Exploring Sleep Habits in the Wide World of Esports

Author: Daniel Bonnar

Bonnar, Daniel, 2024 Exploring Sleep Habits in the Wide World of Esports, Flinders University, College of Education, Psychology and Social Work

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Esports is a form of organised video game competition which has gained significant mainstream traction in recent years. Hence, researchers have begun to investigate the factors that influence the health and performance of competitors, known as esports athletes. The function of sleep may be of particular interest given its central role in supporting human health and performance. However, research in this area is sparce, while the handful of existing studies have methodological limitations.

To investigate the sleep of esports athletes, this thesis proposed three aims. The first aim was to quantify the sleep behaviour of professional esports athletes and, further, how sleep might relate to mood and cognitive performance. The second aim was to identify and begin to understand the factors that influence the sleep of esports athletes. Finally, the third aim was to design and evaluate a sleep intervention for esports athletes. These aims were addressed in a series of studies utilising a range of methodologies.

Overall, this thesis contains seven chapters which comprise five studies. In Chapter 1 we introduced the topic of sleep behaviour in esports. Although quantifying esports athletes’ sleep was a key initial focus, we first expanded on the opinion piece by Bonnar et al. (2019) that preceded this thesis. Accordingly, Chapter 2 (Study 1) described additional risk factors for poor sleep in esports and outlined theoretically grounded sleep intervention considerations.

Subsequently, Chapter 3 (Study 2) examined the sleep behaviour and mood of professional esports athletes from several countries. After identifying that some esports athletes experience suboptimal sleep and mood, Chapter 4 (Study 3) implemented a brief sleep intervention aimed at improving the sleep, mood and cognitive performance of esports athletes. However, this intervention only produced modest sleep benefits, with no improvement in mood or cognitive performance.

To develop more effective sleep interventions, Chapter 5 (Study 4) explored the influence and perspective of esports coaches and support staff on the sleep behaviour of esports athletes. Broadley, results revealed that despite overall inadequate sleep knowledge, some participants were trying to implement sleep health support. However, esports athletes’ dislike of the process was a barrier. Further, night training and competition timing and load were considered risk factors for poor sleep.

Owing to competitions being a potential risk factor for poor sleep, Chapter 6 (Study 5) evaluated the sleep behaviour, anxiety, mood, and cognitive performance of esports athletes around competition. Results showed deterioration in some aspects of sleep, although total sleep time remained adequate via modification of sleep timing. There was no relationship between anxiety and sleep, nor between total sleep time and next day mood or cognitive performance.

The thesis is concluded in Chapter 7 with a general discussion. Findings are summarised and integrated with the broader literature, methodological and clinical implications are considered, while limitations and avenues for future research are outlined. Importantly, this thesis has made a meaningful contribution to the growing knowledge base regarding the sleep behaviour of esports athletes and provides a foundation for future researchers to build on.

Keywords: esports, sleep, mood, cognitive performance

Subject: Psychology thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2024
School: College of Education, Psychology and Social Work
Supervisor: Emma Thomas