Modern technology has changed the way people watch television. Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime now provide access to entire box sets at a time, which we can view across a multitude of devices, from phones to smart tv’s. Such technological advancements have lead to a dramatic increase in binge watching, which is defined as watching many episodes of the same television show in a single sitting.
A study conducted on behalf of Netflix by Harris Interactive found that 61 percent of adults regularly binge watch television. A separate study on young adults aged 18-25 found that 80.6 percent of responder’s binge watch TV regularly.
A good night’s sleep is an undeniably important factor in maintaining good mental and physical health. But to what degree does binge watching television affect your sleep? This article details some of the key findings that help answer this question.
How binge watching TV affects sleep
Reduced Sleep Quality For Children
A 2007 study of 19,299 Chinese children found that televisions present in bedrooms were associated with later bedtimes, later awakening times, shortened sleep duration, and sleep disturbances.
Most tellingly, and most applicable to modern television watching habits, is the fact that this study found the predominant risk factor for the majority of sleep disorders among children was viewing two hours or more of television per day on weekends.
Fatigue and Insomnia
Ten years on from the previous study, a 2017 University of Michigan study was designed with the objective of investigating the prevalence of binge viewing and its association with sleep. The results found that increased binge watching led to daytime fatigue and symptoms of insomnia in contrast to regular television watching. Modern television viewing habits pose a threat to sleep.
Higher Pre-Sleep Arousal
It makes intuitive sense that alert levels, measured by pre-sleep arousal, should drop off before sleeping. Unfortunately, binge watching television stimulates the brain so much that it increases pre-sleep arousal levels, meaning you are fully alert when your body should be dropping off into a sleeping state.
Being more alert when you should be dozing off is the mechanism that explains other negative effects of binge watching, such as insomnia and fatigue, according to the University of Michigan study.
Lower Sleep Quality Regardless of Bedtime
An interesting finding from the 2017 study is that binge watching affect sleep quality, regardless of bedtime. This finding implies that it’s not just those who stay up late that suffer poor sleep quality from binge watching television. Rather, even when people don’t change the time they go to bed at, binge watching television diminishes sleep quality.
The first obvious solution to overcoming sleep problems associated with binge watching television is to educate and inform people about such potential for sleep issues. Armed with the right knowledge, people can change their viewing habits to become more in line with regular television watching.
A second solution is to reduce alert levels before sleep. Drinking a relaxing cup of herbal tea, such as camomile, provides a natural sleep remedy that helps people doze off. Furthermore, a high-quality natural mattress can help people become more comfortable and settle into the sleeping state quicker. An uncomfortable mattress causes people to toss and turn, trying to find the best sleeping position, which doesn’t help reduce pre-sleep arousal levels.
The studies referenced in this article offer clear evidence that binge watching television is contributing to lower sleep quality. The association is clear from these studies, although it’s important to remember such associations are not yet scientifically proven.
However, we do know scientifically that blue light before bed damages sleeping patterns. This is because blue light affects how your body releases melatonin; the hormone that regulates sleep.
If you’re struggling to relax before bed, you can take a look at our sleep blogs which offer advice on everything from how to fall asleep within minutes, to interesting ways to ease your mind before bedtime.
If you’re struggling to get through each day because of consistently poor sleep, check out our post on 5 Surprising Ways Your Mattress Impacts Your Sleep.