Types of Insomnia: Is Blue Light Making You Blue?
If you're a gamer, this is the time to be alive. Never in human history have we had so many different forms of entertainment to choose from. Whether you like role-playing games, first-person shooters, puzzles or anything else, there's something out there for you to find, become obsessed with and eventually master.
One negative of having all this awesome entertainment at our fingertips is that it can be difficult to put the controller down at night. On the flipside, those who suffer from insomnia often get up and return to the imaginary world within the game to pass the time. It's better than the alternatives, which include binging reality television, lurking on your ex's social-media profiles and staring blankly into the darkness for hours.
Gaming and Insomnia: The Chicken and the Egg
For gamers who are having a hard time getting to sleep at night, it's a bit of a chicken-egg scenario. Are you suffering from insomnia because you play games, or are you playing games because you suffer from insomnia?
The human body has a natural rhythm that aligns with the cycle of the planet. This is called the circadian rhythm. In other words, your brain is trained to wake up with the sun and get sleepy when the darkness arrives. In the modern world, we're always being bombarded with unnatural light, which is one reason many people have trouble sleeping.
Even more than household lighting, it's screen time that's really doing a number on us. Whether it be video games, phones or general web browsing, our time spent connecting to the digital world is having a negative effect on our sleep patterns. Even though we don't consciously notice, screens emit light on the blue wavelength, which tricks the brain into believing that it's daytime. Exciting video games also get the adrenaline pumping, which further contributes to insomnia.
However, before you blame your love of video games for your failing ability to fall asleep, it's wise to examine your troubled sleep pattern and find the true reason for it. While late-night gaming certainly isn't helping, there can sometimes be other reasons for insomnia that shouldn't be overlooked. The first step is learning what type of insomnia you're suffering with.
Types of Insomnia
1. Sleep Onset
- With this type of insomnia, you have trouble falling asleep. You might feel exhausted and wish for sleep, but your brain simply won't relax and allow it. You also might feel wide awake when you know you should be sleepy.
2. Sleep Maintenance
- This type of insomnia involves the inability to stay asleep. As we age, our brains lose the ability to produce melatonin, an important natural hormone that helps regulate sleep cycles. Therefore, this type of insomnia is more common among older folks.
3. Early Awakening
- This is similar to the type we mentioned above, but this type involves unsettling feelings of restlessness in the early morning hours. It's considered a serious form of the disorder and often affects people who are already suffering from depression.
The Causes of Insomnia: Figuring Out the Problem
- You had an embarrassing moment at the office, and you can't stop replaying it in your head as you attempt to leave the day behind. You had a fight with your spouse, and you can't stop tossing and turning as you think about some snarky comment he made. You have financial troubles, and you're trying to work out a budget for the following month. Does any of this sound familiar?
- Most people get mild cases of insomnia from time to time, which are often caused by stress. These cases can last anywhere from a single night to three weeks. It's normal to feel unsettled by stressful incidents in your life, but stress isn't the only problem that can lead to short-term insomnia. As we already mentioned, exposure to screens in the late-night hours can have a negative effect on your brain. If you notice that you're having trouble sleeping after recently spending time gaming in the evening hours, there is most likely a connection there.
- Short-term insomnia can often be remedied by stress-reducing lifestyle changes, such as meditation, exercise, a relaxing nighttime routine and good eating habits.
- This is another short-term type of insomnia. What we commonly think jet lag fits into this category, but it can also have other causes. When you suddenly change time zones or sleep patterns, it throws off your internal clock and makes sleeping difficult or outright impossible.
- If your insomnia isn't getting better over a long period of time, it's important to visit a doctor. A long-term lack of proper sleep can have serious health consequences. A wide variety of mental and physical problems can cause this issue, including a scary genetic condition called Fatal Familial Insomnia. Luckily, this is extremely rare, and it's unlikely that it's the source of your problem.
Tackling Insomnia - What Next?
If you suspect that your gaming habits are interfering with sleep, don't worry. There are solutions that don't involve quitting your favorite pastime. Along with making an effort to put the game away an hour or two before you plan to fall asleep, you can also invest in devices that filter out blue light and allow you to partake without throwing off your circadian rhythms.
There are all sorts of blue-light filtering techniques, from special monitors designed to emit less of the light to glasses you can wear while you play. There are also devices you can place in front of your monitor, which are among the most comfortable of solutions.