Ever since Netflix hit the scene, the phrase “just one more episode” has been used a lot more frequently, simply because Netflix provides that luxury. Before the emergence of media service providers like Netflix or Hulu, viewers were forced to wait a week for a new episode. Binge watching was a non-existent concept.

“I can’t fall asleep without watching an episode of Friends,” is another expression that is rather popular among students. Watching our favourite shows before bed has quickly become part of our nightly routine. Although many believe that Netflix tends to help our minds and bodies unwind, that couldn’t be further from the truth. We unconsciously gravitate to the idea of falling asleep to familiar voices, whether that be the theme song from your favourite sitcom or drifting away submerged in your dream genre.

What usually slips our mind as we continue to gawk at our laptops is the morning after. Netflix not only affects sleep quality during the night, it is a recipe for disaster the morning after, as it affects next day alertness. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, “over one third of binge watchers experience poor sleep.”

Binge watching is a new phenomenon referring to the practice of watching multiple episodes in one sitting. Although that might not necessarily sound like a bad idea, binge watching is a form of addiction. Watching TV shows is an investment. Every night we press play and invest a few hours at the very least in hope of feeling enticed and engaged. Our heart starts to rhythmically beat as the storyline of the protagonist is at its climax causing the mind and body to become more alert. The brain then releases more dopamine which simulates a certain type of high.

Content is a determining factor in how much dopamine your brain releases. Netflix recently came out with a binge scale displaying that genres like thriller and drama result in longer binging hours, as opposed to some comedies such as Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers.

Blue Light is another major contributor to binge watching. Unknowingly, as we semi-focus our attention on the new flavour of the month, our phones, laptops and tablets are emitting a light that our brains perceive to be the equivalent of sunlight. The more blue light our brain receives, the higher our dopamine levels rise forcing us unwittingly into a trance like state.

According to Dr. Gayani DeSilva, a psychiatrist at Laguna Family Health Centre in California, “we continue to immerse ourselves in the stories we feel more attached because our brain interprets these signals as real memories.” We often gravitate towards plot lines and characters we identify with and unconsciously develop feelings of empathy.

Admitting that Netflix is the secret passageway to our escapist pleasures is a sure-fire way to identify our insistent need to be entertained, whether it be to our benefit or not. While it is unrealistic to propose that viewers stop watching all together, we should rather, approach binge watching with an air of caution. Possibly set a predetermined amount of time, perhaps only watch at a particular time of the day and always consider that moderation can be the key to your freedom.

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