How Binge Watching Can Ruin Your Sleep

Power down before bed

Key Takeaways

  • Sleep specialists agree that bringing screens into bed can lead to trouble. 
  • Streaming is only part of the problem; the light from electronics can also be an issue.
  • To get the best sleep, experts say to give yourself a nightly routine that doesn’t involve screens.
Someone sleeping in a bed with a hand on a remote control.
Enes Evren / Getty Images

Experts agree that if you want a good night’s sleep, you may want to take a break from your streaming devices before going to bed. 

As Netflix looks to test a new sleep timer, those who study sleep think turning off the TV may be the better solution. The Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine published a study that found binge viewing is associated with insomnia and restlessness. One out of five respondents to the study admitted to binge watching at least a few times a week during the past month, and The Journal warns binge watchers may not be getting the healthy sleep they need. 

With TVs in multiple rooms throughout the house, laptops that can be carried into bed, and smartphones that can stream anything, Dr. Pietro Luca Ratti, MD, PhD, sleep expert and neurologist, thinks technology is disrupting sleep more than ever. 

"Streaming is definitely getting in the way of sleeping," he said in an email to Lifewire. "People convince themselves that they’ll only watch one more episode and stay up for two more hours." 

Fall Asleep With a Routine

Dr. Lisa Medalie, a board-certified pediatric insomnia specialist, emphasized the importance of setting firm times to turn your electronics off. 

"When I first started in the sleep field, asking a parent to take a TV out of a kid’s bedroom was less of an ask because not every room had a television back then," she said in an email to Lifewire. "Now, there’s a Radio Shack in every kid’s bedroom." 

"People convince themselves that they’ll only watch one more episode and stay up for two more hours." 

A sleep timer might make turning your devices off before bed a little easier, but Dr. Lori Russell-Chapin, a professor at Bradley University, said it’s better to find something else to do before bed to wind down. 

"A regular sleep hygiene pattern needs to be created and consistently turned into a nightly ritual," she said in an email to Lifewire. "For some that might be taking a bath and brushing teeth. For others, meditating or listening to music that has delta waves embedded into nature sounds is needed."

She suggested unplugging (and that means no TV) for a full hour before getting under the covers. 

"Most people need eight hours of sleep per night. As adults...doing often mindless behavior is not helpful," Russell-Chapin added. 

Don’t Sacrifice Sleep

The bright light from your laptop or cell phone tells your brain to wake up, not sleep, even when your watching TV shows or movies. As Davina Ramkissoon, wellness director at Zevo Health, explained, screen time before bed ruins our circadian rhythm.

A family in bed with both parents playing on smartphones and a child watching.
boonchai wedmakawand / Getty Images

"Circadian Rhythm controls your daily schedule for sleep and wakefulness and is influenced by light and dark," she said in an email to Lifewire. She added that recent research shows that an average college student loses 46 minutes of sleep per night due to phone usage.  

"Blue light emitting from our cellphones and other devices signal us to stay awake even if it’s past our bedtime."

Laura Bates, a certified sleep science coach and founder of Comfybeddy, said the light your screens produce will trick your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, causing "sleep offset."

She said studies have shown that technology use before bed is closely linked to poor sleep quality. Because of that, she added, "I don’t believe that the new sleep timer function by Netflix is going to do us any good."

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