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How Binge Watching Netflix Really Impacts Your Body

It’s Friday night, and there’s no way that you’re going out. So what do you do? Netflix. Netflix, eat pizza, ice cream and everything else you can find. Before you know it, it’s 2 A.M. and you’ve just spent six hours watching a screen without moving once. Have you ever wondered how that could impact you? Whether it’s your eyes, brain, butt or mental health, binge watching Netflix or any other outlet for hours on end can really hurt you. Binge watching TV can range from four episodes in a row to 10, and even more. There are so many negative effects of doing this, you may want to think twice before turning on the TV and putting on your sweats. Here are several of the ways it impacts your body: 

1. You may be slowing down your metabolism  

According to NPR, epidemiologist Steven Blair spent 40 years investigating physical activity and health in relation to sitting and watching TV. “If you’re sitting, your muscles are not contracting, perhaps except to type,” Blair says. “But the big muscles, like in your legs and back, are sitting there pretty quietly.” And because the major muscles aren’t moving, your metabolism slows down. When you have a slower metabolism, this means that you are digesting your food at a slower rate than people with a faster metabolism. This can lead to weight gain and many other health problems associated with your digestive system. 

2. Your eyes are strained 

According to Dr. Rebecca M. Sappington, Ph.D, Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt School of Opthamology and Visual Sciences, watching Netflix or TV for an extended period of time can cause eye muscle fatigue and, “therefore, reduced ability to accommodate (change focus).” Itt can also lead to headaches which can cause discomfort. Another side effect is that you blink less when staring at a screen, so eyes can become dry—leading to redness and a “scratchy” feeling. Dr. David Calkins, Ph.D, Director of Vanderbilt Vision Research Center, says that while binge watching may cause discomfort or eye strain for adults, for children, it’s more of what they are not doing while binge watching that might be more harmful. Dr. Calkins says, “even for adolescents, proper wiring of the brain to support normal integration of the senses (vision, hearing etc) with the motor system (especially fine motor skills), requires on-task daily training.” He says that the daily training usually takes place through games, play-time, or sports. 

Related: The Truth About How Much Sleep You Actually Need

3. It may be harder to fall asleep

According to Dr. Josna Adusumilli, MD, sleep specialist/doctor at Mass General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the amount of sleep that you are losing when you are up at all hours of the night can impact your body in a negative way. For people that watch TV at night, it will be harder to fall asleep because of the blue light from electronic devices. Because certain people are night owls and are always up late, they have an internal sleep clock that let’s them go to bed later and wakeup earlier. But if you are unable to fall asleep, your whole schedule is off and that will impact your energy and mood for the next day. As well people who sleep less than six hours per night (or more than nine) were significantly more likely to have heart disease or diabetes, have suffered a stroke, or be obese, even after researchers adjusted the results for other known risk factors. 

4. Your mental health could be affected

According to Dr. Carole Lieberman, M.D, Media Psychiatrist & Bestselling Author, binge watching can affect your mental health in many ways—some good and some bad. If you watch comedies, it can relieve stress and boost your immune system.  But, if you binge watch depressing dramas or horror movies, they can make you depressed or anxious. People who binge watch are especially vulnerable to its impact because they may already have some problems that they are trying to escape by watching TV. For example, people who are lonely, stressed out or depressed are more easily lured by the escapism that binge watching promises. So, their underlying problems are compounded by the impact of the TV shows they watch. 
Overall, it may seem like sitting on the couch and watching TV is harmless, but looking back at it, it can really hurt you. Whether it is making your muscles tense up or slowing your metabolism down, sitting and staring at a screen for long periods of time can really mess with your body. So it might be best to stop yourself before you click next episode and save yourself a trip to the doctor later down the road.
Isabel is a currently the Evening & Weekend Editor at Her Campus and a student at New York University in the Global Liberal Studies program with a concentration in Contemporary Culture and Creative Production. When she is not watching Gilmore Girls or playing with puppies at the local pet store, she spends her time freelancing for numerous publications about celebrities and life. You can find her work on the websites of Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, Seventeen, Elle, and Buzzfeed. Follow her on Instagram at @isabelcalkins.
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