The wave of technological revolution has led to increased screen-time. Binge watching at night by skipping a good night’s sleep has adverse effects on individuals. From irritation in the eyes and disturbed sleep patterns to even obesity, this habit has led several researchers to ascertain the negative effects of binge watching.
Industry reports suggest that there are currently 424 million active users of over-the-top (OTT) sites which include 119 million with paid subscriptions. The pandemic has provided a boost to the OTT platforms.
According to a study published in 2021, using gadgets before bedtime was found to impact sleep quality which has become a major public health issue. Using electronic devices for more than 30 minutes before bedtime was associated with poorer sleep quality.
Another study published in Journal of Health Psychology concluded that binge watching made viewers regretful and unproductive the next day.
Disruptions in an individual’s sleep pattern could lead to other physiological changes in the body, explains Dr H B Chandrashekar, pulmonologist, somnologist (sleep specialist) and allergist/immunologist, Manipal Hospital, Bengaluru.
1. Disturbed sleep patterns
Binge watching at night makes the brain more active because of the blue light emitted from the devices. It disrupts the natural sleep pattern by confusing the brain (not letting one sleep) and creating an imbalance in sleep regulating hormones. Staying up late at night can result in sleep debt or sleep deprivation.
Binge watching at night can make you feel hungry leading to night cravings. Food consumed late at night is not used to metabolise anything due to inactivity and it gets directly stored as fat ultimately leading to obesity.
3. Acid reflux
Consuming food and staying awake late at night results in increased production of acid in the stomach which can lead to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
4. Weaker immune system
Another side effect of staying up at night is a weaker immune system. “At night, our body repairs and heals itself. Lack of sleep results in weaker immunity and makes us more prone to infections,” says Dr Chandrashekar. Research suggests that sleep exerts an immune-supportive function, promoting host defense against infection and inflammation when necessary.
5. Cardiac complications
The heart rate fluctuates with the breathing rate during various stages of sleep. These changes promote cardiovascular health. “Lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk for developing heart diseases like hypertension, ischemic heart diseases, etc.,” said Dr Chandrashekar.
6. Dry eyes
Dry eyes, irritation and itching are the common symptoms of sleep deprivation. “Disruptions in sleep cycle can occur due a lot of reasons. As mobile phones are usually placed closer to the eyes, the ciliary muscle present in the eyes is constantly contracted. Blue light from these devices can also disrupt our circadian rhythm. When you do not sleep according to the body requirements (eight hours per day), the brain is constantly active which strains our eyes and overall health,” says Dr Sunil Kumar, lead and senior consultant, Interventional pulmonology and Sleep medicine, Aster CMI Hospital, Bengaluru.
“When an individual is sleep deprived, their eyes can get teary as there is strain on the eye muscles. This can cause you to constantly rub your eyes which can increase the risk of eye-infections,” added Dr Kumar.
7. Decreased productivity
Lack of sleep or insufficient sleep leads to daytime drowsiness and decreased productivity. It affects your ability to concentrate, learn and memorise. Daytime drowsiness is one of the major reasons for accidents, explained Dr Chandrashekar.
8. Mental health disruptions
In a research article published in 2021, it was reported that individuals with binge-watching behaviour are more likely to be affected by depression. The research also states that binge watching is associated with anxiety, loneliness, reduced social interactions and social isolation.
With inputs from Dimple Shet