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Studies find binge-watching can increase risk of sleep deprivation, death

When Netflix releases new seasons of shows like “Stranger Things†or “American Horror Story,†many eyes flock to view multiple episodes at a time, but while “binge-watching†has become common practice for some,  taking it too far could negatively affect viewers’ health. 

Recent studies connect binge-watching television shows to more sleep deprivation among younger audiences and even early mortality rates.

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A study published last August in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that people who binge-watch shows are more likely to miss out on necessary sleep. Of the 423 total 18-25-year-olds studied, 98 percent of the ones who identified as “binge-watchers†reported signs of fatigue, insomnia and poor sleep quality. The people in this study were reported to have a “higher cognitive pre-sleep arousal,†which negatively affected their rest.

For a 2015 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers looked at 10 other academic studies involving a combined 647,475 people to determine that “prolonged TV viewing time might increase the risk of all-cause mortality.†“Given the high prevalence of excessive TV viewing,†the study stated, “public health recommendations or interventions aimed at decreasing the amount of TV viewing time in modern societies are warranted.â€

This risk of death “rises significantly†for those who watch television for four hours or more each day and increases “in accordance with the number of hours spend watching TV beyond four hours,†according to the study. Binge-watching TV also can cause depression and lead to a “very unhealthy lifestyle,†the study stated. 

Dr. Herman Crisler, a pediatric doctor in Memphis, said he believes this lifestyle is especially bad for young people.

“I believe too much TV in a day can be bad for anyone, but I believe it has worse short and long-term effects on young people,†Crisler said. “I believe at a young age, people should be using their brains more and trying to stay active.â€

Crisler also said there are many activities people could do rather than watching TV all day.

“I think instead of people lying on the couch watching TV for four to five hours a day, they could be much more productive,†Crisler said. “They could be active, working on something for school/work or spending time with their family.â€

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A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine observed 221,000 people who were monitored over the course of 16 years. Those who watched up to seven hours of TV daily showed a 47 percent increase in early death, according to the study.

Michael Honore, sophomore biology major at the University of Memphis, said he had never thought about the long-term effects of binge-watching television.

“Honestly, I didn’t think being lazy or watching too much TV could lead to a much earlier death,†Honore said. “It’s crazy to think about because there is no telling how many people spend most of their days watching TV.â€Â 

Kaylee King is a freshman education major at the U of M. She said it is “scary†to think that “just watching TV†can do “all that damage.† 

“It really freaks me out because I can lie in bed all day watching TV, but I never knew it was negatively affecting me,†King said.

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