Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Orange Is The New Black – they all have this effect: One episode is not enough. That’s why many fans binge-watch and watch several episodes in a row. Now a study shows that series junkies may be harming themselves.
What is binge watching?
Binge watching is a modern television habit that involves watching many episodes of a series in a row within a short period of time. The term is derived from the English word “binge,” which means “intoxication” or “excess. Binge watching has become a favorite pastime for many people and has significantly changed the classic television evening.
Instead of looking forward to a new episode for a week, series fans can now watch the whole season at once and no longer have to wait so long.
Why do we binge watch?
Watching a series generates a constant flow of dopamine in our brain. And: Apparently, we don’t just miss the series itself. It’s a joy to watch episode after episode.
Back in 2013, in a study, 76 percent of respondents to a Netflix survey cited marathon series viewing as an “escape” from everyday stress for respondents. A survey released the same year by Harris Interactive found that 73 percent of respondents said they preferred a series marathon because it evoked positive emotions.
Binge-watching study: series marathon harms sleep
Researchers from the University of Michigan and Belgium’s Leuven School for Mass Communication Research have found that serial marathons and sleep problems are linked. They surveyed 423 Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 25. Eighty-one percent said they had experience with binge-watching.
Of this group, nearly 40 percent had once watched multiple series episodes in a row within the previous month, 28 percent enjoyed multiple series marathons per month, and for seven percent such viewing behavior was commonplace. Binge-watching sessions were less frequent among men than among women. On the other hand, the series marathons of the male respondents lasted almost twice as long.
In contrast to the comparison group, the binge-watchers more frequently reported difficulties falling asleep. They were also less able to sleep through the night and felt tired during the day. And this despite an average of 7 hours and 37 minutes of sleep per night.
The researchers attribute the poor sleep quality not to going to bed later, but to the excitement caused by binge-watching. Normal television viewing did not show the negative effects on sleep.
However, those who watch three, four or more episodes at a time cannot get away from the storyline quickly – even in bed. The researchers also suspect the addictive potential of the series in the multiple and complex storylines.
The binge-watching study was published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. Since it is a small study on Facebook, the results are not representative.
How can I stop binge watching?
Have you ever wondered if you watch too much TV? If you’ve become accustomed to watching marathon series and find it hard to switch off, here are a few tips:
- uninstall streaming apps on your phone or tablet: this way, you won’t be tempted to get comfortable with a series or movie at any time.
- turn off the autoplay feature: In your streaming app’s account settings, you can turn off autoplay (for Netflix, for example, you can only do this when you log in to the browser)
- Don’t stream right before bed: Bright screen light keeps you awake longer and can disrupt your healthy sleep.
- set a time limit for TV and streaming: it can help to set an alarm to remind you or set a time limit for the streaming app.