What’s more relaxing after a long day at work than kicking back and binge-watching your favorite show?
For many, not much. Getting lost in funny, dramatic, crazy, and even creepy stories on the screen is what lots of people would identify as their guilty pleasure, especially right before going to bed. However, their quality of sleep is likely suffering because of it, and not just because of the blue light emitted from our screens. In a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, researchers from the University of Michigan found a link between binge-watching at night and poorer sleep.
The researchers asked a group of 423 young adults between 18 and 25 years old to fill out online surveys gauging their quality of sleep, fatigue, insomnia, “pre-sleep arousal” — or cognitive arousal, meaning mental stimulation that keeps us awake — and frequency of TV binge-watching, defined as “watching multiple episodes of the same series in one sitting.”
Just over 80 percent of the participants identified themselves as binge viewers. About 20 percent reported binge-watching at least a few times a week during the past month.
Unsurprisingly, those who binge-watched TV more frequently reported a poorer quality of sleep, more insomnia, and increased fatigue compared with those who weren’t binge viewers.
The researchers say mental stimulation from thinking about your favorite show’s story line is to blame. “The narrative complexity in these shows leaves viewers thinking about episodes and their sequel after viewing them. This prolongs sleep onset or, in other words, requires a longer period to ‘cool down’ before going to sleep, thus affecting sleep overall,” they noted.
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