Wrong Side of the Bet: How Does Gambling Affect Sleep?

Problem gambling affects millions of Americans. While young men are statistically more likely to develop a gambling problem, the risk is present for anyone, regardless of age or gender.

While you might already know that problem gambling can lead down certain dark paths such as financial instability, increased criminal activity, or even increased substance misuse, you might not be aware that problem gambling can actually cause even more immediate consequences — and these consequences can have a significant effect on your quality of life.

Problem Gambling and Sleep: The Connection

The numbers don’t lie: multiple studies have found that people with a gambling problem are more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality. 

According to a 2014 study by the University of California:

“Within a recent sample of current community gamblers, we found a (…) decrease in sleep quality among recreational, problem, and pathological gamblers (…) and significantly elevated daytime sleepiness in pathological gamblers compared to recreational gamblers.”

Here are some of the theorized connections between problem gambling activities and poor sleep:

Up All Night to Get Lucky

The thrill of chasing the next win drives many people to keep gambling, meaning they stay at the casino longer or continue betting, regardless of what time it is. This sometimes leads to excessive consumption of caffeinated drinks such as energy drinks or even misuse of stimulants or other drugs, which can cause other health problems.

Betting From Home

The explosion of online gambling has created a whole host of problems; now, you don’t even need to leave your room to bet big bucks. Betting from your bed — sometimes literally — can keep you awake all night, especially since there’s no pressure to get home like there might be when you’re at the casino, racetrack, or sports bar. And with many people working from home already on their computers or phones, it’s as easy as opening a new tab in your browser to start gambling as soon as the workday is over. 

Mobile devices and computers can create another issue when it comes to problem gambling and sleep deprivation — increased exposure to blue light. While it’s inevitable that you’ll spend some time looking at screens, doing so past when you should be sleeping — or even in the hours leading up to bedtime — can create poorer sleep quality and keep you awake for longer.

The Chicken or the Egg?

Sleep deprivation can affect your ability to get to sleep regularly and have the quality sleep your body needs to rest, recover from your day, and promote health. Unfortunately, studies show that people who are used to poor sleep quality actually have a harder time falling asleep at night. And if you toss and turn trying to get some shut-eye, you’re probably more likely to reach for some entertainment while you’re awake.

Unfortunately, if you have a gambling problem, this entertainment might be a sports betting app or your favorite online slot machine promising big payouts if you spin just one more time. In other words, problem gambling can lead to poor sleep, which can, in turn, lead to more problem gambling…and on and on until you find yourself sleepless, sick, and short on cash.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

It’s a simple fact: sleep is one of our basic human needs and should not be ignored. Sleep deprivation, no matter the cause, can affect every part of your life. Sleep deprivation or frequent sleep disturbance has been linked to all of the following consequences:

  • Increased vulnerability to illness
  • Poor focus and concentration
  • Heightened stress levels
  • Increased risk of depression and anxiety
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of heart disease
  • Altered hormone levels (can affect mood, sex drive, and even fertility)

If you’re suffering from the consequences of poor sleep, you might find that your productivity at work suffers, you’re becoming a less attentive parent or partner, or you tend to nod off behind the wheel, which is dangerous for everyone on the road. Sleep is not “for the weak;” it’s something everyone needs to function and perform at their best.

How to Get Help

Are you losing sleep over your gambling problem or worried you’re developing an addiction to gambling? You can get your sleep — and your life — back, and we want to help you get there. Help is just one phone call away. Reach out to our 24/7 confidential helpline at 1-800-GAMBLER today.


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