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Streaming vs. sleeping: 45 percent of Americans lose sleep to binge-watch

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Over the last decade, streaming services have become increasingly popular and more and more people are choosing Netflix, Hulu and other subscription services over cable television or going out and buying a DVD just like the good old days. According to the Pew Research Center, over 60 percent of young adults use streaming services today.

Streaming television shows, documentaries, movies and other favorites for just over $10 a month is a more common choice than spending over $80 a month to watch a show that comes on once a week. However, subscribing to a streaming service to watch multiple episodes and movies over the course of four to six hours is definitely not the healthiest, especially if the streaming is done in between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Binge-watching: yeah, it may be the "cool" thing to do . . . but how much is it costing us, health-wise? Tuck.com conducted a survey in August involving 1,300 Americans who stream movies and shows and found that Florida residents are 90.3 percent more likely to watch streaming content from bed.

In total, 81 percent of Americans watch less than two hours of streaming from bed per day. In more specific terms, a majority of 30 percent watch in between 30 to 60 minutes of content in bed per day. The survey completed by tuck.com also found that adults ages 45 to 54 are more likely to stream content excessively (over three hours). In general, 22.3 percent of females watch over two hours of streaming content in bed, whereas 14.1 percent of males watch over two hours.

Out of 1,300 people surveyed, 76.7 percent of people ages 65 and older state that the habit of binge-watching does not cut into their sleep time. However, 43.7 percent (18 to 24 years old) and 39.2 percent (25 to 34 years old) state that binge-watching does cut into their sleep time.

According to tuck.com, 35 percent of adults feel like they get less sleep because of streaming content, with an almost equal split among men (35.61 percent) and women (35.88 percent). However, 69.7 percent fall asleep while streaming content from bed, with senior adults aged 65 and older least likely to do so at 52.38 percent.

With all of this in mind, the study shows that fewer than half of the survey participants actually get enough sleep on a regular basis (seven hours or more). However, a study by the University of Chicago came to the conclusion that people actually overestimate the time they actually sleep.

Though a majority of the participants say that streaming content is a good sleep aid, it's actually quite dangerous. A study conducted by the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that one-third of binge-watchers experience poor sleep and less restful sleep, including symptoms of insomnia, than peers who do not binge-watch.

People have heard it said that the bed should only be used for sleep. However, streaming content can keep the brain and nervous system from feeling anything but calm. Tuck.com continues to state that the effect isn't isolated to one's nervous system. When streaming content, off of a television, tablet or smartphone, blue wavelengths of light are being emitted. The human brain perceives these wavelengths more intensely, confusing it with sunlight, tricking our brain into thinking it is still daytime.

Lack of sleep, whether intended or not, can have quite the effect on anybody. It can also make for a rough start to a new morning. Sleep deprivation can slow us down in multiple ways including the way we think. According to webmd.com, sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep, therefore, hurts the cognitive functions, impairing attention, reasoning and problem solving, among other things.

Lack of sleep can also play a huge role in serious health problems, bringing about risk for high blood pressure, strokes, diabetes, heart disease and heart attack.

A 2004 study showed that people who sleep less than six hours a day are 30 percent more likely to become obese, according to webmd.com. Sleep loss stimulates appetite as well as cravings for high-fat and high-carbohydrate foods.

Don't think you'll age anytime soon? If you stay up too much longer, you may start seeing wrinkles a lot sooner. After a few nights of severely poor sleep, sallow skin and puffy eyes appear, according to webmd.com. Sleep loss can also cause the body to release too little human growth hormone, which helps increase muscle mass, thickness of skin and the strength of bones. Sleep deprivation can also cause insomnia, depression and issues with the human sex drive.

The National Sleep Foundation states that the average sleep cycle for young adults ages 18 to 25 is seven to nine hours per day, with a range of seven to eight hours of sleep per day needed for adults ages 65 and older.

Tuck.com provides tips on how to get better sleep at night by following just a couple of simple steps:

Stop streaming content in bed: The best way to keep streaming content from interfering with your sleep is to stop watching in your bedroom. By watching content in bed, the brain is encouraged to see the bedroom as a place for stimulating mental activity, instead of a quiet place to relax and sleep.

Use the red-light filter on your streaming device: The blue wavelengths are not healthy for anyone when it's time to go to bed. Streaming with the red-light filter activated will not stimulate the brain and help us wind down for the evening. If your phone does not have a red-light filter built in, you can buy apps such as Twilight, Dimly, Power Nap App and others.

Schedule a time for TV and sleep: Too anxious to miss the next season of “Grey's Anatomy” or “Stranger Things”? You may want to get home a little earlier to set aside one hour before getting ready for bed. Nothing's worse than not getting enough sleep before a hard day of work.

Power down 30 minutes before bed: Giving our brain time to get into the routine is the healthiest option. Thirty minutes before bed, power down all streaming activities and fill your time with relaxing activities such as meditation, reading or aromatherapy.

Additional steps you can take include: exercising regularly, establishing a sleep schedule and taking time to relax and ease your mind before going to bed.

For more information about the streaming study conducted, log onto tuck.com. For more information about sleep patterns and the negative effects sleep loss can have on you, log onto sleepfoundation.org.

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