Does Watching Sports Late at Night Impact Sleep?


sports and sleep

If you live with a sports enthusiast or are one yourself, staying up to catch a big game or match may be a frequent occurrence. However, whether done from the stadium or the comforts of home, watching late-night sporting events can negatively impact your nightly rest. Sleep is crucial to your ability to learn, grow and maintain balanced hormone levels and immune systems. Without adequate sleep, you can be at higher risk of obesity, other health conditions and impaired functioning.

Below, we discuss how watching sports late at night can impede the quality and duration of your sleep. We also share some tips to help you create a healthy sleep routine to improve your odds of waking up rested — even after game day.

How Does Watching Sports Late at Night Impact Sleep?

1. It can activate your body’s stress response system

By design, the action-filled, high-stakes nature of sporting events can induce a roller coaster of emotions in fans as they watch a game progress. Whether you’re conscious of these effects or not, an exciting game can create significant and measurable physiological changes within your body.

For example, during a study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, researchers found that hockey spectators experienced an increase in their heart rates after watching a game. For those who watched the game live in person, the increase was significant and similar to “vigorous physical stress,” and those who watched a televised game experienced a heart rate increase similar to “moderate physical stress.”

Watching a sports game can also lead to a surge of hormones such as testosterone and cortisol in your body. Researchers discovered that testosterone levels increased in sports spectators after their favored team won a game. In another study, results showed cortisol levels were higher in soccer fans watching a big game than when not watching a game.

Hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and testosterone are linked to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, our stress response system. When it’s triggered, it can make you feel the opposite of relaxed and sleepy. Instead, an overactive HPA axis can lead to arousal and difficulty sleeping.

2. It increases your exposure to blue light

While this only applies if you’re not part of the stadium crowd, using an electronic device such as a television, computer or phone with a screen to watch a game can also harm the quality of your sleep. Researchers have found that the blue wavelength light emitted from the screens of many electronic devices can cause arousal by inhibiting your body’s release of melatonin. Blue light can also disrupt the REM cycle of sleep, imperative to learning and processing memories.

3. It can delay sleep

Staying up past your typical bedtime can also cause you to wake up tired and groggy. Staying up late to watch the Sunday night football game, for example, may not be the best choice if you have to get up early for work the next morning. Not only will you have a shorter sleep duration, but the quality of your sleep may also suffer thanks to the reasons mentioned above.

Healthy Sleep Hygiene

According to the CDC, the average adult should get at least seven hours of sleep each night, and teens and younger school-aged children need even more.

Additionally, if you’re already experiencing a sleep deficit, you may need to increase this amount to compensate. Adults with certain health conditions or anyone who is experiencing an above-average level of physical, mental or emotional exertion may require more sleep during a given night to wake up feeling rested.

Why It’s So Important to Get a Good Night’s Sleep

Not getting enough sleep, by simply not sleeping long enough or experiencing poor quality sleep, can have profound effects on your health and quality of life.

Sleep deprivation can lead to:

  • An increased risk of high blood pressure
  • Weight gain
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes
  • Weakened immune system
  • Impaired productivity

Tips for a Healthy Sleep Routine

For those can’t-miss late-night games, follow these tips to help you develop a healthy sleep routine and still get your sports fix.

  • Try to limit watching sports late at night to when you know you can sleep in the next day.
  • Plan to give yourself some time to unwind after the game, and turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before you go to sleep.
  • Make sure you watch the game outside of your bedroom.
  • If watching on a computer or phone, turn on its blue light filter or wear blue-light blocking glasses.
  • Try to go to sleep around the same time each night — even if it means turning off a game early.
  • Create an enjoyable and consistent before-bed, wind-down routine.

Additionally, try limiting the following activities:

  • Avoid anything stimulating or adrenaline-inducing before bed. Along with watching sports — or even sometimes the news — this includes physical exercise or consuming foods or drinks with sugar or caffeine.
  • Avoid drinking alcohol, as even a small amount can interfere with the quality of your sleep.

Hopefully, with awareness and these tips, you can find a healthy compromise between following your team to victory and performing well at work the next day.

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