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Is Netflix bad for you? How binge-watching could hurt your health

Before you know it, you’ve watched the whole season. (Photo/iStock)


Is Netflix bad for you? How binge-watching could hurt your health

USC experts share when it’s time to put down the remote when watching The Crown or The Fall

Joanna ClayBY Joanna Clay

Back in the day, you’d wait a whole week for the next episode of your favorite TV show. Now we can watch the whole series in one sitting — and many of us do.

With the advent of streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, binge-watching has become the new normal. But this new habit of watching hours of back-to-back television could take a toll on us — particularly when it comes to sleep.

“When you’re sleep-deprived, nothing good happens,” said Raj Dasgupta, a physician in the Division of Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine reported that binge-watching could lead to sleep deprivation. The study looked at 423 young adults, 80 percent of whom called themselves binge-watchers, bingeing an average of 3 hours and 8 minutes daily.

Everyone knows sleep is a necessary human function that helps the mind and body repair: It’s essential in warding off disease and maintaining memory. Adults are advised to get seven to eight hours of sleep — but these days, Dasgupta said, millennials are scraping by with as little as six hours.

When we’re deprived of sleep, lots of stuff can go wrong. For one, anxiety and depression can increase. That makes us prone to mistakes, which can stress us out more, Dasgupta said.

Research shows binge-watchers report higher levels of loneliness and depression. But they do say their binge-watching is sometimes helpful in social interactions, giving them something to talk about with friends and colleagues.

And Netflix knows what they’re fighting, tweeting in April that “Sleep is my greatest enemy.” The streaming platform reports its viewers take in at least two hours a day of their favorite shows.

Technology makes it easy

It’s not surprising we’re glued to the tube. The platforms have adapted to the habit, according to Wendy Wood, Provost Professor of psychology and business at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.

Once, you had to physically get off the couch to change the channel. Then, Wood said, the remote control came along.

source: University of Southern California

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