Gaming May Contribute to Sleep Problems, Obesity, and Heart Disease

Playing video games used to be considered a harmless pastime for kids to enjoy. It wasn't that long ago that most people played video games by taking a trip to the local arcade.

But with the rise of gaming systems like PlayStation, Xbox, and online gaming platforms, an estimated 1.2 billion people play videos games. For some people, that means staring into a TV or monitor and controlling a character for hours at a time. And it can lead to serious health problems, according to a recent study.

Researchers tracked a group of teens engaged in a lifestyle management program to lose weight or lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Each person in the study received a fitness tracker to monitor physical activity and sleep habits. Researchers wanted to find out if playing video games had an impact on their health.

The results were surprising. The teens who played video games the most slept fewer hours per night, and were more likely to have high blood pressure, and higher levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and glucose. If you spend a lot of time playing video games, it can have a negative impact on your sleep habits and your health.

"Sleep is emerging as a critical behavior for cardio-metabolic health," says co-author of the study Dr. Katherine Morrison, a professor at McMaster University and pediatric endocrinologist. "This data shows that gaming addictions can cause numerous health issues in at least a segment of the population."

While playing videos games and getting fewer hours of sleep appears to have a negative impact on your health. It may not be the only factor gamers need to look at. For many gamers, the hours spent playing in a virtual world are often fueled by unhealthy snack foods and drinks loaded with sugar, fat, and empty calories. If you enjoy playing video games, there's no reason you need to give it up. But you should pay attention to the number of hours you spend playing video games, aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, and eat a healthy diet.

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