To Sleep, Perchance To Dream



A Gamer’s Perspective

By Doug Thompson


An Arkansas study has concluded that “excessive” gamers don’t get enough sleep.

No duh.

When will a study tell us addicts what we really want to know? When and how much does lack of sleep degrade game performance?

I’m serious. I only have a very rough feel for when my control is slipping because of exhaustion. The worst case I can remember is when I lined up all my troops in Medieval II: Total War in perfect formation — only to find they were facing the wrong direction when I clicked the “start battle” button. I lost. This had serious consequences. I had to fight the whole battle all over again and win it before I could finally go to bed.

The new study comes from 2008 graduate Amanda Woolems of the University of Arkansas, Little Rock. She presented her paper at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Seattle earlier this year.

Her criteria for who was an excessive gamer was pretty simple. She asked them to evaluate themselves and settled on a definition of somebody who plays games seven hours or more a week.

Seven hours a week? What rookies. I’ve doubled that on a good day of playing Civilization III, a game that would put most people to sleep in an hour or two

These “excessive” types have significantly poorer sleep hygiene and sleep less on weekdays than other gamers, according to a statement from UALR. A significant positive correlation was found between the hours of game play and sleepiness.

Those who claimed to be addicted to gaming slept one hour less on weekdays. Previous research has shown that excessive gamers spend less time in bed, have longer sleep latency and shorter Rapid-Eye-Movement latency.

“Our statistics revealed that those who admitted addiction scored higher on the Epworth Sleepiness Scale,” said Woolems. “It surprised us, however, that of the people who admitted being addicted to gaming, only about a third of them recognized an interference with their sleep.”

“The study examined data from 137 students recruited from the University who were enrolled in introductory psychology courses,” the UALR statement read. “Participants’ mean age was 22 years and a majority of the sample was women (86). Gamers were classified as casual or excessive (those who spend more than seven hours a week using the Internet and playing computer games), based on a demographic questionnaire and sleepiness was assessed subjectively through questionnaires. Of the total sample, 10.81 percent reported that gaming interfered with their sleep and 12.6 identified themselves as being addicted to gaming.”

Hey, I have the solution for this … several, in fact.

Wii REM. Attach the Wiimote to a set of Goggles. Win by having the most eye movement at night.

Or tell us what we want to know. Show a proven correlation between lack of sleep and a drop-off in game performance. Convince us that we’re going to miss that next jump if we don’t go to bed and rest up first.

Speaking of a guy who needs more sleep, Zero Punctuation at is getting good again. His take on the much ballyhooed game convention, E3, is priceless. “Nobody unwinds by waving his arms like an air traffic controller covered with beetles.” Nintendo needs to remember “that it’s a video game company, not Fischer-Price.” Priceless. Also, his particularly foul-mouthed but positive review of “inFamous” correctly complains that the “moral choice” feature of games — choosing “good” or “evil” — is mainly a device to make you play the game twice to unlock all the content.

While I’m sure plenty of people enjoy being “bad” in some of my favorites like “Mass Effect,” I’ve always found that there’s plenty of moral rebellion in “slaying” thousands of computer “enemies” without growling macho posturing. I’ve never played the Dark Side in “Knights of the Old Republic” and never gotten the “Renegade” achievement in “Mass Effect,” and probably never will.

Categories: Features