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Binge watching is bad for you

A new study finds that marathoning your favorite series at night leads to fatigue and poor sleep quality.
Binge watching Netflix
Photo: Getty Images

A new study published by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine suggests that there is a link between binge watching TV and poor sleep quality. 

So you’re saying that watching TV for hours on end is actually bad for us?! Who would have thought.

423 adults ages 18 to 25 were surveyed online about their regular television and binge viewing, how well they were sleeping, and how tired they felt during the day. 80% of the participants admitted that they were binge watchers, which is defined as watching multiple episodes of the same show in one sitting. Of the participants, the average binge watching session lasted 3 hours 8 minutes, and the study found that men “binge viewed less frequently than women” but when they did, their sessions lasted longer. 

The study pointed out that those who identified as binge watchers reported more fatigue and poorer sleep quality compared to those people who didn’t binge watch. 

The people that labeled themselves as binge watchers were 98% more likely to have poorer sleep quality. 

I mean, you can’t watch just one episode, right? And that’s exactly the problem.

Interestingly, the study found no relationship between regular TV viewing — watching one episode at a time — and sleep problems. This may be because binge watching draws the viewer into the show and eggs them on with suggestions to continue watching episode after episode, whereas a show that releases one episode weekly effectively cuts off the viewer until the next airing. 

The study refered to this as "pre-sleep arousal": viewers are more interested and caught up in the characters, even after they have finished watching. Binge watching leaves the viewer thinking about the episodes afterward, unable to fall asleep right away.

Binge watchers need “a longer period to ‘cool down’ before going to sleep, thus affecting sleep overall,” according to the study.

It’s important to keep in mind with studies like these that correlation does not imply causation. Binge watching and poor sleep may be related to each other, but that does not mean that binge watching causes poor sleep. It simply means that it is a factor of poor sleep.

We’re probably going to keep binge watching anyway. What else would there be to look forward to after a long day at work?