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September 09, 2017

Binge-watching TV could be why you're getting a bad night's sleep

New research links the habit to fatigue, insomnia and poor sleep quality

Trying to squeeze in one more episode of "Game of Thrones" before bed? Maybe it's time to reconsider.

Binge-watching TV could cause poorer sleep quality, insomnia and greater chances of fatigue, according to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that calls itself the first study to link the habit and effects on sleep.

The study surveyed more than 420 young adults between the ages of 18-25 on how they watch TV, both through streaming services like Netflix and HBOGo and conventional programming. The survey asked how frequently the participants binged the shows, which researchers defined as watching multiple episodes of the same program in a single sitting. 

RELATED: Why do we binge-watch? 

The participants were then asked questions about their quality of sleep and level of tiredness the following day.

A whopping 80 percent of those surveyed identified themselves as "binge-watchers," while 20 percent reported that they binge-watched at least "a few times a week" over the last month.

The binge-watching sessions lasted a little more than three hours on average, with more than half who said that means they're watching three to four episodes at a time.

Researchers found that those who identified themselves as binge-watchers experienced more symptoms of fatigue, insomnia, a poorer quality of sleep and "greater alertness" before bedtime.

Ninety-eight percent of people who binge-watch TV have a higher likelihood of getting a bad night's sleep compared who those who don't, the study found, and that's because all those cliff-hangers keep a person's brain stimulated when it should be prepping for bed. 

“Bingeable shows often have a complex narrative structure that makes viewers become completely immersed into the story,” said co-author Jan Van den Bulck, PhD, professor in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Michigan in a statement. “This intense engagement with television content could require a longer period to ‘cool down’ before going to sleep, thus affecting sleep overall.”

Van den Bulck told that he believes a smaller percentage of older adults are binge-watching shows like the surveyed age group, about 74 percent of which are students.

In a recent interview with Business Insider, Robert Oexman, director of the Sleep to Live Institute, advised binge-watchers to reconsider their habits to prevent long-term health effects, including a general decrease in alertness that could impact a person's job or even ablility to drive.

"People don't necessarily see the problem with what they're doing," Oexman told the publication. "They see it as a temporary thing, they can stop off at Starbucks get a coffee and I'll be OK. But it's not. The health consequences go on and on." 

Researchers suggest practicing relaxation and mindfulness techniques for a good night's rest. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine also has also released a recent set of guidelines to "binge-watching responsibly" that can be found here

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