of interested in improving my sleep. Not by taking up better hours or anything. Lord, I've tried, but I keep reverting back to this fucked up sleep schedule and I honestly think I'm more of a night owl anyway.
But there are other ways to improve your sleep. Check it out:
Many of us struggle to get enough sleep every night, but is the sleep we get any good? While it's important to get enough sleep, better sleep is a greater ally than more hours of sleep. More »
For something we spend half our life doing, a lot of us are pretty awful at sleeping. Here are our top 10 tips for falling asleep faster, getting quality rest, and waking up easier in the morning. More »
True to form, I'm the most interested in the technology options. Predictable!
I'm curious though: what is your relationship with sleep like? Does tech or gaming influence it in any way? Are you going to try to improve your sleeping?