Skip to main content

Binge Watching Is Linked to Poor Sleep

Enjoy multiple episodes of Shut Eye, and you may not get enough shut-eye.

Feeling lethargic of late? Having trouble falling asleep? Do you find yourself yawning through another non-productive day?

If such symptoms have become increasingly common over the past few years, it may be due to a relatively new phenomenon: binge watching.

New research finds watching multiple episodes of a television series in one sitting is linked to insomnia and other sleep-related problems.

"Sleep is the fuel your body needs to keep functioning properly," said Jan Van den Bulck of the University of Michigan, who co-authored the study with Liese Exelmans of KU Leuven in Belgium. "It's very important to document the risk factors for poor sleep. Our research suggests that binge viewing could be one of these risk factors."

If you need to get to sleep but think that some streaming show will relax you, think again.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, featured 423 young adults ages 18 to 25 who were recruited online. Eighty percent reported they had "watched multiple, consecutive episodes of the same TV show in one sitting" during the preceding month; 20 percent said they had done so at least a few times a week.

"They spent three hours and eight minutes on a binge-viewing session on average," the researchers report. "Men binge-viewed less frequently than women, but binge-viewing sessions lasted longer among men."

All participants filled out a series of questionnaires measuring sleep-related problems, including nighttime insomnia, daytime fatigue, and "pre-sleep arousal." These included the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which asked how often they had experienced such problems as waking up in the middle of the night, experiencing bad dreams, or feeling the need to take an over-the-counter sleep medication.

"A higher frequency of binge viewing was related to poorer sleep quality, more fatigue, and insomnia," the researchers report. People whose binges lasted longer did not have more problems than those who stopped after two or three episodes.

Further analysis found the reason for this was "cognitive pre-sleep arousal."

"The narrative complexity in these shows leaves viewers thinking about episodes and their sequels after viewing them," the researchers write. "This prolongs sleep onset, or requires a longer period to 'cool down' before going to sleep, thus affecting sleep overall."

So if you need to get to sleep but think that some streaming show will relax you, think again. A few episodes of The Man in the High Castle may leave you The Man in the Glazed Stupor.