A new survey from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) found that 88% of U.S. adults admitted to losing sleep due to staying up late to watch multiple episodes of a TV show or streaming series — and this number jumps to 95% when looking at 18- to 44-year-olds.
The same survey shows that Americans rank sleep as their second most important priority, following family. But actions speak louder than words, and it’s not just TV shows that are taking precedence over sleep. Two-thirds of adults have lost sleep due to reading, 75% of men have lost sleep watching sporting events, and 72% of those aged 18-34 have put video games ahead of bedtime.
“Choosing to binge on entertainment at night instead of sleeping has serious ramifications,” said AASM President Dr. Kelly A. Carden. “Sleep is essential to health, well-being and safety, and chronic insufficient sleep can lead to an increased risk of health problems, mood disorders and motor vehicle accidents.”
Here are a few tips to help binge-watch responsibly:
Set an episode limit. Commit to a specific number of episodes at the beginning of your watching session. To decide how many episodes you can fit in, determine your bedtime. The AASM recommends adults get seven or more hours of sleep for optimal health. Use this bedtime calculator to find out when you need to go to bed based on your wake time.
Get out of the “auto-play” loop. Many streaming services will automatically launch episodes one after another to ensure you keep watching. This makes it easy to think “OK, one more episode,” leading to late nights and sleepy mornings. Check settings to turn off the “auto-play” and ensure you are consciously choosing when to continue watching, and when to power off for bed.
Make time on the weekend. If you enjoy streaming for longer periods, set aside part of your weekend to catch up on your favorite shows. Reserving Saturday or Sunday afternoon will provide more time for getting immersed in your shows, while still providing adequate time for sleep.
Filter out blue light at night. If you stream content on a cell phone or tablet, make sure you have altered the device’s blue light setting to minimize the alerting effects of screens at night. Bright light, such as that from a mobile device, sends signals to your brain that indicate you should be awake. This can make it difficult to fall asleep. Adjust your screen’s brightness in the evening and avoid any electronics at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Avoid using devices in bed. Streaming from the comfort of bed can also impede your ability to fall asleep. It’s best to keep electronics out of the bed so that you associate your bed with sleep when you lay down at night.
If you are experiencing ongoing sleep problems, talk to your medical provider, who may direct you to the sleep team at an accredited sleep center for help. For more information and to find a local accredited sleep center, visit www.sleepeducation.org.