You get into bed after a long day at school, pull up your laptop, and decide to watch an episode of that new show everyone’s been talking about. Cut to four hours later; it’s midnight and you’ve binged most of the first season – and you’re still tempted to watch just one more, even though you know you’ll be regretting it the next morning.
It happens to the best of us. With the emergence of many ready-to-watch TV shows and movies through streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, binge watching has become increasingly common among teens. In fact, according to a recent report released by Netflix, 61% of people watch two to six episodes of television every single day. Considering that each episode is around 40 minutes each, that quickly adds up to an average of more than 20 hours of television per week.
Of course, binge watching wouldn’t be so popular if it didn’t make us feel good. According to the same Netflix survey, 73% of participants reported positive feelings in regards to their most recent binge. But if you find yourself watching the entirety of a TV show in one sitting, you might be feeling drained by the end of it, or even depressed that you’re out of episodes to watch.
In addition to the emotional difficulties associated with binge watching, it can wreak havoc on our physical health as well as our mental health. Excessive binge watching goes hand in hand with sedentary behavior, meaning that most binge watchers don’t get a lot of time to move around. This, accompanied by the fact that most teens are already spending so much time sitting in classes and doing homework, means that they are more at risk for diseases linked to obesity, including diabetes and blood clots. In fact, the dangers of binge watching run so deep that it is hard to balance them out with other positive behaviors. For every hour of television watched, it would take two hours of rigorous exercise to fully reverse its effects on the body.
Binge watching can also have a significant impact on sleep. Overall, those who binge watch are 98% more likely to have poor sleep quality, according to the University of Michigan and Leuven School for Mass Communication Research. Bright screens can disrupt the circadian rhythm, delaying melatonin production. This poor quality of sleep affects our alertness throughout the day, productivity at school, and weakens our immune system.
Binge watching, although addictive, is a harmful and dangerous habit that affects our mental and physical health. While it’s unlikely that binging will decrease in popularity any time soon, it’s important to be mindful of the time we spend watching television, and make sure we eat healthy and exercise enough to make up for it.