MENTAL HEALTH

Is gaming causing insomnia? Not necessarily, says one mental health expert.

Oct 6, 2023, 7:00 AM | Updated: 10:39 am

Image of a gamer playing a video game - Thousands of online gamers in Utah are suffering from insom...

FILE - A gamer plays Electronic Arts' "Apex Legends" in Jersey City, N.J., on March 6, 2019. (Jenny Kane /Associated Press)

(Jenny Kane /Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY — Despite claims that gaming causes insomnia, one mental health expert isn’t so sure. Instead, he highlights the link between already-existing mental health issues and insomnia.

Nathan Johnson, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, said claims about gaming-induced insomnia might not be totally right but aren’t completely off the mark.

According to Johnson, insomnia isn’t usually the reason his patients seek help, but it plays a big role in the things they are coming to him for.

Oftentimes, incoming patients are struggling with depression or anxiety and their insomnia is a side effect.

“It’s so common of a thing it’s just like, ‘Oh yeah I stay up late and I game a lot late and I have sleep problems,” Johnson said.

Aside from being a side effect of struggling mental health, insomnia, in turn, worsens people’s mental health.

“If you’re really depressed then staying up gaming, getting poor sleep is going to make you feel worse. So if you improve your sleep, you’re going to feel a little bit better. If you’re really anxious. Of course, nobody functions really well when they’re really sleep-deprived.” 

Gaming isn’t the only culprit though. Johnson said all screens like our phones and TVs can make you stay up too late.

And that’s no accident. Johnson said companies design games to be addicting and to keep people interested.

How to tackle insomnia

The good news is that there are ways to help ease insomnia.

Johnson recommended being conscious of your screen usage. Through discipline and structure, you can train yourself to limit screen time to a healthier amount.

Another recommendation was to put all screens away at least 30 minutes before bedtime. Doing that will tell your brain that it’s time to wind down and get ready for bed.

Insomnia impacts all aspects of life, making it difficult to focus, remember, and even socialize. Making improvements to your sleep schedule will benefit you all around.

“Work on the sleep and then the ability to handle stressors suddenly improves quite a bit,” Johnson said.

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Is gaming causing insomnia? Not necessarily, says one mental health expert.