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Binge-Watching Could be Bad for Your Sleep

September 03, 2017

If you love watching TV shows for hours on end, it may affect your sleep, according to one recent survey.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicineinvolved 423 adults between the ages of 18 to 25 who took a survey that assessed their TV viewing habits, including regular television viewing, binge viewing, sleep quality, fatigue and insomnia.

Nearly 81 percent of study participants identified themselves as a binge viewer, and among these people, about 20 percent had binge-watched television at least a few times a week in the past month they were surveyed. They also viewed three to four episodes of a show in one stretch, for an average of three hours. However, most of the people surveyed said they got between seven and nine hours of sleep each night.

TV Viewing and Sleep Habits 

The study found that those who binge-watched TV had worse sleep, were more fatigued, had more symptoms of insomnia and were more alert right before they went to bed, which made it harder to fall asleep.

Binge watchers also had a 98 percent higher risk of poor sleep quality. According to the index researchers used to determine sleep quality in the study, nearly 33 percent of poor sleepers had poor sleep quality that was linked to binge watching television.

Interestingly, the study didn’t find a link between issues with sleep and regular television viewing, even if regular TV watchers viewed as much television as their binge-watching counterparts. This may indicate that watching a significant amount of television for long stretches has more of an impact on sleep.

With the rise of streaming services, binge-watching has become even more popular. These services often release entire seasons of shows at one time, making it tempting for someone to watch 10 or more hours straight of a particular show just to find out what happens at the end. I’ve even heard of people spending an entire weekend at home watching shows on a streaming service.

Netflix itself conducted a study last year to gain more insight into why people binge-watch. The company discovered that 76 percent of people who binge-watch television did so because they wanted an escape from their everyday lives. Eighty percent said binge-watching was more enjoyable than watching one episode of television at a time because it was more engaging and immersive. Binge-watching also occurs among all age groups, but younger people are more likely to do it — 90 percent of millennials in the Netflix survey said they had binge-watched video content and 40 percent even said they did it on a weekly basis.

So, how can you curb a binge-watching habit?

Try to stick to a routine. If there’s a show that comes on every Wednesday evening, make plans to sit down and watch it and reserve weekend time for family outings and other social activities — not binge-watching. Also make sure there’s some lag time between when you watch TV and when you go to sleep. This can be even harder if you have a television in your bedroom, but make it a habit to turn the TV off (and put the electronics away) at least an hour before bedtime. You can read a book or just lay in the bed for that time instead until you fall asleep.

Binge-watching might be enjoyable, but it also can affect your sleep and lead to fatigue. Instead of watching hours of television, try to limit your TV viewing to set times during the week when your favorite shows air a 30-minute or one-hour episode and fill the rest of the time with other sources of entertainment, whether that’s reading or listening to music. Binge-watching may help you catch up on shows everybody is buzzing about online or on social media, but it isn’t worth it if it comes at the expense of your sleep. 

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