The screen turns black. A question appears:
‘Are You Still Watching?’
You’ve just sat through three episodes, uninterrupted. It’s now the early hours of the morning. Sound familiar?
What does binge watch mean?
According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, the definition of ‘binge watching’ comes from watching many or all episodes of a TV series in rapid succession. Oxford Learner’s Dictionary adds ‘usually by means of DVD or digital streaming’.
Binge watching and sleep
According to a recent survey we commissioned, almost two thirds of Brits (64%) have prioritised streaming their favourite TV shows over sleep.
In the survey of 1,300 people in the UK, nearly half (47.2%) lost 2-3 hours of sleep in the past week compared to their normal sleeping habits because they wanted to continue watching a TV show or a series on a streaming platform. That’s more than 100 hours of sleep lost per year as a result of binge watching.
The survey also revealed only a quarter of people (24.4%) have turned off the autoplay function on their streaming service - a feature that is thought to promote binge watching of TV shows.
Plus, 16% of people were unaware that the autoplay feature can even be turned off at all.
Autoplay and sleep
It’s hard to compete when autoplay encourages us to stay awake when we should be winding down. Streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime and Hulu are designed to keep us watching.
From providing a season’s worth of episodes to devour in a single day, to automatically starting the next episode five seconds into the rolling end credits. Even the CEO of Netflix sees the connection between binge watching Netflix and sleeping.
“You know, think about it, when you watch a show from Netflix and you get addicted to it, you stay up late at night,” Reed Hastings said. “We’re competing with sleep, on the margin. And so, it’s a very large pool of time.”
We also collected data on the amount of time people have to consider whether it’s time to stop watching and go to bed before the next episode of a series autoplays.
The data reveals stark differences across the streaming platforms, with Channel 4’s streaming platform, All 4+, giving people a healthy 32 seconds on average to decide. Meanwhile, Netflix and Prime Video get subscribers hooked onto the next episode the fastest, with average time durations between episodes of eight seconds and five seconds, respectively.
We’re all guilty of binge watching, especially with hours of endless entertainment at our streaming fingertips. It’s similar to what a former product philosopher calls the ‘bottomless bowl syndrome’, where we end up ‘scrolling through an infinite stream of posts’ thanks to autoplaying videos on our News Feeds.
Autoplay has already been flagged as an issue.US Republican Senator Josh Hawley tried to ban addictive autoplay in 2009. His bill proposed to target ‘practices that exploit human psychology or brain physiology to substantially impede freedom of choice’.
This covers infinite scroll when a timeline automatically loads new content once the user nears the end of their existing content, and autoplay when a site automatically plays music or video without being prompted.
“Big Tech has embraced addiction as a business model,” Hawley tweeted. “Their ‘innovation’ isn’t designed to create better products, but to capture attention by using psychological tricks that make it impossible to look away.”
How binge watching affects sleep
A 2017 study by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine ‘provides initial evidence that modern viewing styles such as binge viewing may negatively affect overall sleep quality’.
The results? ‘Higher binge viewing frequency was associated with a poorer sleep quality, increased fatigue and more symptoms of insomnia, whereas regular television viewing was not’.
How to stop binge watching
You’re not alone if you’ve surrendered to the ‘bottomless bowl cycle’. According to an article by Mark Griffiths, Professor of Behavioural Addiction at Nottingham Trent University, binge watching can be seen as an addiction, and treated as such.
Here are his top tips for breaking the habit:
- The golden rule? Stop watching mid-episode to avoid being hooked by a cliffhanger.
- Try to cut down on the number of episodes you watch in one sitting.
- Set realistic daily limits for how long you’re going to watch. Then, only start watching as a treat or reward once you’ve finished your tasks for the day.
“Remember, the difference between a healthy enthusiasm and an addiction is that the former adds to your life, whereas the latter detracts from it,” Dr. Griffiths advises.
“If you feel binge-watching is taking over your life, you should seek a referral from your GP to see a clinical psychologist. Most addictions are symptomatic of other underlying problems.
How To Improve Sleep
Over half [55%] of 2,000 Brits surveyed by health and wellness company, dōTERRA, in 2022 reported ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ getting enough sleep.
How to sleep better with CBD
“We already know that too much screen time can affect our quality of sleep,” Love Hemp founder Tony Calamita agrees, following our study into how the clock change can give us jet lag and affect our sleep. “Not only are we losing sleep to watch ‘just one more episode’ - our body then has to contend with the blue light from the screens affecting our circadian rhythm and the quality of our sleep too.”
Tony explains how incorporating CBD into your night-time routine can help to support a more restful night, even whilst the programme rolls on. By interacting with our body’s endocannabinoid system, CBD can help to balance our essential functions, including sleep, mood and even appetite.
“If you’re prone to seeing the hours slip away as you watch the latest hit series, try placing a couple of drops of CBD oil under your tongue at bedtime. CBD can help to calm the mind and regulate the body as it prepares for a good night’s sleep.”
Data Methodology: How We Worked It All Out
The amount of sleep lost by survey respondents in the past week was assumed to be indicative of an average week and scaled up to calculate the estimated amount of sleep lost over a year due to being engrossed in watching TV.
Data on the timings of the autoplay feature on streaming platforms was manually collected by Love Hemp with apps installed on an Amazon Fire Cube. Where the countdown for an autoplay feature did not start immediately, timings before the countdown started were measured with a stopwatch. Five measurements were made and averaged, and rounded to the nearest second. Data was collected using episodes from multiple series on each platform.
- External survey data of collected 24-28 Feb 2022 by The Leadership Factor
- Autoplay timing data collected on 2-3 March 2022.