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Bed Basics

The Best Sleep Products for Gamers of all Levels

Sleep has a tremendous effect on how well we function throughout the day. It impacts our mood, energy levels, cognitive functions, reaction times and our ability to make decisions. Our everyday lives hinge on these aspects, but our virtual lives are affected, too. And it’s not just one-sided: Our sleep is affected by our virtual habits.

In the alternative world of video games, we’re in charge of our characters' lives, but our own personal health and sleep quality are directly tied to our gaming habits. They can play a role in our success in the game, and our posture, blue light and time immersed can affect our sleep. Some of us turn to gaming as an enjoyable hobby, or a way to disconnect from our own lives and enter an entirely new world. While we commonly conjur an image of sitting in a dimly lit room in front of a computer or TV through the night, gamers have a unique dependency on getting high-quality, restorative sleep.

To uncover how gamers can get great sleep (and likely improve performance), we checked in with two experts for practical tips about how to wind down after gaming, and what products can help us get our best sleep.

How Sleep Impacts Gaming

Role-playing games (RPGs) put us in charge of a character. We’re responsible for their well-being, and this usually involves making sure they’re well-rested. In an RPG, you might make your character a cozy bed and ensure that their bedroom is serene for comfort and safety. But video games have a remarkable ability to make us lose track of time in real life and sacrifice our own sleep. We make sure our character is well-rested, but whether we’re focused on the game, engaged with other players, or simply looking to unwind for a bit longer, we sometimes fail to recognize that it’s past our desired bedtime, and well past time to put ourselves to bed. Gaming for prolonged stretches also exposes us to blue light, a common enemy of sleep.

Jade Wu, Ph.D., sleep psychologist, Sleep Advisor to Mattress Firm and researcher at Duke University School of Medicine, points out that not getting enough sleep can negatively impact our performance in everyday life, especially if we’re gaming. “I would think gamers would especially want to be well-rested because even a millisecond can make a difference in a game,” she says.

Wu is referencing how a lack of sleep can slow our reaction times, something that can make or break you while gaming. She also mentions that a gamer who isn’t well-rested could struggle with making decisions, assessing risk and regulating emotions.

A recent study released by University of California, Irvine’s Sleep and Cognition Lab used the video game Minecraft to help determine the impact of quality sleep on spatial memory performance. The two-part study found that players could better remember specific locations in the games after a night of quality rest.

Our bodies follow a sleep-wake cycle, the circadian rhythm. It’s an internal clock that sends signals about when it’s time to head to bed and when it’s time to rise in the morning. But gaming, with its adrenaline-inducing elements, paired with the indoor setting and sometimes long hours spent staring at blue light, can throw off our circadian rhythm.

“The only way for our brains to know if it’s day or night is through the window, which is the eyes. If there's no light coming into your eyes, or if there’s light coming into your eyes 24/7, then the circadian clock becomes very confused, and it doesn't know when it's nighttime. The result can be that it doesn't make you as sharp when you're awake, and doesn't let you sleep as well when you're sleeping.”

Further, time spent seated, whether on a sofa playing on a TV, at your computer, or on your phone, can cause muscle aches and back pains.

Abiding by best practices for your circadian rhythm, blocking out blue light and giving yourself the right muscle and spinal support can be a game-changer for gamers. Here’s how to make that happen.

The Best Sleep Products for Gamers

Mattress Firm Sleep Expert® Amber Greer understands the importance of sleep. As someone living with a gamer, she can attest to how your sleep environment plays a role in gaming. Here are her recommendations for the best sleep products to ensure that gamers sleep well.

Sleep Well on a Pressure-Relieving Mattress

Gaming can be hard on the body, not only because of the long periods we spend sitting, but also because gaming can put pressure on the lower back, shoulders and arms, Greer says. To help counter this, she says gamers should be looking for a mattress that excels in pressure relief. Mattress preference and comfort is highly individualized, so she recommends trying out a few brands and types, but she suggests that gamers start with the Shop the Intellibed series. These mattresses are designed to support spinal alignment, as well as alleviate aches, pains and stiffness, which can all occur from gaming or long stretches in a non-ergodynamic position.

Since heat can be a major sleep disruptor, Greer also points us toward breathable Tencel sheets from PureCare Elements.

Get an Adjustable Bed to Support You

Greer says gamers can have a hard time transitioning from the rapid environment of gaming to the tranquility of a wind-down routine. To help facilitate a shift of mindset, she recommends an adjustable base. These mattress support systems can raise the head and foot sections of the bed and place the sleeper in an ergonomically friendly position called zero-gravity. Greer explains that sleeping in the zero-g position elevates the legs, which can help with blood flow, and the upper body, which opens up the airways for better breathing. Some models include what she calls the “quick sleep mode,” a built-in massage function that lulls sleepers off to blissful rest. The Mattress Firm 900 and 600 models of adjustable bases, as well as the Tempur-Pedic Ergo, come with this massage feature.

Get Comfortable in Your Gaming Chair

No matter how much you try to practice perfect posture, gaming can quickly become all-consuming. A stressful battle can lead to shoulders tightening, or a gamer leaning into the screen, just as getting tired can lead to slouching. A gamer is bound to end up with some aches and pains, but Greer says adding extra support and cushion to your chair can work wonders. The Purple Seat Cushion is her number one recommendation, as well as the Tempur-Pedic Lumbar Support Cushion, for taking good care of the lower back.

Protect Your Eyes With Blue Light-Blocking Glasses

Our screens emit blue light, which can interfere with our circadian system. Wu explains that one of the largest issues with exposure to blue light is how much time we’re exposed. While a landscaper who works outside all day might not need to worry about a few hours of screen time at night, Wu says gamers should be taking precautions to limit blue light. A simple way to cut down is by wearing glasses that block out blue light or applying a blue light-blocking filter to the screen of your device.

Soothe Aches and Pains As Part of Your Bedtime Routine

It may not seem like it, but sitting in a chair for long stretches of time can be tiring and hard on the body. Greer says taking some time out before bed to soothe any pains allows the body to relax more, paving the way for deeper sleep. A heating pad for the neck, shoulders and back, like the Pure Enrichment PureRelief heating pad, can be a great way to ease from gaming into relaxation mode. The Pure Enrichment model has built-in magnetic closures to stay in place, so you can even wear it while gaming without worrying about it slipping off.

Greer also mentions that sore muscles could benefit from a massage gun like those in the Theragun lineup. The lower back, hips and shoulders often take the brunt of gaming, but she also says the forearms could benefit from some massage, too.

Sleep Hygiene For Gamers

Since sleep is a key factor for gamers, here are some expert tips about how to maintain a healthy routine that’s conducive to getting great rest.

Get Outside Every Day, If Possible

Wu recommends that everyone, including gamers, get outside for exposure to natural light for at least 20 minutes every day. She says that adding in activity while outdoors can take care of two tasks at the same time—getting natural light exposure as well as physical movement that can be crucial to getting good sleep.

Game In a Room Other Than Your Bedroom

Sleep Expert® Greer recommends gaming in a room other than your bedroom. She says that reserving your bedroom for restful activities rather than hyper-alert times while gaming can help signal to the body that it’s time to wind down when you enter your bedroom.

Set an Anchor Point to Keep Your Circadian Rhythm in Check

Given the variable schedule of gaming, paired with the lack of natural light, our circadian rhythms can struggle to maintain the same cadence. Wu recommends that gamers set an alarm for the same time each morning, as a way to anchor the schedule. “The best way to discover how much sleep each person needs is by holding the morning steady, and then protecting wind-down time in the evening,” she says. “Then go to bed whenever they feel sleepy. After they've done this for a week or two, their body will tell them to go to bed at a pretty consistent time because they'll have settled into that pattern.”

Allow for Eight to Nine Hours of Rest Each Night

Instead of setting a strict schedule of getting eight hours of sleep per night, Wu recommends gamers get eight to nine hours of rest each night. Resting doesn’t necessarily mean sleeping, but rather, spending time away from the blue light that comes from screens and, instead, focusing on relaxation.

Whether you’re a professional gamer or someone who picks up the controller for an hour after work, sleep can heavily factor into the gaming experience. Your best games are likely to come when you’ve prioritized getting good sleep.

Shop recommended sleep products for gamers