The Health Consequences Of Binge-Watching Television

September 26, 2023

Binge watching television is when you watch one episode after another of a television show without stopping, except perhaps for bathroom breaks and snacks. Binging on television was not possible for individuals in earlier generations before the advent of the Internet, cable television, and the night and day accessibility of entertainment these media provide. Nowadays, the temptation to binge watch television is coupled with the endless availability of programming, videos, CDs, and online streaming, resulting in damaging health consequences for bingers. Get to know these major health consequences now.

Disrupts Sleep Cycles

A study recently published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine surveyed 423 individuals on their television watching habits and their quality of sleep and the presence of sleep disorders. Participants who reported the most occurrences of binge-watching television also reported the most problems with insomnia, disrupted sleep cycles, and feeling wakeful at bedtime.

The researchers noted many programs individuals binge on have complex plots and intensive character development, causing viewers to have a large physiological and emotional response to what they watch, thus increasing the amount of time they need after watching to relax and become sleepy. Viewing a bright screen at night can also affect the circadian rhythms, which control the daily cycle of sleep and wakefulness. Poor quality of sleep and lack of sleep lower immune function, leading to more cases of colds, flu, and other contagious diseases.

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Unhealthy Food Choices

Binge watching television, whether on television, laptop, desktop, or mobile device, is also associated with making poor decisions about food. Binge watchers become deeply engrossed in the storylines of their favorite show, so much so they neglect hunger signs and then resort to fast fixes on unhealthy snacks during breaks in the program. If a person engages in regular binge-watching, over time, these unhealthy food choices can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. All of these diseases are also linked to obesity, and the unhealthy food choices made by many binge watchers can easily increase the likelihood of the individual becoming overweight.

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Less Exercise

To binge-watch television, you pretty much have to sit down and stay put. Inevitably, this means you are less exercise and physically active. The benefits of exercise and physical activity are incremental, and every little bit helps. On the other hand, every little bit more of inactivity from binging on television shows also adds up, increasing the likelihood of chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart and circulatory problems, and other adverse consequences. One action you can to counteract the lack of activity during binge-watching is to do your watching standing up. Standing up burns an average of an extra forty calories per hour, and it also is a form of weight-bearing exercise that improves muscle tone, circulation, and heart health.

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Poor Circulation And Cardiovascular Health

Whenever you move around, your heart works harder, and the condition of the heart muscle, arteries, and skeletal muscles stays healthier. Physical activity and movement are also the only means of circulating the lymph, a special type of white blood cell involved in the removal of toxins and waste from the body. Binge watching television, by definition, reduces how much physical activity a person does in a day. If binge-watching is indulged in regularly, poor circulation and cardiovascular health are often the results. If you do spend regular time binge-watching television, make a special effort to get adequate amounts of exercise at other times.

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Affects Your Social Life

Binge watching television is often a solo sport. Most bingers hunker down by themselves or with a loved one when binging on television. If a person does this more than occasionally, it can interfere with other social relationships and obligations. Some individuals become so fixated on their binge-viewing they forget to return phone calls or emails from friends and family. Or, they decline social invitations that would interfere with their binge-viewing schedule. Over time, this type of anti-social behavior can have a corrosive effect on their real-life relationships. As a person’s social life deteriorates, their self-esteem often also decline. This, in turn, leads to reducing social interactions even more in a vicious cycle.

If you cannot stop binge-watching television shows, limit the damage by not allowing yourself to binge watch late at night when it is most likely to interfere with sleep. Give yourself at least one hour after turning off the television to wind down before bedtime. Stock-up on healthy snacks and wholesome foods before you settle in for a binge-watching session. Stand up some of the time you are watching and keep up with an exercise program.

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