It happens to the best of us, but binge-watching our favourite boxsets could increase the risk of sleep problems. Watching back-to-back episodes of TV programmes may lead to poorer sleep quality, greater fatigue and insomnia, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
The team asked 423 adults (aged 18-25) about how frequently they watched TV and streaming services. They were also asked whether they binge-watched (watching consecutive episodes in the same-sitting) TV and about their sleep quality and energy levels throughout the day.
Around 80% of those questioned identified as binge-watchers, with 20% doing so at least a few times a week, TIME report. Women binge-watched more frequently than men, but men watched consecutive episodes for longer.
The research found that the participants who identified as binge-watchers experienced more fatigue, insomnia symptoms and alertness before bedtime. They were also 98% more likely to experience poor quality sleep, compared to those who didn’t binge-watch TV programmes.
The study’s authors believe the typical TV/online-streaming shows that we’re likely to watch are designed to draw viewers in, creating suspense, emotion and investment in the storyline – this could lead to excitement, increased arousal and alertness prior to sleep.
The findings might sound obvious, but no relationship was found between sleep quality and regular TV viewing, where we flick from channel to channel.
Talking about streaming services, co-author Jan Van den Bulck – a professor of communication studies at the University of Michigan – says: “The episode ends, a character may or may not have died, and we’re hooked.”
He adds: “It’s a different kind of immersion—the idea that you almost feel as if you’re in that world of science fiction or fantasy or action… And it’s more intense if you have more hours of exposure.”
The team also add that blue light before bed could affect sleep, but say that “…whether regular television viewing has much effect on sleep is debated.”
The researchers say that the study does not prove binge-watching your favourite shows directly affects your sleep, but it provides good evidence that there is some link. And although the study looked at younger audiences, the authors say binge-watching occurs with older adults just as frequently.
Before you start a Game of Thrones marathon, the team recommend setting limits on how much or how often you watch your favourite series or employ mindfulness/relaxation techniques post-binge!