Netflix, Hulu, Amazon. The three streaming content giants have radically changed American TV-viewing habits.
Over 60% of young adults use streaming services as their primary method of watching television, according to research from the Pew Research Center. The trend is most pronounced among young viewers, but older demographics are catching up.
In the last 10 years, household subscriptions to streaming services have grown 450%. Today, there are over 200 streaming services available in the U.S, and 70% of us regularly binge-watch our streaming content.
Clearly, binge-watching is common. Netflix claims people enjoy it. But how is it affecting our sleep?
We surveyed over 1,300 Americans to find out.
Do you watch streaming content in bed?
If you watch streaming content in bed, you’re like most people.
Over 85% of American adults watch streaming content while they’re in bed. "
How do your watch habits compare with other Americans who match your age, gender, or relationship status?
Who is most likely to stream content from bed?
Watching streaming content in bed is extremely common. 85% of Americans watch streaming content in bed.
You might think that younger age groups would be more likely to stream TV in bed than older Americans. At 92.71%, Gen Zers take home the prize for most likely to watch streaming content in bed. However, we found that across the spectrum, American adults watch streaming content from bed at significant rates.
Divorced people (91.04%) are the most likely to stream content from bed, while widowed people (73.91%) are the least likely. However, widowed people are also more likely to be part of the older age group that’s less likely to stream content from bed, so that could be impacting the results.
Do streaming habits change depending on where you live?
It turns out the answer is yes. Of states where we surveyed a statistically significant amount of people, residents in the following states are more likely to watch streaming content from bed…
New Jersey (93.5%)
New York (91%)
South Carolina (95.6%)
…while residents of these states are less likely to do so:
North Carolina (70.3%)
Is it a coincidence that Coloradans and Wisconsinites are less likely to stream content from bed, given that these states house some of the best cities for sleep? We think not.
How much time do we spend streaming content from our beds?
While the vast majority of Americans (81.3%) watch less than 2 hours of streaming content from bed per day, an alarming 18% of us watch 2 hours or more.
Our tendency to stream for longer periods of time differs by age and gender.
Who watches the most streaming content in bed?
While the vast majority of Americans (81.3%) watch less than 2 hours of streaming content from bed, an alarming 12% of us watch over 2 hours, and 6% watch more than 3.
The age group most prone to excessive streaming (over 3 hours) is the 45-54 age bracket.
The healthiest consumers, on the other hand, are the 73% of adults aged 65+ who spend fewer than 1 hour in bed watching streaming content per day.
Women are more likely than men to spend more time watching streaming content from bed. 22.3% of women watch streaming content for over 2 hours, while only 14% of men do.
Is streaming content to blame for poor sleep?
When it comes to streaming services and sleep, are they friends or foes? To find out whether streaming services are a friend or enemy of sleep, we asked respondents how they felt streaming content impacted their sleep.
How is streaming content affecting our sleep?
35% of adults feel like they get less sleep because of streaming content, with an almost equal split among men (35.61%) and women (35.88%).
Looking at age groups, the concern that their binge-watching habits are wrecking their sleep mirrors their consumption patterns. Millennials are most likely to watch streaming content in bed, and also the most likely to be concerned that it’s affecting their sleep. Meanwhile, older adults are less likely to watch streaming content, and proportionally less likely to be concerned that it’s interfering with their sleep.
Their level of concern may also be related to whether or not they use streaming content as a sleep aid, watching it in bed before falling asleep. On average, 69.7% of people fall asleep while streaming content in bed. Millennials and Gen Xers aged 25-44 are more likely to fall asleep while streaming, at 73.38% and 72.07% respectively, while senior adults aged 65 and older are the least likely to do so at only 52.38%.
Problematically, only 28.4% of people acknowledge that it’s harder for them to fall asleep after watching streaming content. Interestingly, the two age groups most likely to stream content from bed (18-34 year olds) are the ones most likely to say they have trouble falling asleep afterwards.
The most common days people fall asleep after watching streaming content are Friday and Saturday nights.
How well are we sleeping overall?
Only a third of adults feel like streaming content is negatively affecting their sleep, but are they getting enough sleep to begin with?
Are we getting enough sleep?
Fewer than half of our survey respondents actually get enough sleep on a regular basis (defined as 7 hours or more). Only 47.42% get sufficient sleep on weeknights and 65.99% get it on weekend nights.
However, it’s important to remember that these numbers are self-reported, and studies consistently show that people tend to overestimate the amount of sleep they’re getting.
Even our own survey respondents demonstrated this bias. Only 18.4% of our respondents felt that they rarely or never got enough sleep, despite 34% to 52% of them sleeping fewer than 7 hours a night on weekends or weekdays, respectively.
Which age groups are most likely to feel that they’re missing out on sleep? You guessed it – the ones doing more binge-watching in bed. Only 49% of 18-24 year-olds and 54% of 25-34 year-olds feel like they always or usually get enough sleep, compared with 69% of 65-and-overs.
Are we willing to lose sleep to binge-watch streaming content?
Some people know for sure that their binge-watching is negatively affecting their sleep. These are the brave souls who stay up all night just to binge-watch their favorite TV show.
How willing are we to stay up all night to binge-watch streaming content?
Disturbingly, nearly half (45%) of adults have pulled an all-nighter in the last year to watch a TV show, with men being slightly more likely to do so than women (47% vs. 43%).
The guiltiest age group is 25-34 year olds, of whom just under 50% have stayed up all night to watch TV. However, all adults aged 54 and under are about equally willing to pull an all-nighter for streaming content. Older adults aged 55 and above appear to have more sense, with only about a quarter of that demographic foregoing sleep for TV.
Which states have the most night owls? Again, looking at the states where we surveyed a statistically significant amount of people, residents in the following states are more likely to have pulled an all-nighter to watch a TV show:
South Carolina (52.1%)
While residents of these states are less likely to do so:
How often do we lose sleep to binge-watch streaming content?
Ready for even more frightening news? Many of us are willing to stay up multiple times a year to watch streaming content.
For more than half of survey respondents who pulled an all-nighter to binge-watch streaming content in the past year, it was a regular occurrence. 44% of respondents pulled an all-nighter once a year, 35% did so between 2 to 5 nights a year, and a concerning 12% did so for more than 5 nights a year.
Which shows are keeping us up at night?
Not all streaming content is equally binge-worthy. We asked respondents which types of shows, and which specific shows, they were most likely to watch from bed.
Which TV shows are we losing sleep over?
The most popular content we like to binge-watch from bed are Comedies, Action and Adventure, and Dramas.
Orange Is the New Black is the #1 show people binge-watch. 13 Reasons Why and Stranger Things tied for a close second. Other honorable mentions include Breaking Bad, Westworld, Walking Dead, and Grey’s Anatomy.
What the research says: streaming content and sleep
Ours is not the first survey to review people’s streaming habits and how they impact sleep. Many academics have sought out to measure the effects of binge-watching on sleep. Unfortunately, their research supports our own findings: streaming content is no friend to sleep.
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that one-third of binge-viewers experience poor sleep. Likewise, 35.72% of our survey respondents felt that having access to streaming content contributed to them not getting enough sleep.
Specifically, the JCSM researchers found that binge-watchers experience less restful sleep and more symptoms of insomnia than their non-binge-watching peers.
Why does binge-watching impact our sleep?
We may be lying down when we watch streaming content, especially if we’re doing so from the comfort of our beds, but the research indicates that our brain and nervous system are feeling anything but relaxed. Researchers call this “pre-sleep arousal.”
People become engaged in the drama and plot line of the shows they’re watching, activating their nervous system. The effect is only heightened with dramas, thrillers, and any show that uses the element of suspense. If you remember from our survey, Action and Adventure and Dramas are two of our favorite genres we enjoy streaming from our beds.
The effect isn’t isolated to our nervous system. When we watch streaming content, we’re typically watching via a television, tablet, or smartphone device. Each one of these tech devices emits blue wavelengths of light. Unfortunately, that blue wavelength is the one our brain perceives the most intensely, and it’s also one our brain confuses for sunlight. The more you watch streaming content, the more your brain interprets what it’s seeing as daylight, so it keeps you up instead of letting you fall asleep.
This is why it’s dangerous to use streaming content as a sleep aid. You may think you’re relaxing, but your brain and body are wide awake. "
In a perfect world, sleep and streaming content don’t mix. If you’d like to adjust your binge-watching behavior to enjoy better sleep, follow these tips.
1. Stop watching streaming content in bed.
The absolute best way to keep streaming content from interfering with your sleep is to stop watching in your bedroom.
Your bed should be reserved for sleep and sex only. By watching TV in bed, you encourage your brain to associate your bedroom as a place for stimulating mental activity, instead of a place for relaxing and winding down to sleep.
Commit to only watching streaming content from other rooms in your house.
"Pro tip: Remove all electronics from your bedroom. The more you can transform your bedroom into a technology-free haven for sleep, the better. "
2. Use the red-light filter on your streaming device.
If you watch streaming content on a smartphone or tablet, enable the red-light filter whenever you watch at night. These filter out those piercing blue wavelengths that wake up our brain and trick it into thinking it’s seeing daytime instead of your favorite TV show.
Pro tip: In your device settings, set your red light filter to automatically activate at a scheduled time each night. This way, you don’t have to remember to do it yourself. Plus, when you notice the colors change on your screen, you’ll know it’s time to go to bed. "
3. Schedule your TV and sleep.
Is your streaming time cutting into your sleeping time? Along with your daily appointments, schedule your sleep and TV times.
As for your binge-watching, set an appointment for TV time, or limit yourself to a set number of episodes you can watch each day.
Pro tip: Schedule time to catch up on streaming content during the weekends, instead of making it part of your daily or nightly routine. "
4. Turn off autoplay settings.
Binge-watching is a lot like eating Pringles: once you pop, you can’t stop. Make things easier on yourself by turning off the autoplay function in your streaming service settings.
In between episodes, force yourself to take a break, even if it’s just to stand up and stretch out for a minute. This mental break may motivate you to go do something else, instead of sitting back down to watch another episode.
Pro tip: Before you start watching, download the number of episodes you want to watch. Then, turn off the wifi on your streaming device. Auto-play or not, when your episodes end, you won’t have anything left to watch. "
5. Power down 30 minutes before bed.
To transition yourself from streaming to sleeping, turn off your streaming content at least 30 minutes before bed.
If you used to make a habit of watching streaming content right up until you fell asleep, replace binge-watching with a bedtime routine. In those 30 minutes before bed, fill your time with relaxing activities such as aromatherapy, meditation, reading, or taking a warm bath.
Pro tip: If you’ll be streaming content at night, make sure it’s of the less-stimulating variety. Opt for chill comedies over intense dramas, so your nervous system has less to recover from during that 30 minutes before bed. "
We surveyed 1,394 Americans using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 80, with an average age of 34. 56% of respondents identified as female, and 43% identified as male.
While our data does align with similar findings from the CDC regarding sleep quantity, it’s important to note that all of the data was self-reported. As a result, it’s subject to the typical biases and limitations inherent with self-reported data, such as selective memory, inaccurate estimation, and over- or under-exaggeration.