Alaska Sleep Education Center

TV Binge-Watching and Para-social Living

Posted by Stefanie Leiter

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on Mar 12, 2019 4:00:00 PM

It is winter and sometimes the only thing to do is watch a movie or television for relaxation. Though tempting to spend all your time bundled up by the fire while binge-watching your favorite shows, it can be detrimental to your sleep.

tvAn entire season on Netflix is consumed in five days with viewers watching two to six episodes of the same show in one sitting. Binge-watching is not only popular but considerable a desirable commodity in the hustle of life. A man even set a 94-hour Guiness World Record for the prestige of binge-watching king.

Before social media and texting, it was all about not going to a party or not being invited at all. You heard about it the next day at school or from coworkers. Now you can see it all live on social media. When so many are binge-watching television shows, the fear of missing out (FOMO) phenomenon is causing people to feel obligated to watch shows because everyone else is.

Studies found that binge-watchers were 98 percent more likely to have poor sleep quality compared with those who didn’t binge-watch. By definition, binge-watching is viewing multiple consecutive episodes of the same television show in one sitting on a screen. An average binge-watching session lasted 3 hours and 8 minutes, with 52 percent of binge-watchers viewing three to four episodes in one sitting.

The reason behind a lot of binge-watching television is the parasocial interaction between the viewer and the characters on the show. We feel attached to their trials, their happiness, and their history. When previously viewers had to wait a week or sometimes a month or season to find out what happens next, bingeing affords the viewer autonomy of choice.

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 Ann Arbor. “This intense engagement with television content could require a longer period to ‘cool down’ before going to sleep, thus affecting sleep overall.”

Insomnia affects 33 percent of adults while affecting 20 to 40 percent of BInge-Coverchildren and teenagers. The U.S. economy spends a projected $90 billion and has been found to reduce life expectancy and increase the risk of cardiovascular events, compromised immunity,

obesity, diabetes, seizures and asthma.

But lack of sleep also affects relationships, performance, and judgment. The Sleep Doctor article included a 2017 study from University of Michigan and Belgium’s University of Leuven that found 45 percent of U.K. viewers watch tv alone on a daily basis with 90 percent watching by themselves every week. In the U.S., 56 percent said they preferred to binge watch alone. Studies like this prove the effect bingeing has on relationships.

The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine published in 2018 over one-third of binge-watchers experience poor sleep. A lot of reasons behind the issues are not practicing healthy decisions to achieve a good night’s rest and experiencing fatigue during the daytime.


A few ideas and tips to binge-watch responsibly include:

  • Decide if you are binge-watching alone, with a friend, or your spouse. Together you can decide on a limit of episodes.
  • Be aware of looping with the auto-play features on streaming. If you start another episode on auto-play, you are more likely to break your plans and keep watching.
  • DId you know you can download episodes on your phone or tablet? There is a limit so you can make certain you restrict the amount of bingeing.
  • Avoid binge-watching from the bedroom. The blue light exposes the room to distractions when you are trying to fall asleep.
  • And while you are not emitting light in the bedroom, stop bingeing 30 minutes prior to your bedtime to help maximize your sleep quality.


According to the American Alliance for Healthy Sleep (AAHS), behaviors during the day affect your bedtime routine at night. While you may have the best attentions to follow the tips, you also want to keep in mind best practices leading up to bedtime.

  • Routines are not just for children. Establish a routine to calm the mind and body prior to sleeping. Essential oils can help relax mind along with an epsom salt bath. Try reading if your mind is scrambling and reduce caffeine to the afternoon.
  • Create an oasis. One-third of the day is spent in the bedroom so make certain the bedroom is calm, airy, and soft. The right colors, bed sheets, white noise or music, and pillow can make or break the space. Dark curtains can help along with a low lighting option on the nightstand.
  • Journal at bedtime. A lot of the issues surrounding sleep include anxiety or an active mind. If you feel like you are laying in bed thinking of everything you forgot to do or need to do the next day, journal or make a list. Remove the wall clock or alarm clock from your site and focus instead on what is making you anxious to fall asleep.

Don’t let your own sleep deprivation lead you down a road that is unstoppable. While struggling through normalcy of sleep patterns, a lot of help is available.

The best thing you can do is visit your family physician or a local sleep specialist. If you live in Alaska, click on the link below to find a sleep specialist closest to you.

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Topics: insomnia, parasomnia, binge-watching

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