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Netflix and No Chill: The Dangers of Binge-Watching on Your Health

Binge-watching your favourite shows is fun until it messes with your sleep. Find out how it can harm your body and discover tips on maintaining health here.

A woman sitting on a sofa while holding a bowl of popcorn while laughing at something she sees on TV. 

Binge-watching is the pastime of choice for many, especially Malaysians. A 2018 Netflix survey revealed that Malaysians are among the top Netflix mobile downloaders around the world. It also mentioned that 59% of Malaysians enjoy eating while watching their favourite shows. 

These statistics were collected before the pandemic hit. In 2021, a study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine concluded that there was an increase in binge-watching to during the pandemic. This trend was observed to be prevalent amongst obese individuals and those with high stress levels. 

Binge-watching is fun but if done frequently, it may disturb your sleep and affect your body negatively in the long run. This article explores the dangers of late-night binge-watching and some tips to stay healthy while indulging in your favourite shows. 

Health Hazards of Binge-Watching  

When you sacrifice regular sleeping hours to watch multiple episodes of the latest K-drama, your body will face the consequences of staying up all night. You might be tearing up from the emotions of your favourite character dying, but your eyes will end up being dry and uncomfortable from late nights.

Other health risks include: 

1. Cardiovascular diseases 

There is a strong relationship between sleep deprivation and heart health. When you sleep, your blood pressure drops. This is why those who lack sleep are more likely to develop hypertension, which is a risk factor for heart-related diseases.

Moreover, having poor sleep quality has been shown to induce atherosclerosis, a heart condition where plaque build-up in the arteries can obstruct the blood flow and could be fatal. 

2. Digestive issues 

If you‘re staying up late, chances are you’re going to be snacking. More than 50% of Malaysian binge-watchers enjoy eating while catching up on their TV shows. Consuming food during what should be your sleeping time is unhealthy behaviour. It is also the reason why staying up late could lead to a higher body mass index (BMI) and obesity.

A woman eating popcorn while holding a remote control.
Eating while binge-watching at night can lead to weight gain.

3. Skin problems 

Developing eye bags and dark undereye circles is just one of the many skin-related problems that would arise if you’re sleep deprived. Many studies have found that sleep affects the immune system, which in turn, influences collagen production. Reduced sleep time is thought to bring about a break in skin barrier function and mucous membranes so a lack of sleep can impair your skin’s integrity. 

4. Excess Heat 

From Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) point of view, too much binge-watching can deplete the yin and cause excessive yang. In TCM, yang relates to the hot or warm aspect of qi. An abundance of yang in the body results in increased Heatiness. This condition will manifest in symptoms such as extreme thirst, a feeling of dryness or bitterness in the mouth, ulcers and an irritated throat. 

How to Stay Healthy While Binge-Watching  

There are some things that you can do for your health if you’re a binge-watching enthusiast: 

1. Set a Curfew 

TCM believes that we should be awake and asleep according to our meridian clock. According to this, our ideal bedtime is 11pm. Staying up past 11pm prevents the regeneration of Liver yin and blood. Likewise, European Health Journal states that a person should go to bed around 10 to 11pm nightly to keep their heart healthy. Set a curfew for yourself and plan your binge-watching time carefully. 

2. Consume Healthy Snacks and Supplements 

Instead of drinking carbonated beverages and reaching for fried chicken at midnight, try something healthier. For beverages, you can opt for herbal teas. American ginseng tea can replenish yin that you might lose while staying up late and boost your mind and immune system, giving you the energy to stay up without the caffeine crash.

Furthermore, teas like chrysanthemum and peppermint (菊花薄荷茶) can clear the heat in the body and the mind. You can prepare this easily using four to five pieces of chrysanthemum flowers and five to ten peppermint leaves in a cup of hot water. Leave it covered for five to ten minutes and it’s ready to drink.

If you feel the need to snack, avoid fried, oily and salty snacks. Fresh fruit, for example, would be a healthier option.

A woman holding a cup of tea in one hand while watching something on her gadget.
Try drinking chrysanthemum and peppermint tea while binge-watching as a healthier option.

3. Acupressure 

Acupressure can be done on your own and the best thing is, you don’t even have to take your eyes off your screen to do it. You can massage these six easily reached acupoints to relieve tension: 

  1. San yin jiao (SP6, 三阴交): This point is located four-finger widths above the inner ankle.
  2. Tai chong (LV3, 太沖): Two-finger widths above the spot where the big toe meets the second toe.
  3. Zu san li (ST36, 足三里): Four-finger widths below the knee and one-finger width outside the shin bone.
  4. Bai hui (DU20, 百会): On the intersection between the midline of the head and the line joining the apex of the ears.
  5. Tai yang (EX-HN5, 太阳): At the temples.
  6. Feng chi (GB20, 风池): At the depression between two major back muscles. 

Since most forms of entertainment were limited during the pandemic, it’s no wonder that more people relied on binge-watching shows on Netflix and other streaming services to relax. However, you don’t have to choose between binge-watching and your health. You should know when it’s time to hit pause and practise self-discipline when necessary. 

This is an adaptation of an article, “Keep An Eye On The Ball & Your Health – This World Cup”, which first appeared on Eu Yan Sang website

References

  1. Malay Mail. 2018. Netflix survey shows more Malaysians don’t mind binge-watching in public [ [Accessed 26 May 2022]
  2. Pubmed. 2021. Binge Watching during COVID-19: Associations with Stress and Body Weight  [Accessed 26 May 2022]
  3. Pubmed. 2010. Can poor sleep affect skin integrity?  [Accessed 26 May 2022]

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