Want better sleep? Cut down on binge-watching, study suggests

Love to binge-watch? Be cautious, because tuning in to your favorite shows for hours at a time could contribute to poor quality of sleep, according to new research

Scientists from the University of Leuven in Belgium conducted a study to determine the link between television viewing habits and quality of sleep. 

To do so, they handed out a survey to 423 people ages 18 to 25. The questionnaire was designed to record symptoms of insomnia and fatigue and the amount of time participants spend watching TV. 

On average, a binge-watching session lasted for three hours and eight minutes, and 52 percent of respondents viewed three to four episodes in a single sitting. 

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After analyzing the data, researchers found that binge-watchers had more symptoms of fatigue, insomnia and greater alertness right before bed. Additionally, binge-watchers were more likely to have a poorer quality of sleep compared to non binge-watchers.

"The narrative structure that characterizes “bingeable” television shows involves a larger number of more diverse storylines that extend beyond one episode...As such, the narrative complexity in these shows leaves viewers thinking about episodes and their sequel after viewing them,” the study said. "This prolongs sleep onset or, in other words, requires a longer period to “cool down” before going to sleep, thus affecting sleep overall.”

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Scientists, however, did note their study did not factor in the different types of television content and television viewing behavior, which could introduce further variables.

“It would be interesting to study whether, for instance, relaxing media content does the opposite,” the study said. 

In the meantime, analysts believe there is one primary way to combat poor sleep caused by binge-watching. They suggest that streaming services allow users to set their “optimal viewing duration” beforehand. 

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