You find that you have trouble sleeping lately. Perhaps you’re struggling to fall asleep, to sustain it through the night, or both. Furthermore, you’ve identified that the issue is occurring following one particular activity; gambling. You’re not alone, as research indicates that decreased sleep quality is seen in any form of gambling disorder, be it problem or pathological, with pathological gamblers experiencing significantly increased issues with sleep.
It’s good that you recognize the association, but you want to understand more about why you can’t sleep after gambling and what you can do to alleviate the disturbance. Below is a breakdown of everything you need to know.
How Gambling Can Disturb Your Quality of Sleep and What You Can Do About It Today
Physiological Impact of Gambling on Sleep
Whether winning or losing, studies show that gambling produces adrenaline. Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Further, your body releases the stress-hormone cortisol after releasing adrenaline. Too much of this stress hormone threatens your ability to fall asleep and enter much needed deep sleep. At the very least, avoid gambling (and subsequent adrenaline rush) within at least four hours prior to intended bedtime.
The adrenaline/cortisol connection is just the tip of the iceberg. Read ahead for more.
Online Gambling Impact
The environment and platform that you choose for gambling can impact your ability to fall asleep and sustain a deep slumber. Do you play online casino games and/or bet on sports via a website or mobile app? If so, you may have identified one of the sleep disturbing culprits. Studies show the use of blue-light-emitting technology such as smartphones, laptops, and tablets before bed disrupts the body’s cues to go to sleep and disturbs the natural sleep-wake cycle.
While there is more than likely a greater underlying problem (see above and below) the use of digital technology to gamble can certainly compound the concern.
Casinos Designed to Disrupt Circadian Rhythm
There’s a reason you won’t see windows or clocks in most physical casinos; they want you to keep gambling without regard for the time of day. While you can check the time on your smartphone or watch (assuming you’re not too distracted by game-play) there’s nothing you can do about the lack of windows. No windows equals no natural light.
The light/dark cycle of the sun has a powerful effect on your circadian clock and sleep. Your body’s circadian clock responds to natural light as a signal to be awake while the subsequent and naturally occurring darkness serves as a signal to fall asleep. If you’ve been in a casino in the afternoon and into the evening, your circadian rhythm is compromised and this has a direct impact on your ability to sleep.
Consequences of Gambling Lead to Sleep-Disrupting Feelings
The signs and symptoms of problem gambling outline consequences that may keep you up at night. Problem gambling can lead to financial loss, reduced productivity in your vocation, and can harm social/familial relationships. When financial, professional, and relationship statuses suffer, you may experience stress and anxiety which can hamper your ability to sleep. Although, there may be deeper underlying concerns regarding these feelings. Please keep reading.
Concurrent Psychological Factors Disrupt Sleep Too
Studies find that psychological factors also affect the sleep of gamblers. Mood and anxiety disorders are among the most common comorbid conditions of pathological gambling and as it turns out, insomnia and other sleep disturbances are an important feature of these simultaneous (to gambling) disorders. There is also a self-perpetuating cycle at play as problematic gamblers experience a gauntlet of feelings and emotions in their preoccupation with the activity:
“Shame, guilt, depression, helplessness, and anger are all commonly experienced in pathological gamblers. These feelings become worse as the gambling disorder progresses. Even when criteria are not met for a formal psychiatric diagnosis, the negative or dysphoric affect and state of mind of the gambler can have a significant effect on sleep.”National Library of Medicine: Sleep and Gambling Severity in a Community Sample of Gamblers
What You Can Do Today
While evidence-based treatments for gambling do not include the management of sleep disturbances, the direct association between gambling and poor sleep logically infer that treating the former will help with the latter. Moreover, therapy for related anxiety and depression (as per above) may also assist.
Put an end to problematic gambling today, and pave the way for a better night’s sleep.
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