Video Games Disrupt Teens’ Sleep

Video games interfere with how much sleep teens get and how well they sleep. Computer games have a similar negative impact on teens’ sleep. But television, long assumed to be a major cause of morning yawns in high school classrooms, barely registers on the teen-age sleep-o-meter. That’s the surprising conclusion of a recent study presented last week at the American Psychiatric Association 2011 Annual Meeting.

Studying the impact TV and gaming have on the sleep of U.S. teen-agers, researchers at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences found a “fundamental difference” in the way different media affect teen sleep. Video and computer games, particularly role-playing games like World of Warcraft, that involved direct interaction between the child and the media source were more detrimental to the child’s sleep cycle than passive media like television. Higher degrees of mental stimulation and social interaction appeared to increase sleep disruption.

The study examined sleep habits self-reported by 16,000 teens in the 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, a bi-annual national survey of high school students conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track the health impact of teen behavior. Researchers found that only 10% of teens were getting the recommended 9 hours of sleep. The majority of teens reported averaging 7 hours of sleep per night; however, heavy gamers routinely got less than 7 hours of nightly sleep.

While researchers said more specifically-targeted research is needed, they suggested that less media exposure and more sleep could improve teen health.

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