A Typical Night in the Daley Household:
8:38 PM: Younger Daleys are finally asleep after water, reading, and multiple questions about the schedule for the next day, weather, religion, choices for career…..
8:40 PM: Streaming comedy show with oldest Daley child
9:06 PM: Oldest Daley child is in room reading, husband tries to remember which program we were watching and on which streaming service this program is found.
9: 08 PM: Program found, episode starts
10:00 PM: First episode ends, I know I have a 5:30 AM wake up to work out, but really want to know what happens next in the program. We debate whether watching a partial episode is even possible, and then start the second episode-HAVE to see what happens next!
10:55 PM: Heading into bedtime routine, regretting how little time I have left to sleep before I have to be up. Husband starts to watch a program he likes, says he will be up in a few minutes.
11:13 PM: Asleep, who knows what time husband actually sneaks into bed?
Switching From Cable to Streaming
About five years ago, we made the switch from network/cable TV to exclusively streaming our programs. I went through a hardcore HGTV withdrawal, which I think I medicated through real-life home renovations and turning.
Although I still miss HGTV (true story- I obsessively keep hotel TV’s to that channel so I can soak as much in as possible), I have mostly seen tremendous advantages to this style of programming. No commercials means that our kids never beg for any specific cereals or toothpastes, and usually are at a loss for what they want for presents.
Intentionality watching programs means that our TV is only on for a couple of hours maximum per day.
What is Binge-Watching?
Binge-watching is defined as watching multiple episodes of the same program in one sitting.
Statistics indicate that 70% of people between the ages of 13-49 report some binge-watching. The usage of the term “binge” was not accidental- it is intended to demonstrate that this viewing behavior could have a negative effect.
Binge-viewing is associated with increases in anxiety, depression, loneliness, and fatigue, and it is feared that we will start to see a decrease in social skills for people who have a high frequency of binge-watching.
According to a recent study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, the more frequently you binge-watch, the worse your sleep quality will be. The major reason for the effects on sleep was actually surprising- the cognitive arousal associated with your engagement in the program made it difficult to move to a place of restfulness and sleep.
The Progression of Technology and Streaming
It has been interesting to watch the progression of technology- you used to have to tell Netflix to start the next episode of a series, but it now will automatically start the next episode after a 20-second countdown.
For little kids, this means binge-watching without any need for parental interaction. Easy for parents, but keeps the kids in front of the TV for much more time.
Many parents, like me, may pat themselves on the back about the fact that the programs are appropriate and free of advertisements, but the extended periods of time watching TV can hamper creative play and other skill development.
For older kids, binge-watching can even be a badge of honor. I started to watch “The Office” with my oldest, planning for months if not years of a shared television experience, which ended after he spent an entire weekend watching every single episode.
Where are the parents??? Oh yeah, it was my responsibility to manage that one. I realize this story negates my earlier statement about the TV never being on, but, in my defense, he actually watches Netflix on his laptop, which I also should be regulating better.
Binge-Watching is Messing With Your Sleep Quality
Watching on laptops instead of TV screens has added a host of other challenges in the realm of sleep. Laptops are very portable, which means that watching can continue when environments change.
My son is pretty proficient at downloading movies and shows so he doesn’t have to miss out when we travel. We can even watch on our mobile phones, which means that we never, ever have to be away from our beloved programming!
Of course, we usually watch with screens that aren’t far from our eyeballs, which can confuse our clock system in our brain. This stimulus results in a delay of bedtime and more reduction in our total sleep time.
How do we do this with the least impact on our sleep and overall wellbeing?
First of all, get used to stopping the program because it is bedtime, even if there are only 10 minutes left to go. It is actually pretty freeing to realize that programs on demand actually means that you can watch them when they best fit YOUR schedule. It may be good to set a reminder somewhere that your bedtime is a certain time so that you remember to stop the program.
Second, be mindful of your watching options. Savor your programs, so that you don’t land in a dreaded show hole! I like that we can usually only catch 1 episode per night because it really does allow for the program to be something to be anticipated. Delay of gratification is good, embrace it!
Third, pay attention to the distance your face is from the screen you are watching. Cast the program onto a TV across the room rather than on your device. Your eyeballs and your sleep will thank you.
Lastly, since cognitive arousal was the biggest issue, have some kind of transition between watching and sleep that allows you to unwind. My favorite transition to sleep is reading, but meditating, praying, or even a good skincare routine can help make the transition to less mental activity and increase your odds of falling asleep.