Binge-Watching Isn't Good for Sleep

Binge-Watching Isn't Good for SleepOn an April 2017 quarterly earnings call with reporters, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings stunned listeners when he mentioned a surprising competitor for his company’s streaming services. It's not Amazon. It's not cable. It's not time with your spouse. It's sleep.

Streaming television has become such a huge part of daily life that it’s often difficult to turn it off, even at bedtime. Watching your favorite programs before bed sounds like a blast, but most technologies affect your sleep in more ways than one recognizes. Whether you're staying up late to watch the new seasons of Master of None or The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, it's probably keeping you from a peaceful night of slumber. We all have been there: You watch an episode, it's 11 p.m and you think "It's only 22 more minutes for the next episode, right?” And then you keep yourself awake to watch.

"There is ample evidence that media use displaces sleep," Exelmans & Van den Bulck note in their 2016 study focusing the lack of self-control and television viewing. Their results seem to support the notion that "(1) self-regulatory failure over television viewing can partly explain the common struggle with bedtime, and (2) strong viewing habits seem to inhibit bedtime procrastination." There is even some research that television watching can be equitable to that of an addiction disorder Sussman & Moran, 2013) but more research is needed.

Remember the next time you stay up late to stream House of Cards: Just like any screen-time device it may suppress your melatonin levels, and keep your brain alert to only have you be awake longer, and waking up more throughout the night. Sleeping in a “screen-free” room is recommended for the best, and less interrupted sleep possible. 

Our cell phones, tablets, computers and other electronic gadgets have become such a huge part of our daily lives that it’s often hard to put them down even at bedtime. Keeping your phone on your nightstand may not seem like a big deal, but technology affects your sleep in more ways than you realize. Whether you’re surfing the web, playing a video game, or using your phone as an alarm clock in the late evening, you’re probably keeping yourself from a restful night. Learn the facts about digital devices, below, so you can nip your tech habits in the bud. Check out these three ways gadgets are keeping you awake:

1. They Suppress Melatonin.

The blue light emitted by screens on cell phones, computers, tablets, and televisions restrain the production of melatonin, the hormone that controls your sleep/wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Reducing melatonin makes it harder to fall and stay asleep. Most Americans admit to using electronics a few nights a week within an hour before bedtime. But to make sure technology isn’t harming your slumber, give yourself at least 30 minutes of gadget-free transition time before hitting the hay. Even better: Make your bedroom a technology-free zone—keep your electronics outside the room (that includes a TV!).

2. They Keep Your Brain Alert.

It may seem harmless to knock out a few emails before bed or unwind with a favorite movie, but by keeping your mind engaged, technology can trick your brain into thinking that it needs to stay awake. And if you’re surfing the web, seeing something exciting on Facebook, or reading a negative email, those experiences can make it hard to relax and settle into slumber. After spending an entire day surrounded by technology, your mind needs time to unwind.

3. They Wake You Up.

Just because you’re not using your cell phone before bed doesn’t mean that it can’t harm your sleep: Keeping a mobile within reach can still disturb slumber, thanks to the chimes of late night texts, emails, calls, or calendar reminders. About 72 percent of children ages six to 17 sleep with at least one electronic device in their bedroom, which leads to getting less sleep on school nights compared with other kids, according to their parents. The difference adds up to almost an hour per night, and the quality of snoozing is negatively affected too. To get a better night’s slumber, parents can limit their kids’ technology use in the bedroom, and mom and dad should be solid role models and set the tone by doing the same.

Tags: recovery, sleep, insomnia

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