Videogame Addiction Linked to Sleep Curtailment, Cardiometabolic Issues

A new study has used an inexpensive wearable sleep monitor to establish sleep patterns among a group of adolescents with videogame addiction and to identify an association between participants’ curtailed sleep, obesity, and cardiometabolic deficiencies.

Published May 5, 2016, in PLoS One, the study suggests it might be possible to improve the cardiometabolic health of adolescents by preventing or limiting videogame addiction and normalizing sleep patterns, factors that appear to be linked.

The Take Home.  Videogame Addiction Linked to Sleep Curtailment, Cardiometabolic Issues

The researchers suggest the results might have broader applications beyond adolescents and videogames and could be applied to fields where employees are sleep deprived.  

“This should be of interest to firms, because they often try to reduce health premium costs (in the United States) and improve the health of employees, as a means to reduce issues such as absenteeism,” lead investigator Ofir Turel, PhD (California State University, Fullerton) told TCTMD in an email. “Sleep may be one factor which contributes to poor cardiometabolic health among employees and can hence be a viable intervention target.”

Sleep Linked with Impaired Cardiometabolic Risk Factors

In their study, the researchers collected data from 94 adolescents ages 10 to 17 years recruited from a pediatric lipid clinic and a weight management clinic. Participants completed a paper survey to capture videogame addiction, with investigators assessing such symptoms as withdrawal, conflict, relapse, and tolerance, among others. All participants were given a FitBit device to record their sleep for 1 week. Measures of lipid and insulin resistance, waist circumference, height, and blood pressure were recorded at 1 and 8 weeks.

Results showed that heavy videogame use was negatively associated with duration of sleep as measured by the FitBit device. Sleep duration was negatively associated with obesity, which was itself associated with elevated blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and high insulin resistance.

A post-hoc analysis showed that sleep duration was a key mechanism in the relationship between videogame addiction and obesity. An analysis suggested a significant indirect effect between videogame addiction and obesity, but a direct effect between these variables could not be shown.

The logic behind looking for this effect was based on the increase in sedentary time associated with videogames, but it may be too simplistic to draw a link between sedentary behavior and videogame addiction, Turel told TCTMD. “In retrospect, this effect may depend on the types of game and gaming platforms,” he said. “Some game platforms, in fact, require physical activity and movement (eg, playing on Wii or Kinect).”

Ultimately, clinicians should take note of the results of this study because they add another perspective when dealing with patients referred to them with obesity or cardiometabolic health concerns, Turel said.

“Our findings suggest that in such cases they may want to examine videogame addiction and sleep patterns as potential etiological factors,” Turel said. “These may be treated with behavioral interventions; in extreme cases they may be treated with other approaches or by referral to experts.”

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  • Turel O, Romashkin A, Morrison KM. Health outcomes of information system use lifestyles among adolescents: videogame addiction, sleep curtailment and cardiometabolic deficiencies. PLoS One. 2016;11(5):e0154764.

  • Turel reports no relevant conflicts of interest.