CBS Local — Binge-watching television shows can lead to unhealthy sleep habits in young adults, according to a new study.
The new research from the University of Michigan and Leuven School for Mass Communication Research in Belgium surveyed individuals on their television-watching habits and the frequency of their binge-watching sessions, as well as their sleep routine and quality. The participants were also questioned about feeling fatigued and the presence of sleep disorders.
For the purpose of the study, the researchers defined binge-watching as “watching multiple consecutive episodes of the same television show in one sitting on a screen, whether it be a television, laptop, computer or tablet.” The average binge-watching session lasts roughly three hours and eight minutes, according to the study.
About 81 percent of participants said they have binge-watched a show, and 40 percent of that group said they binge-watched a show in the month prior to the study. Roughly 7 percent had binge-watched a show for nearly every day during the previous month.
Those who claimed to be binge-watchers felt more fatigued, said they had lower quality of sleep and felt more alert prior to actually falling asleep. The binge-watchers were 98 percent more likely to suffer from poor sleep than the participants who did not binge-watch, according to the study.
“We found that the more often young people binge-watch, the higher their cognitive pre-sleep arousal,” said lead author Liese Exelmans in a press release. “That in turn negatively affected sleep quality, fatigue and insomnia.”
Because most bingeable shows often end with cliff-hangers or an unfinished plot theme, that lack of closure leaves viewers wanting to continue watching, which can hamper their ability to fall asleep.
This can be characterized by a racing heart or lying wide awake and unable to fall asleep because they are thinking about the program, the study says.
“Bingeable TV shows have plots that keep the viewer tied to the screen,” Exelmans said in a University of Michigan press release. “We think they become intensely involved with the content, and may keep thinking about it when they want to go to sleep.”
The study surveyed 423 participants between the ages 18 and 25, and about 75 percent of the participants were students.
The new research is the first to explore the relationship between sleep quality and binge-watching television. It was published in the Journal Of Clinical Sleep Medicine.