Anything in excess is never good for health, whether binge-eating or over doing certain activities. Most often, while trying to destress, we land up binging which in turn makes us more lethargic than before, doing more harm than good. According to a new study done by the University of Leuven in Belgium, binge-watching television can cause poorer sleep quality, more fatigue, and increased insomnia in young adults. The findings suggest that the mechanism explaining this relationship is increased cognitive alertness resulting from binge-watching.

Binge-Watching TV and its Health Consequences

Researchers found that more than 80 per cent of young adults identified themselves as a binge-watcher, with 20.2 per cent of them binge-watching at least a few times a week in the previous month. Those who identified as a binge-watcher reported more fatigue, more symptoms of insomnia, poorer sleep quality and greater alertness prior to going to sleep. Further analysis found that binge-watchers had a 98 per cent higher likelihood of having poor sleep quality compared with those who did not consider themselves to be a binge- watcher.

“We found that the more often young people binge-watch, the higher their cognitive pre-sleep arousal,” said Liese Exelmans, doctoral candidate at the University of Leuven in Belgium. “That in turn negatively affected sleep quality, fatigue and insomnia,” said Exelmans, lead author of the study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

The study involved 423 young adults who were 18 to 25 years old, with an average age of 22 years. Sixty-two per cent of participants were women, and 74 per cent were students. They completed an online survey assessing regular television viewing, binge-watching, sleep quality, fatigue, insomnia, and pre-sleep alertness.

Binge-watching was defined as “watching multiple consecutive episodes of the same television show in one sitting on a screen, be it a television, laptop, computer or tablet.” An average binge-watching session lasted 3 hours and 8 minutes, with 52 per cent of binge-watchers viewing three to four episodes in one sitting.

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Binge-Eating and its Health Consequences

Likewise, binge-watching also leads to another issue called binge-eating, both being the characteristics of what is known as a ‘couch potato’. Being inactive and being stuck to the screen is what leads to a sedentary lifestyle, which then paves the way for numerous health issues.

According to experts, binge eating episodes lead to obesity which, in turn, causes depression owing to weight stigma, poor self-esteem and reduced mobility. On the other side, depression may also lead to obesity as such people tend to engage in “emotional binge eating” to deal with the pain of rejection, have poor sleep patterns and turn into couch potatoes. In such people, eating relieves stress for brief duration by providing distraction from disturbing thoughts.

Binge-eating disorder is a serious eating disorder in which an individual frequently consumes unusually large amounts of food and is unable to stop craving for more. Individuals with BED could be at an increased risk of 2.5-times of having an endocrine disorder and at 1.9-times of having a circulatory system disorder.

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The endocrine system influences heart, bones and tissues growth, and even fertility. It plays a vital role in determining whether there were chances of developing diabetes, thyroid disease, growth disorders, sexual dysfunction, and a host of other hormone-related disorders. BED is closely associated with hypertension – commonly called high blood pressure – that causes the heart to work harder and could lead to such complications as heart attack, stroke, or kidney failure, among others.

Among individuals with obesity and BED, there is a 1.5-times increased risk of having a respiratory disease and a 2.6-times of having a gastrointestinal disease.

Inputs from PTI

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