Young adults who binge-watch television series are more likely to have fatigue, insomnia and a generally poor quality of sleep, according to new research published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
The study’s authors suggest that the mechanism explaining this relationship is increased cognitive alertness resulting from binge-watching.
Results show that more than 80 per cent of young adults identified themselves as a binge-watcher, with 20.2 percent of them doing so at least a few times a week in the previous month.
The study, by the University of Leuven in Belgium, involved 423 young adults who were between 18 and 25 years old, with an average age of 22. Sixty-two per cent of participants were women, and 74 per cent were students. They completed an online survey assessing their television watching habits and the quality of their sleep.
Binge-watching was defined as ‘watching multiple consecutive episodes of the same television show in one sitting on a screen’. An average binge-watching session lasted 3 hours and 8 minutes, with 52 per cent of binge-watchers viewing three to four episodes in one sitting.
They reported more more symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, poorer sleep quality and greater alertness prior to going to sleep. Further analysis found that binge-watchers had a 98 per cent higher likelihood of having poor sleep quality compared with those who did not consider themselves to be a binge-watcher.
The study’s lead author, Liese Exelmans, said: ‘We found that the more often young people binge-watch, the higher their cognitive pre-sleep arousal. That in turn negatively affected sleep quality, fatigue and insomnia.’
The study’s co-author, Jan Van den Bulck, said: ‘Bingeable shows often have a complex narrative structure that makes viewers become completely immersed into the story. This intense engagement with television content could require a longer period to ‘cool down’ before going to sleep, thus affecting sleep overall.’
The study’s authors suggest that streaming services such as Netflix should enable viewers to pre-select their maximum viewing duration before beginning each session.