Video Games and Sleep Research: Video Games Used to Help Measure Memory Loss

Conventional wisdom holds that video games contribute to a lack of sleep, especially in younger people. Young men tend to play more video games, so it is not surprising that they are the primary sufferers of this form of sleep deprivation, simply from staying up to play video games. There is even evidence that late-night video gamers suffer from sleep disturbances caused by their addiction to the flashing lights of the games; they may actually be waking in the middle of the night to ‘get their fix.’ Studies have, in fact, confirmed these effects on some people. Thus, the common belief is video games are responsible for many more negative effects on a person’s sleep patterns than any positive effects that they could produce. This is probably generally true. However, the connection between video games and sleep research is not uniformly bad, as video games were recently enlisted for use in a sleep study involving memory loss and sleep deprivation.

The study, conducted by NYU’s Langone Medical Center in New York City, was led by Andrew Varga, clinical instructor of Medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine. This study demonstrated that the deprivation of REM sleep has a detrimental effect on a person’s memory of everyday events. They tested several subjects who played video games both at the beginning and the end of each trial, introducing a period of sleep deprivation in between the game playing. The mistakes and confusions which resulted when the subjects played the video games after sleep deprivation underscored the need for proper, unbroken REM sleep throughout the night.

Sleep apnea, the most common sleep disorder in the United States, has two main negative effects. It creates numerous repetitive dips in the blood’s oxygen levels, and it creates numerous small arousals that interrupt sleep continuity. The disruption of spatial memory caused by sleep apnea was easily measured in the playing of repetitive video games. Moreover, the study utilizing video games and sleep research showed that the loss of memory can have further implications. Clearly, our bodies need more than just rest, as unbroken sleep seems to be the key to gaining all of the positive effects of sleeping each night.