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If I've played for about an hour or two directly before going to bed I have trouble getting to sleep. Images of the game are still in my head and it takes some time before I can find some sleep. However, this doesn't happen with all types of games - adventure and racing games seem ok whereas first-person-shooters are especially problematic.

Do you experience similar troubles and do you know some kind of trick to calm down after a gaming session?

  • 3
    i remember reading somewhere once that watching tv (and i'd imagine by extension using a computer) activates certain parts of the brain that make it harder to fall directly asleep. unfortunately i no longer remember where i read that, but the suggestions by @ChrisF should help i'd think. – Xantec Mar 16 '11 at 13:44
  • I played COD 4 on its first release date and I still hear the ringing of grenades hitting concrete when I lie in bed ... – Sadly Not Mar 16 '11 at 14:56
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    You only play for an hour or two? Maybe that's your problem. You're not satisfying your brains need for more hardcore sessions. – Sam Mar 16 '11 at 15:49
  • @Sam: My personal experiences seem to make sleep harder the more I play before bed. A half-hour isn't so bad; an hour or more is difficult. If I played all day I will have a very difficult time getting to sleep. – MrHen Mar 16 '11 at 18:01
  • The following study suggests implementing a no-electronics policy for one whole hour before going to bed: lifehacker.com/#!5524849/… – Joshua Shane Liberman Mar 17 '11 at 0:33

14 Answers 14

36

Stop playing an hour or two before you go to bed to give yourself time to calm down.

First person shooters are more "involving" than other types of game as you are directly "in" the game rather than controlling an object/person on the screen. This will tend to get you more excited and therefore you'll find it harder to get to sleep.

You could also try meditation techniques to relax once you've finished your gaming session.

Of course all of this is highly subjective as each person is affected differently - you need to find something that works for you.

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    Meditation techniques can be something deceptively simple. I take a long, hot shower and stay there until I am no longer focusing on the game. (Or the hot water runs out.) – MrHen Mar 16 '11 at 18:02
  • Chris, I think you said it very well! – Albus Dumbledore Mar 16 '11 at 20:21
  • Immersive is the word, i think – Rohan Monga Apr 6 '11 at 11:09
  • Indeed, after very stimulative games, it's normal to have a hard time going to sleep because of the adrenaline and the "Stress" (it' not really stress). Take your time to read something or practice meditation as ChrisF suggested. It's not a health issue. – Edeph Dec 18 '13 at 8:02
17

Read a book. Sleep will fall upon you naturally as you context switch to a more imaginative, relaxed state of mind.

It doesn't have to be anything special; a comic book will do.

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    I'd add a caveat that this will only work for some. I find my imagination keeps me up :P – Matthew Read Mar 16 '11 at 14:38
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    Read a programming book, works for me. – Doozer Blake Mar 16 '11 at 14:54
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    ECMA-262 puts me to sleep in about 10-15 minutes. – zzzzBov Mar 16 '11 at 19:53
  • Reading for half an hour before I sleep makes me calm down too. Great suggestion. – Carra Mar 16 '11 at 21:57
  • One of the reasons this works so well is that experts theorize that looking at screens - your ipad, monitor, etc - right before bed makes it harder for you to go to sleep. So, avoiding your electronics should help immensely. – rlb.usa Apr 17 '12 at 16:04
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I think there is some good advice here, I'm going to try and share my personal experience as well.

Back when I was in High School I used to work out a lot (Anaerobic mostly). Working out is extremely tiring so after a long day I usually had little problem getting to sleep. However, I was a teenager so there were still nights when I had insomnia. I quickly made the correlation between working out and being tired and came up with the brilliant idea: I'll work out right before bed so I'll sleep better.

Don't do this.

Turns out that is just about the worst idea in the world. A good workout is extremely stimulating; your heart starts pumping faster, body temperature rises, arteries contract and then dilate, none of which sounds like getting to bed. It turns out it also has a major effect on your brain. While we tend to not spend time thinking about moving around, on a neurological level its actually very engaging. We see activity in the hypocampus, increased bloodflow, burning of lactates, and the release of Epinephrine.

That last one is kind of important.

Epinephrine is one of those miracle drugs. It can restart your heart or give you super human strength. Its also the drug designed to be triggered in that flight or fight circumstance; evolutionarily, that's the one where you think you might die. Its not really a stretch to see how a hormone like Epinephrine can cause your body to stay away for prolonged periods of time

But Tzenes, why are you talking about workouts?

Well, a game that you really enjoy can have a very similar response to a work out. Your brain starts to get very active, has increased bloodflow, starts burning lactates, and starts releasing Epinephrine. Whoops.

I've actually talked about the connection between Epinephrine and Gaming before. Its most noticeable when your heart starts pounding or your fingers feel cold. Whether the game is immersive or its the competition that gets you going, its not hard to kick off that old flight or fight response; and once you do... good luck getting to bed.

  • That being said, there is a crash that happens once the workout effects suddenly disappear. Is it possible to time the workout so that the crash happens shortly before bedtime? – MrHen Mar 16 '11 at 18:04
  • @MrHen is not that simple. The "crash" you usually feel is the exhaustion of your body which the Epinephrine has been masking. If your body isn't exhausted, then it doesn't matter when it leaves your system. Additionally, the effects of Epinephrine can persist hours after its left your system. What's more the idea of a "crash" isn't tied to just the workout conditions. Its more than possible to finish a work out and still be producing Epinephrine afterwards. – tzenes Mar 16 '11 at 18:09
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    should be on fitness.SE more with all this talk of working out ;-) – Ivo Flipse Mar 16 '11 at 20:47
  • @Ivo not sure if you noticed, but I am – tzenes Mar 17 '11 at 0:44
  • Even though this is all true, it merely explains why the OP has the problem he is experiencing, it does not answer his question in any way. – Kevin Mar 8 '13 at 22:04
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The easiest trick to try is lowering the color temperature on your display which produces the light cues appropriate to sunset. Most monitors have a setting for this on the on-screen display, perhaps with settings like "cool" and "warm" (you want "warm" for gaming at night).

There are utilities to do this for you automatically (f.lux) but they may not work in DirectX games, so use the settings on your monitor. If you are console gaming on a TV, it should have similar settings.

Why does this work? Because displays produce light that signal your brain that it is noon. The default is 6500K, which is the color spectrum of high noon. At sunset, the sun produces light at color temperatures more like 4000K. Your brain pays close attention to these light cues in regulating your sleep.

If you can't change the color temperature of the display, dimmed halogen bulbs and firelight also produce similar color temperatures, and you can have these lights around as you play.

  • This, and lower the contrast too late at night. Your entire view is filled up with a light source, making your brain believe it's in the middle of the day. Before going to bed, your brain has to switch to 'Hey, it's night'-mode - dim the lights, get away from your computer, get some comfy warmth, etc. This triggers the production of a hormone (or something) that'll actually cause the symptoms of feeling sleepy. (I might be wrong on the last part, though). – Cthulhu Mar 17 '11 at 21:45
  • Neat answer @Plynx – Code Whisperer Dec 18 '13 at 16:46
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The same thing happens to me, too. It also happens when I see a particularly good/exciting movie, or eaten some chocolate, or drink too much Mountain Dew. I have learned that I just have to avoid these things around bedtime. This can be frustrating, especially since night time is when the kids are in bed and is the best time to play. Isn't aging wonderful?

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I fall asleep watching/listening to hypnosis sessions. A good one will put me to sleep within minutes no matter what I was doing 10 minutes before I laid down. I use my iPod touch and low profile earbuds.

Here's one of the ones I listen to, the dude is kinda weird but it gets me to sleep:

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    I'm gonna have nightmare if I do that... – jokoon Mar 17 '11 at 10:02
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    It's probably not for everyone :) – rennat Mar 18 '11 at 2:09
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There are a lot of factors here, and unfortunately this is a very personal question - some people will fall asleep quite easily after playing, others have a harder time. The other answers have some very helpful tips regarding display colors, but if you don't want to mess with those, you might need an alternative.

Sometimes you might have trouble falling asleep because of adrenaline - the fast-paced excitement of a multi-player shooter keeps you awake and aware. You try to fall asleep but you keep replaying the exciting moments in your head. Try to pad some time in between playing and bedtime to allow your body and mind to calm down. Other times you may be in the middle of something in a longer game, and may be thinking of the next step. Maybe you're playing Civ and you're planning the next phase in your strategy, or maybe you're simply thinking about where to explore next in that big third-person open world game. Unless you don't mind thinking about those things, you need to get your mind off of whatever you have been playing and prepare it for sleep.

Have a hot shower, read a book or magazine article, do some stretches, or just take a walk. If you're up for it, try some meditation. The important thing is to distance yourself mentally and physically from the act of playing. That may not always be possible - sometimes the only time available for gaming is just before going to bed.

This goes beyond just game playing into just about every other facet of life. Work, sports, relationships, etc. If you're having trouble sleeping because you're thinking about something else just before bedtime, this may help.

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Along with the suggestions made so far (especially 'stop playing an hour before bed'), a little white noise in your room makes falling asleep that much easier. Not only does it drown out background noise that might keep you up, it helps eliminate the ambient thoughts keeping you awake at night.

Now where are good sources for white noise? Well, radio or television static with the volume set very low both work. Some very low-key music can also help. What I use with remarkable succeess is a simple air filter, which not only helps with my allergies, but provides very decent white noise.

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For starters, all sorts of useful information on falling asleep is available here:

http://www.wikihow.com/Fall-Asleep

I've noticed I can have two separate video game related problems.

  1. If I have been playing a game for too many hours that day, usually more than 6, when I close my eyes I still see the game. I don't consider this a problem, it's pretty fun!

  2. If I play an exciting video game too soon before going to bed I can't go to sleep either.

There's no quick fix to not being able to fall asleep. However, I've found this method, if applied consistently over a few months, does really help:

http://www.stevepavlina.com/blog/2013/07/how-to-fall-asleep-in-less-than-30-seconds/

Cheers!

0

Yea, I have the same issue. Assuming I don't game long enough to faceplant on the keyboard (at which point I don't need wind-down time), I generally take 30 minutes after I stop playing to catch up on forums, browse humor sites, stuff like that. Don't read the news, or any sort of forum where some troll is going to get you angry and wake you up.

Even if you're up late enough that you need to be going to bed, taking some time to settle your mind will get you to sleep faster.

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This thing happens to me, but only in special cases. Specifically whenever I am loosing, or performing bad in the game, so say, I am constantly loosing matches (e.g you getting killed every few seconds after respawning, getting rolled bad, etc..) I get stressed up.
Happens to me a lot playing World of Tanks Beta, where your performance is highly influenced by your other teammates which are most likely PUGs.
Finally for me, when facing this, I just wash my face with cold water and it works :)

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I would recommend playing games you enjoy that have a relatively happy atmosphere, for example GTA4 or San Andreas, but NOT Dead Space :P Watching a calming TV show in bed seems to help free my mind of the game, but this does strain my eyes.

  • If you're imaginative, playing Dead Space before bed is the worst thing you can possibly do :) – Nate Koppenhaver Aug 19 '12 at 16:36
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Happened to me when I was nerding with Quake3 and OSP + hard bots just before going to bed.

Just read something, I guess it will do a lot of good to your brain, you will start being sleepy after 10 min.

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Sometimes I see the same - pictures from game in my head. I have no problems with it, I am trying to dream about the game. I will usually fall asleep after few minutes.

As I have performed martial arts for some time, I've found that meditation can help to clear your mind. It is not hard at all, it takes about minute of your time. Just:

  • Sit down in a comfortable position on the floor, with your back straight
  • Close your eyes
  • Start to breathe slowly and smoothly. Inhale through your nose using your stomach muscles, hold for a second or two, then slowly exhale through your mouth.
  • Important: Don't think on anything, except on how you breathe. Feel the air in you, nothing else. Ignore all sounds.
  • Breathe like this for about 15 times

After that, you should feel refreshed.

Before you go to bed, take a half hour to calm down. Go to drink glass of milk, take a shower, brush your teeth, muck your pets if you have some. :)

Play your favorite music as you try to fall asleep, as loud as it is comfortable for you.

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