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How binge watching affects your sleep

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With the advent of streaming video services like Netflix and Hulu, the term “binge-watching” entered the lexicon, and the activity has practically become a national pastime. Binge watching refers to watching multiple episodes of a TV show in one sitting, as in “I just binged the new season of Stranger Things.”

A pleasant form of escapism, yes, but too much of a good thing can be bad. Watching TV for hours at a time, especially at the expense of sleep, is associated with a host of health problems.

A recent study examined people who watched an average of three hours of TV before bed and found that the binge watchers were 98 percent more likely to experience sleep problems than those who only watched one episode of a show. One problem is “pre-sleep arousal” — the brain just doesn’t want to stop processing the story.

Additionally, light emitted by computers, phones, and newer TVs is on the blue end of the light spectrum, which inhibits the production of melatonin. Also, the brain needs time to transition from waking to sleep, and staying engaged in a TV show doesn’t allow that. It’s better to watch an episode or two and then allow time for relaxing activities such as yoga, meditation or reading before bed.

Binge watching can also have a snowball effect, resulting in sleep deprivation, which even in the short term includes anxiety, depressed mood, memory problems, and daytime sleepiness. Sitting for hours also slows down circulation and metabolism, which is why we often feel like giant sloths after devouring half a season of Game of Thrones. Habitual sedentary periods also increase the risk of serious health problems like diabetes, heart disease and cancer – even in people who exercise regularly.

Binge watching is fine once in a while, but it’s better for your body and your mind if you set guidelines. For example, set a hard limit of two episodes per night. You’ll get more enjoyment out of your favorite shows.

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