Binge-watching TV could lead to less sleep, study reports

Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Leuven have found that binge-watching TV shows, while fun, can affect your sleep, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
By Ed Mason | Aug 18, 2017
Researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Leuven have found that binge-watching TV shows, while fun, can affect your sleep, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The amount of people watching excessive amounts of the same TV program in one sitting has steadily increased across the United States in recent years. This is largely due to both streaming services and digital video recorders. While many people enjoy the activity, the recent research shows that it leads to poorer sleep quality, increased insomnia, and fatigue.

In the study, the team surveyed 423 adults between the ages of 18 to 25. Each subject was asked about the quality of their sleep, as well as insomnia, fatigue, and how often they had binge watched shows in the month before the trial.

Nearly all of the participants -- 81 percent -- stated they had binge-watched a show in the last month. Of those, nearly 40 percent did it once a month, and 28 percent did it a few times a month. Roughly 7 percent binge-viewed almost every day.

Though the subjects slept an average of seven hours and 37 minutes a night, those who binge-watched their shows reported more fatigue and had a worse sleep quality that those who did not.

The team found this was largely the result of increased brain activity before sleep, which is commonly linked to those who watch TV shows at night.

"Bingeable TV shows have plots that keep the viewer tied to the screen," said lead author Liese Exelmans, a doctoral candidate at the University of Leuven in Belgium, according to Science Daily."We think they become intensely involved with the content, and may keep thinking about it when they want to go to sleep."

Most of the time, binge-watching occurs unintentionally. People begin a show and then become absorbed in it. This then causes them to stay up, which leads to problems throughout the night. Such a trend is concerning, not just because it is becoming more frequent, but also because poor sleep can lead to problems like reduced memory function, obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

As a result, the team hopes this new research can give people a better idea of the risks that come with binge-watching TV and help provide new insight into the problem. They plan to follow up on their results in the future.

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