A few weeks ago, KitGuru reported on a Taiwanese man who died of heart failure and over-exhaustion after going on a three-day gaming binge, the second binge-gaming-related death this year. At least four other deaths have been reported in the past three years.
While most people don’t need to worry about their health while they’re playing games, going on long binges does require a bit of forethought to make sure you stay healthy. Here are 5 ways you can make sure you’re not putting yourself at risk.
Not sleeping can have some very serious affects on the brain and body—hallucinations, confusion, drop in body temperature, increased blood pressure, hormonal changes, and even seizures are possible symptoms of severe sleep deprivation. Most of the time, just taking a quick nap will cure you. But people who chronically don’t get enough sleep tend to live shorter lives, possibly because of a strong link to heart problems, diabetes, and cancer.
If you’re planning on playing games for more than a full day, make sure to take at least a few hours to sleep in the middle. Getting a full night’s sleep would be even better, but you can live your life with surprisingly few adverse effects with a few hours of sleep each night. Even if you’re going on a shorter binge, like 12 hours, taking an hour-long nap will help keep your brain sharp, which will help you make better decisions—both in games and for your health.
2. Eat (and Drink Water)
One gaming-related death came after a 40-hour run of Diablo III with no breaks for food. Going 40 hours without eating won’t kill you, but it definitely won’t keep you sharp, and it’ll likely contribute to other potential problems (at the very least, it’ll put you in a pretty bad mood). Letting your blood sugar get really low can make you very tired, give you a headache, and play tricks on your mind.
Eating three solid meals each day will help keep your brain working throughout your binge (and though I don’t recommend it, you can get through a full meal in a few minutes if you’re really motivated, so you don’t have to take a long break). And if you just can’t bear to break away for a meal, try to at least have some healthy snacks: grab an apple, have a peanut-butter-topped bagel, graham crackers and Nutella, string cheese, or some pretzels. Skip the chips, popcorn, and cookies.
On a related note, make sure to drink water. A lot of gamers on long binges might rely on caffeinated drinks to fuel them, and although these will keep you from getting really dehydrated, it’s still a good idea to drink water throughout the day. Even a couple glasses every 12 hours will make a difference. Your brain and body both rely on water to function, and getting that water without loads of sugar and caffeine is a good idea.
3. Stand up
Sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health—it can affect your circulation, have adverse effects on your neck and spine, reduce muscle strength, and even contribute to heart disease. Obviously, these things happen over long periods of time, but spending 24 or 36 hours in a row sitting will accelerate the process. Stand up at least once every hour. Twice every hour would be better. You don’t even have to stop playing—just get up to move a bit and stretch out your legs and back.
Even better than standing up for a few minutes is to go for a walk. Just 15 minutes will do wonders for your muscles, bones, and circulation. Doing some stretches is a good idea, too—the video below has a few good ones for people who sit for long hours.
4. Stretch your hands and wrists
Whether you’re console or PC gaming, playing for many hours in a row is tough on your hands and wrists. Maintaining good posture will help keep them aligned, but the muscles can still get cramped, and many gamers (especially those who are addicted to gaming) have developed carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition that’ll put you on the injured reserve list of your clan for a while. Our own Ryan Dube wrote about his experience with carpal tunnel syndrome.
Every hour, move your wrists in a few circles, flex your fingers, and stretch your wrists. Check out this video to see some good stretches to keep your digits limber:
5. Rest your eyes
Looking at a screen, especially one with a lot of flickering lights, can wreak havoc on your eyes. Over a short period of time, it’s not a big deal, but looking at tracers, lightning bolts, and explosions for hours on end can fatigue your eyes and cause headaches, blurred vision, dry eyes, or double vision. None of these are bad in small amounts, but they can add up over time and cause some serious discomfort.
One of the best ways to rest your eyes is to sleep—you’re not looking at anything, your brain isn’t processing any visual input, and your eye muscles can relax. Even beyond sleeping, though, it’s important to rest your eyes occasionally. Close your eyes for a couple minutes every hour or so to let your taxed ocular muscles relax.
On a similar note, make sure that your screen isn’t too bright—it’s easy to want to create the most visually stunning experience when you’re playing an intense game, but screens that are too bright or too high-contrast can place added strain on your eyes. Do yourself a favor and keep your screen a bit dimmer than you usually would.
Going on an occasional video game binge can be really fun—you can get totally immersed in an exciting world, hang out with your friends, and ignore real-world responsibilities for a while. You might even be a Twitch streamer trying to build an audience with a 24 hour stream. But taking it too far can be really bad for your health, especially if you ignore the basic needs of your body. Following the five steps above will help keep you healthy, no matter how long you play.
Do you go on days-long gaming binges? Or do you stick to a few hours at a time? Do you ever feel like your body is being damaged, or take measures to prevent it? Share your thoughts below!
Image credits: girl plays with video games (edited), Image of a tired baby holding a gaming controller (edited), Black game controllers and bowl with snacks on wooden background, Woman holding hands on her head, depression, pain, migraine via Shutterstock.