Can Pokemon Go Cure Your Insomnia?

Pokemon Go is a mobile game that was released on July 6, 2016. During the summer of 2016 the "PoGo" craze swept the world with business owners rushing to register their businesses as PokeStops, and hordes of players descending upon popular parks. Two years later in 2018 the game is going through a renaissance as the developer, Niantic, has improved gameplay and added hundreds of additional Pokemon.

Unlike most video games, Pokemon Go forces the player to get off the couch and step into the real world. You have to keep moving in order to level up throughout the game, and unless you live in the city there won't be anything to catch around the house.

One added benefit of leveling up your in-game character is leveling up your own sleep game. Pokemon Go is the perfect gamification of exercise, and exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle and sleep hygiene. But can Pokemon Go actually cure your insomnia? Let's explore this idea.

Video Game Culture and Sleep

If you are an avid video gamer you may be asking yourself, “Why am I not sleeping well?” According to an analysis of MMO game hours, 75% of gamers play at least 1.9 hours at a day, and 25% of gamers play longer than 4.9 hours per day. Based on an informal survey of SleepXP readers, it's not uncommon for someone to spent 8-12 hours playing a MMO or other game type on the weekend. Though MMOs are only one genre of video games, this data was valuable to help quantify playing habits.

gaming sleep and exercise 1
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According to researcher Brandy Roane, PhD, "...video gaming is quite an important factor that frequently leads to missed sleep for 67% of gamers." Lack of sleep can be very detrimental to your health if it becomes a common occurrence. People that routinely get little to no sleep can exhibit a wide variety of symptoms, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, hormonal changes, and insomnia. Additionally, poor sleep habits can exacerbate existing mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety. Do you spend more time leveling up your in-game character than yourself?

How Pokemon Go Can Help You Exercise

So what does all of this have to do with Pokemon Go? Well, Pokemon Go is one of the first video games that appeals to all ages and gets people up and moving. Getting regular exercise is part of good sleep hygiene and overall health, and exercise can dramatically decrease insomnia if done properly and consistently. 

Pokemon Go is getting many people who don’t have a regular exercise routine to get up and get moving on a daily basis. They aren’t focused on the exercise portion of the game, but it's an added benefit.

The game incentivizes exercise in a number of ways:

  • In order to hatch an egg you need to walk 2km, 5km, or 10km
  • Some Pokemon require walking to evolve, such as Feebas
  • Your buddy will give you candy if you walk them 1km, 3km, or 5km

Only 16 more candies until I can evolve to Blissey!
That's a LOT more walking.

It's very difficult - impossible, really - to hatch an egg or earn extra candies without walking. The game developer isn’t stupid - they've put controls in place to stop people from cheating or spoofing. While there are no official "speed limits", the Silph Road SubReddit community have extrapolated what these actual limits are - 6.5 mph for hatching eggs and ~20mph for spinning Pokestops. There's no way around it - you have to get movin' to play the game.

Pokemon Go also has a great way of spacing out the PokeStops and Gyms. There are some high populated areas where they are more dense than others, but generally they are spaced out enough so you are encouraged to walk. It seems ridiculous to drive a tenth of a mile to get to the next PokeStop, so you might as well get off your butt and walk. The game also has a feature so you can’t just sit and spin the PokeStop repeatedly and gain items - it takes about 5 minutes for you to be able to spin it again. During that time, you might as well walk to the next Gym or PokeStop.

You can stay in one spot for a while when you are battling in a Gym or competing in a raid. However, those both usually last only a few minutes, and then you are out and about moving again to the next destination. You are more than encouraged to keep moving throughout the game to catch the best and the most Pokemon.

Best Times for Exercise

While the effects aren’t usually immediate, regular exercise helps increase the production of melatonin, which is a hormone your body creates to help you get to sleep and stay asleep. Exercise is best done in the morning so that your melatonin will kick in around the time you should be going to sleep. However, it can also be effective if you prefer to exercise in the afternoon or at night as well.

If you are someone who prefers to get your exercise (or Pokemon hunting) done at night, this isn’t a huge problem. First, be sure to get a blue light filter for your phone. Second, there are a few things you might need to do in order to get your body relaxed and ready for bed. Having a regular bedtime routine and doing the same thing every night before you go to bed will let your body know it needs to wind down. In addition, doing a few deep breathing exercises as you are laying down slows down your heart rate and calms your mind and body. When it comes to getting in your exercise, do what works best for you and stay consistent.

Conclusion

If Pokemon Go is played correctly, it could in fact help cure your insomnia. Multiple studies show after a few months of consistent exercise, adults with insomnia fell asleep quicker, slept longer, and had better sleep quality than before they started exercising. If you play the game on a daily basis and make it a regular habit to walk from Gyms to PokeStops, you will be getting a lot of fun exercise and level up your own sleep game.

In order to really succeed at Pokemon Go, you need to get up and get move. If you don’t, how are you possibly going to catch them all?

  • Updated August 28, 2018
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