Scientists have found that binge watching or watching multiple episodes of a single television series in one sitting is both growing more prevalent and affecting watchers’ ability to get a good night’s sleep. The researchers’ study was published in the most recent issue of “Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.”
The Survey on Binge Watching and Sleep
The researchers, Liese Exelmans at the School of Mass Communication Research at the University of Leuven in Belgium and Jan Van den Bulck of the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan conducted an online survey asking respondents about their sleeping and TV watching habits. The 423 participants were all between 18 and 25, and 61.9 percent were women.
During the survey, the participants had to answer questions regarding television watching habits, sleep quality, fatigue and pre-sleep arousal with the last being defined physical and emotional manifestations of arousal experienced while they were trying to fall asleep. Such manifestations could include a racing heart or heightened alertness.
The answers to the questions about viewing habits showed that 341 respondents or 80.6 percent were binge viewers, and a fifth of these binge viewers had binge-watched shows at least a few times every week during the past month. Seven percent binge-watched shows every day.
While many of the participants averaged seven and a half hours of sleep and thus met the recommended amount of sleep for adults, 32.6 percent were both binge watchers and slept poorly. Binge watchers also experienced more pre-sleep arousal, and they felt less rested after sleeping even when they did get a sufficient amount of sleep.
Exelmans explained that binge watching caused the brain to remain alert longer while the viewer speculated about what would happen next. Consequently, a binge watcher would take longer to fall asleep and they would sleep poorly.
Exelmans suggested ways to help binge watchers get more and better sleep, and many of them involve cultivating more self-discipline. For example, they should always go to bed at a set time. Binge watchers could also turn TV watching into a more social activity by watching with friends or family, who could intervene if the binge watcher wanted to watch too many hours of the same program.
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