Binge-watching was common practice even before the ongoing pandemic hit – and it has become even more widespread this year. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, binge-watching is consuming several episodes – perhaps an entire season – of a TV series in one sitting. The spread of this type of behavior is fueled by content creators providing us with binge-worthy content lately.
Binge-worthiness is what makes the “Tiger King” is so popular, what causes Netflix users to endlessly rewatch series like Stranger Things and Altered Carbon, often spending half a day – or an entire one – on the couch, with snacks and drinks at hand.
There are, in turn, experts that say you should tone down your episode consumption because – like all other excessive behaviors – it can be dangerous to your health.
Routinely binge-watching shows can have a negative effect on your sleep quality, a 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found. A third of the respondents in their study reported poor sleep quality because of their bingeing habit – the higher the frequency, the worse the sleep. The researchers concluded that binge-watching shows will lead to a state of “cognitive arousal” that disrupts the subjects’ sleep patterns, especially those of young adults, leading to a worse-quality sleep, insomnia, fatigue, and in some cases to depression and anxiety.
The term “sedentarism” is used quite often in association with spending hours upon hours cooked up behind a desk at the office (or at the home office these days). But how is sitting for hours in front of the TV any different? A hint: it’s not.
Actually, watching TV is the most common sedentary behavior in many populations around the world, a 2018 study has found. The number of hours spent in front of a TV has grown continuously over the years, and with it, the occurrence of health conditions associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
And sitting in front of the TV for long hours each day can cause issues similar to long-haul flights: deep vein thrombosis. Besides, binge-watching will almost certainly contribute to weight gain – and all the health problems it can cause – because it’s quite often associated with binge-eating.
No social life
Finally, there’s one aspect that you probably don’t think about when looking for the next binge-worthy show on streaming: the lack of socialization. Most people binge-watch alone, and this lack of socialization can have its own ill effects: an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, depression, and mood disorders.
How to make your binge sessions better
First and foremost, keep them short. Even though it may be tempting to finish an entire season in one sitting, break it down into shorter sprints instead of a single marathon. Take stretch breaks every now and then – twice an hour would be best, according to some experts – or even watch part of an episode while standing. To improve your sleep, try to avoid binge-watching before going to bed.
And most importantly, be careful what – and how much – you snack. Popcorn and fresh fruit are great choices for binge-snacking, and they are healthy as well.