Just one more episode of your favorite show on Netflix can’t be that dangerous…
It’s 2 am and the next episode of “Tiger King” is calling your name on Netflix. But after what seems like only minutes you hear the alarm clock buzzing – you just binged all night. Time for work! What’s so bad about extra screen time if you’re “lying” in bed? Isn’t Netflix and chill supposed to be relaxing?
Tuning into your favorite show to zone out might help relax you – until you eventually nod off. And you’re not alone. It’s estimated that two thirds of adults regularly fall asleep in front of the TV. Time to hit pause and investigate the dangers of sacrificing sleep and binge watching Netflix all night long.
1. Netflix affects your sleep. We know we need 7-8 hours of sleep each night but going to bed and waking up at the same time every day may be just as critical. Pushing past your bedtime to fit in another episode (or 3) can lead to high blood pressure, higher blood sugar levels and an increased risk of heart attack or stroke, according to WebMD. What’s more, the blue from your TV can interfere with your ability to fall asleep when you’re finally ready for bed. Light interferes with the production of melatonin, a hormone that lets the brain know when it’s time for sleep.
2. Netflix affects your waistline. Let’s be honest, watching episode after episode of “Iron Chef” is going to make your stomach rumble. If you don’t have any smoked salmon on hand, someone should lock up the chips and Oreos, right? Research shows that night owls, those who go to sleep after midnight and wake up mid to late morning, not only sleep less but tend to eat more calories at dinner or bedtime snacks compared to “normal” sleepers. It’s not just what you eat, but when you eat, according to intermittent fasting experts. Put simply, your sleep habits have a major influence on when you eat and how much.
3. Netflix might add stress to your night. Whether it’s “Dead to Me” or “Ozark”, suspense is what reels us in and keeps us hooked, urging us to bend our bedtime rules. Night after night. Needless to say, staying one step ahead of the bad guy can be fun and stressful. And it will eventually kill a routine bedtime, which is a strategy that will come to haunt you over the long term. Carve your bedtime in stone and stick to it. The pay off – a sweet night of sleep.
4. Netflix could affect the quality of your output at work in the morning. The characters in “Mad Men” are always at the office but if you’re watching them from your comfy couch when you should be at the office or sleeping, you’re asking for trouble. Study after study shows that people who go to bed after 11:30 on a work/school night tend to have lower productivity levels compared to people who regularly clock 7-9 hours of sleep, according to the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.
5. Netflix may lead to disrupted sleep. Falling asleep while watching your computer or TV may also mean falling asleep with the bedroom light on. Having the light on all night during sleep can is associated with shallow sleep, which is an opportunity for disrupted sleep. It’s worth repeating that it’s important to create a sleep environment designed for a good night’s sleep. Consider light-blocking curtains to remove outside light. Move electronics out of the bedroom to avoid sleep-wrecking blue light, which throws off your circadian rhythms. And if you have loud neighbors or housemates with a different sleep schedule, a white noise machine or earplugs will help block out distracting sounds throughout the night.
But what if I really do need the TV to fall asleep?
Do you ever find yourself in a rut of repetitive thinking, a cyclical or infinite loop of ruminating on the same subject? “A key feature of insomnia is that people are inwardly focused and often have cyclic thoughts,” says Zeitzer, an associate professor at Stanford University in the Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine. “Watching something on TV can, basically, allow people to get out of their own way and allow for sleep to occur.”
So there might be exceptions to falling asleep to the TV – good news if you’re having trouble breaking the habit. The key is finding shows where nothing unexpected happens and there are no loud explosions of excitement, like Friends or Parks & Rec. You’ll be able to distract yourself without worrying that you’ll be jolted awake during the next auto-played episode. If falling asleep is chronic issue for you, watching TV can become routine, like brushing your teeth before bed. But Zeitzer warns that it can backfire as well, becoming so habit-forming that it’s impossible to fall asleep without TV. “If the power is out, or you are somewhere there is no TV, it might be anxiety-provoking or just cause difficulties in initiating sleep.”
A quick primer on better bedtime habits
When you’re overcoming a sleep deficit, these are some of basic principles for creating good slumber conditions:
- Keep your bedroom cool. Body temperature naturally lowers when we sleep. Starting the night in a cooler state will help you get you to sleep quicker and promote deeper sleep. A warm room may make you groggy and put you to sleep, but your body wastes a lot of energy regulating its temperature. Your bedroom should always be cooler than other rooms in the house.
- Go dark. Darkness helps to stimulate melatonin, which is key for a deep restful sleep. Keep your bedroom as dark as possible by using blackout curtains or wearing an eye mask.
- Avoid electronics at least 1-2 hours before bed. While darkness stimulates melatonin production, blue light from electronics can prevent it from being released. This will cause issues with getting to sleep and staying asleep. Try to cut out the bright blue light from phones, tablets and TVs for at least that 1 or 2 hours before bed to allow your body to get to its natural state.
- Skip caffeine and alcohol. Alcohol may put you to sleep, but it’s bad for deep restorative sleep. While we know caffeine can keep you up, many people don’t understand that it hangs around in the bloodstream much longer than the two or more hours where you feel the noticeable effects. It can linger for 3 to 7 hours. Experiment to find what’s the best cut-off time of day to end caffeine consumption– 2 pm is a good rule of thumb though.
Rest well & wake up ready to go!
Better sleep gives rise to better mornings, bringing your goals into focus and dreams within reach. Hungry for more sleep info? Dig into these posts:
- Can lavender help you sleep better?
- How clean (healthy) is your bedroom?
- What’s the best lighting for your bedroom?