CHICAGO — Research conducted by the University of Michigan (UM) and the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research in Belgium found that higher binge-viewing frequency leads to poorer sleep quality, more fatigue and increased insomnia.
Regular TV viewing does not have this problem, the research concluded.
Researchers surveyed 423 adults between the ages of 18 and 25 in February 2016, asking about their sleep quality, fatigue and insomnia, as well as the frequency of binge-watching programs on a TV, laptop or desktop computer for the last month.
Some 81 percent of the respondents reported that they had binge-watched. Of this group, nearly 40 percent did it once during the month preceding the study, while 28 percent said they did it a few times. About 7 percent had binge-viewed almost every day during the preceding month. Men binge-watched less frequently than women, but the viewing session nearly doubled that of women.
Respondents indicated they slept seven hours and 37 minutes on average, and those who binge-viewed reported more fatigue and poor sleep quality compared to those who didn’t binge-watch.
Liese Exelmans, the study’s lead author and a researcher at the Leuven School for Mass Communication Research, said people might sleep an appropriate amount of time, seven to nine hours for adults, but the quality is not always good.
The study showed that increased cognitive arousal prior to sleep is the mechanism explaining the effects of binge viewing on sleep quality.
After binge-watching TV shows, one usually has a racing heart or one that beats irregularly, and is mentally alert. This can create arousal, which in turn prolongs sleep onset and leads to poor sleep quality.
“Our study signals that binge viewing is prevalent in young adults and that may be harmful to their sleep,” said co-author Jan Van den Bulck, communication studies professor at UM.
Sleep insufficiency has been connected to physical and mental health consequences, including reduced memory function and learning ability, obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.