5 easy ways to level up your (gaming) life with sleep
Want to power up your stamina, mental sharpness, and overall health? Start sleeping more. Here's how.
Maybe it’s something we carry over from childhood—this idea that if you stay up all night you somehow “won.” You beat the night! The Sandman is limping away with his unused bag of pixie dust cursing your name!
But all-nighters are something that—like communal bathrooms, instant ramen, and keg stands—are best left behind once you leave campus.
Sleep is an undervalued part of everyone’s daily health, but it can be especially tough for gamers. It’s easy to get sucked in, lose track of time, and push yourself to get to that next level or checkpoint. But real talk? Giving your body time to recover will have enormous benefits in your ability to think fast and react quickly—thus improving your performance.
A recent study by the Sleep Foundation, a sleep resources website not affiliated with the nonprofit National Sleep Foundation, found that 74 percent of adults it surveyed admitted that they would also regularly stay up late to game when they were teens. Fifty-four percent still do.
A few key lifestyle changes can ensure you wake up feeling refreshed and rejuvenated—“respawned,” if you will. Here are a five easy ways you can help rewire your body to see sleep as a necessity, not a hurdle.
1. Give yourself a bedtime
We know, this sounds like regression, but it’s not. While most kids dread the knock at the bedroom door from frazzled parents demanding they go to bed, actually having a set routine helps your body keep a steady rhythm and improves your sleep.
As the Harvard Business Review put it, “Undershooting or overshooting on sleep can lead to fatigue on some days and schedule chaos on others—with widespread impacts on mood and productivity.” In other words, if you think you can “make up” for lack of sleep by sleeping all day the next day, you’re not doing yourself any favors. Consistency is key. Sleep is when your body does all of its best healing.
2. If you can, keep games out of the bedroom
It’s not always possible, but if you don’t have to have your game set-up share the same space as your bed, you shouldn’t. It’s easier to unplug and mentally tell yourself “OK, we’re stopping now” when you’re forced to move physical locations.
This is what’s known as “Bedroom Hygiene,” creating a space that is only for sleeping (well, mostly).
3. Avoid blue light exposure
This one applies to the smartphone-obsessed, too.
The blue light of your digital displays actually wakes your brain up. This stands to reason because, in nature, the largest source of blue light exposure is the sun. So your brain thinks its broad daylight as you plow through quests well beyond the midnight hour—which is obviously not ideal.
You and your brain need to be on the same page. That much should be obvious.
4. Mind your snacks
When you’re in the thick of it, it’s hard to find time to break way from a game to prepare yourself a healthy, thoughtful snack. You usually just grab whatever’s easy and available. (We may have a thing or two to say about that.)
Caffeine, spicy foods, dairy products—these things can upset your stomach or give you shots of energy precisely when you need it least. Caffeine, for example, blocks the natural effects of adrenosine, which your body uses to promote natural sleep.
5. Tire yourself out
Exercise in any form not only gives you a break from sitting (and often hunching) over a console or PC—which alone would make it beneficial—it also physically exhausts you. (Come to think of it, we have a thing or two to say about this, too.)
You brain knows it shouldn’t stay up all night gaming, but your body can reinforce the message. Break a sweat earlier in the day and, as the day starts winding down, your body will let you know that it has had enough. You definitely should listen.
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