Until a few years ago, the concept of “binge-watching” a TV show would have been alien to us. You simply had to wait a week between episodes. And, if you were unlucky enough to miss the first season or two of a TV show, they only way you could see it was by buying the DVD – or even VHS! – boxset, which tended to be very pricey.

These days, though, with the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky Boxsets, it’s incredibly easy to watch every season of a television show at the touch of the button. Even better, with streaming sites like Netflix costing around £5.99 for unlimited streaming, it’s also incredibly affordable.

TVWhich all sounds great, bar one thing, this new-found ease when it comes to watching TV shows has led to people watching a full series in as little as one or two days, often sacrificing a few hours of sleep to watch more episodes. But how is this affecting our overall health?

Well research between the University of Michigan and the Leuven School for Mass Communication have been investigating the effect of binge-viewing on our sleep and, ultimately, well-being.

A survey was conducted on 423 young adults between the age of 18 and 25, of which 61.9% of the participants were female. During the survey, participants were asked to answer questions about their TV habits, including how often they would watch television and how often they considered themselves to binge-watch.

Participants then went on to answer questions about their sleeping habits, based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Researchers then determined whether the participants were suffering from fatigue using the Fatigue Assessment Scale as well as other tools to determine sleeping problems.

Of the participants who were questioned, an extremely large 80% of people admitted that they felt they binge-watched shows, and 20% of these did it at least a few times a week. The research found that men were far less likely to binge-watch a show than woman, however, of those men that did, they would watch a show for twice as long as women.

This was then compared to those that reported poor sleep, of which a third (32.6%) of the participants had poor sleep associated with binge-viewing. All of who reported a significant level of insomnia and fatigue compared with those who didn’t binge-watch television. In fact, it was found that those who reported the greatest number of binges had the worst sleep.

So, is binge-watching a total no-no? Well not exactly, it’s all about self-control. The main problem with television shows that we like to binge-watch is that they’re all incredibly exciting – otherwise we wouldn’t want to watch them so much! May this be through exciting plots or cliff-hangers, we simply cannot control ourselves to stop watching and go to bed.

Plus, the devices that we enjoy these shows on – usually tablets – emit a blue light that interrupts our melatonin levels. Making us feel like we’re more awake than we actually are, so when an episode finished we think it’s fine to watch the nest. To the extent that you’ll probably end up falling asleep watching the show, leading to a disrupted sleep as we get woken slightly by the noises.

If you do enjoy binge-watching television shows, it’s important that you learn to control yourself before you develop sleeping problems or become reliant on a TV in order to fall asleep. Set yourself a bedtime and stick to it – after-all, the show will still be there tomorrow night!

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