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6 Ways Binge-Watching May Be Ruining Your Health

Have you ever thought that maybe that innocent Netflix habit could be wreaking havoc on your health? Turns out it might be a dangerous vice you not only want to cut back on, but maybe eliminate it entirely for a while. Read on to discover ways you might be sabotaging your health without even knowing it, as well as possible solutions if you just can’t put the remote down or get off the couch.

1. Your Appetite

Watching television often goes hand in hand with mindless overeating and unhealthy snacking. Watching episode after episode can make that worse, leading you to order pizza, a no brainer. A 2012 study from the University of Montreal found that a single meal high in saturated fat can damage arteries and restrict blood flow in the body. Furthermore, watching high-paced, action-oriented programs also triggers more distracted eating than less stimulating news programs or talk shows, according to a 2014 study by Cornell University.

Sometimes, simply seeing characters eat on TV, smoke, or drink alcohol may make you consume more calories on a subconscious level, and follow their behavior patterns. Try to fight the urge by prepping healthy food in advance. Make a healthy meal before you indulge in a few episodes or have healthier pre-portioned snacks, like low fat popcorn, an assortment of nuts, or dark chocolate, at the ready.

2. Your Mood

A recent study by the University of Texas at Austin found that binge-watching is linked with feelings of depression and loneliness. People often try to lose themselves in TV to distract themselves from their negative feelings, and what may be going on in their own lives, the authors note, but often they’re unable to stop even when they know they are neglecting work and relationships. Spending a whole weekend watching TV may also cause feelings regret and guilt come Monday, but those are usually temporary once you resume face-to-face social interaction.

For viewers with pre-existing mental health conditions, however, a binge session may have bigger consequences. Perhaps they’re in a vulnerable state and the plot material triggers a negative reaction, such as reliving trauma or amplifying emotional pain. You might want to reconsider watching with friends in case you are feeling a little anxious or emotionally upset.

3. Your Sleep

Research shows that your shut-eye schedule in the days after your binge session can also be affected. If you watch in a dark room with a lack of sunlight on a Saturday or Sunday, it can screw up your circadian rhythm and disrupt sleep-wake cycles come Monday or Tuesday. You might even miss the connection. On top of that, research suggests that the blue light emitted from televisions, computers, and smartphones can impair the production of melatonin, a hormone that helps promote sleep. Not to mention, it can cause headaches and eye strain.

As a remedy of sorts, you might want to avoid a binge that’s too close to bedtime. You need at least an hour or two away from the blue light to appropriately wind down. Watching on a screen that’s close to your face may have the biggest impact, so be sure you really sit back and relax.

4. Your Muscles

It’s unlikely that you’ll gain five pounds or sabotage your fitness goals in one sitting, but spending all day sitting can have more immediate consequences, including stiffness, back pain, and muscle cramps. You might want to reconsider your Sunday afternoon plans. A potential remedy could be to watch while you are on the go. Download apps so you can watch from your phone or tablet while on the treadmill, stationary bike, or elliptical. At the very least, you should try getting up to stretch between each episode.

5. Your Metabolism

Studies show that spending long periods of time in a chair or on a couch does slow metabolism and cause the body to store more fat, which can lead to slow, steady weight gain. Prolonged sitting has been linked to certain cancers, diabetes, and heart disease. Research consistently shows that the more time people spend watching TV, the more sedentary they become, and the more likely they are to die prematurely. Sadly, in many cases, these associations hold true even if you’re getting the recommended amount of exercise during the day. Avoid making it an unhealthy and addictive habit to begin with.

6. Your Circulation

Staying in one position for too long can contribute to deep vein thrombosis and the formation of potentially fatal blood clots, even in otherwise active individuals. Young healthy people can be just as vulnerable, who might lie around all day surfing the web, or watching movies. Get up at least every 30 minutes, just to keep the blood flowing irrespective of your age.

For a lot of individuals, binge-watching might be a form of cheap relaxing entertainment. There is certainly nothing wrong with this guilty pleasure. As with most things in life, moderation is the key to avoiding problems, but if you feel like occasionally unwinding this way, don’t beat yourself up about it, truly enjoy it, and just resume healthier activities the following day.

6 Ways Binge-Watching May Be Ruining Your Health

Emily Waters

Emily Waters earned her Master's degree in industrial psychology with an emphasis in human relations. She possesses keen insight into the field of applied psychology, organizational development, motivation, and stress, the latter of which is ubiquitous in the workplace environment and in one’s personal life. One of her academic passions is the understanding of human nature and illness as it pertains to the mind and body. Prior to obtaining her degree, she worked in both the corporate and nonprofit sectors. Presently, she teaches a variety of psychology courses both in public and private universities.

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APA Reference
Waters, E. (2018). 6 Ways Binge-Watching May Be Ruining Your Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 11 Mar 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.