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Sleeping Habits in Esports

We have all been in a situation where we would sacrifice a good night of sleep just to play that one more game. Or maybe some of you have teammates in different time zones (like I do!) and can only play during a specific time. For gamers, sleep and sleeping habits are probably one of the most important “side” activities for acquiring new skills, skill development, learning, memory and overall brain functioning. 

At some point, our body and mind will pay the price for those unslept nights and the unbalanced day-night cycle. You see, human beings are wired to Circadian rhythm, which is basically a 24-hour internal clock, controlled by a „master clock” (hypothalamus) part of the brain, that is running in the background and cycles between awake and sleep states at regular intervals. If this cycle is out of balance, it could harm our sleeping pattern and our ability to function normally both physically and mentally.

Ok, now that I’ve scientifically covered myself, let’s get into the more interesting stuff.

In the 21st century, almost everyone has experienced some kind of sleeping problem, so gamers you are not the only ones. Everyone functions differently, but it is important to understand why sleep matters and how incorporating an effective sleeping schedule, for your lifestyle, can improve your performance and make you a better gamer and all-around individual

As I normally do with all my players when we talk about this particular topic, I will explain the benefits of sleep, but more importantly what can happen when you are sleep deprived.

It is common knowledge that sleep plays a pivotal role in maintaining physical and mental health throughout life. Good sleeping habits can enhance learning, memory, decision-making and problem-solving, among other things. 

When you sleep, your whole body goes into a resting state, throughout which both the body and mind recover and rejuvenate to get ready for the next day. Ever wondered why babies sleep so much? This period of growing up is important for neural and brain development and sleep is what facilitates this. The same thing applies later during adulthood – sleep is crucial to function at full capacity.

Make no mistake, the lack of sleep actually damages your progress and does zero favors for your goals. Let us look at some side effects:

  • You won’t be prepared for the next day. Your reaction time will be slower and you will have a harder time concentrating on the task at hand, not to mention you will be physically exhausted.
  • Your ability to learn, acquire and reprocess new things will be disrupted. It affects mood and behavior regulation which in return makes it harder to cope with everyday pressure, stress and deal with changes.
  • An energy drink will get you through the day but…can it replace sleep? It can only provide players with momentary energy boosts and can never replace proper sleep. When sleep deprived, there is a high chance that you will experience a microsleep. These are brief moments of sleep that happen when a person is awake. I am pretty sure that you don’t want to fall asleep during a team meeting or a game.

Contrariwise, if you get around 8 hours of sleep, you should feel well-rested, ready to cope and fully able to take new challenges head-on. These 8 hours is a general rule and it might not apply to every lifestyle. If you consider yourself to be a highly functional person who needs a different amount of sleep to perform at maximum capacity, then that is your quota.

When we should go to sleep is probably equally as important as how long we sleep. And this also depends on your lifestyle. The typical time to go to sleep would be between 20:00 (8 PM) and 22:00 (10 PM) or even midnight. But in esports and with gamers that is rarely the case. We just love to pull late night games because it is nice and quiet.  

To better understand why all this is so important you also need to understand what is happening when we sleep. 

Sleep is a cyclical process in which two different phases, non-REM and REM occur. They are the main points during which the body and mind recover. The full cycle happens several times during your sleep, which means that you go through non-REM and REM phases several time. Breaking this cycle can leave you feeling tired and groggy and will affect how you function the next day. Remember a situation where you went to bed at 4 AM and woke up feeling tired. That is probably because you haven’t had enough deep sleep. You might also feel more annoyed by the things around you which will make you more prone to conflict, or you will have harder time following team discussion and strategizing about the next upcoming practice.

Here are some practical advices on how to optimize and arrange your sleeping environment e.g bedroom to ensure the best possible sleep quality. 

  • Air it out and cool it off before going to sleep.
  • Use the right bedding but don’t get carried away.
  • Eliminate any noise, such as a clock on the wall.
  • Keep it dark. If you have to, put thick curtains on the windows.
  • Turn off any electronic device (put your phone in an airplane mode)
  • If possible avoid watching Twitch, YT or Netflix while laying in bed. This is pretty hard to do, so I suggest using a blue light filter or anything similar on your device that won’t affect your sleep.
  • Use breathing exercise or meditation to “cool-off” your body and mind and wander into sleep

© Photos by Michal Konkol – LoL Esports Photos 2019

Milan Dumić

Currently working with Red Star Esports organization as their performance coach for LoL and FIFA teams. Next to that, 8 years of experience working with professional athletes, gamers, and organizations. As a lifelong video gamer, he enjoys to play video games and keep up with the current trends in the gaming and esports industry.

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