The headline above is riffing on an infamous commercial from the 90s ‘This is your brain on drugs’ – a phrase that has seeped into popular memory.
In the commercial, She’s All That star Rachel Leigh Cook smashes everything in a kitchen as a metaphor for what happens when you take heroin. It’s pretty weird.
For the record, binge watching a series is nothing like taking heroin, but it can be addictive. According to experts, it can actually have a serious effect on your body and brain.
That’s probably why we all like it so much.
The Huffington Post spoke to Dr. Paul Stillman about it:
“Binge-watching TV can create a ‘high’ then a significant emotional downturn when we’ve finished watching,” he says. The high is caused by the production of chemicals such as dopamine which are released during any pleasurable activity – and that includes watching your favourite TV show.
“When binge-watching TV your brain is continually producing dopamine. You experience something like an addiction as your brain starts to create it. Simply getting immersed in the lives of characters, story lines and caring what happens in a TV show can become addictive.”
Look, there’s nothing wrong with a good binge every now and then. We all need it sometimes. The problem comes in when you’re ditching friends and family or cancelling social engagements to watch a full series in one sitting.
According to the good doctor, this could be a sign that you’re becoming too reliant on that high.
Keen for a second opinion? Dr. Roger Henderson, a GP and medical director, says there’s “mounting evidence that heavy binge watching may have an impact on our health”.
“Electronic screens emit blue light which can impact on our production of melatonin – a key hormone involved in getting a good night’s sleep,” he tells HuffPost UK.
“First if you sit in one position for a long time it may cause back pain which can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, second it can tempt you to sit every longer as you want to find out what happens next, third, violence and suspense before going to bed can leave you anxious and wide awake so that you can’t get to sleep,” he says.
If you struggle to sleep even when you aren’t watching TV, there’s a new app that you might want to check out.
Long periods of focusing on one screen – or multi-screening – may also be detrimental to our eyes, adds Dr Henderson. “This can cause eye strain, particularly if you are on your phone switching between screens,” he says. “Eye strain can cause increased headaches, blurred vision and difficulty focusing. Be sure to visit your optometrist if you are suffering from any of these symptoms.”
It’s even worse for kids. While your adult brain can take a few knocks, children’s brains can be permanently damaged by too much screen time.
You don’t need to cancel all of your streaming subscriptions, though. Just be more aware of how you’re watching TV. Don’t look at a screen for an hour before bed, try not to stay up too late, and be careful of how you position yourself on the couch.
If you’re grazing in front of your laptop or TV, prepare some healthy snacks beforehand.
Now, send the kids outside so that their brains don’t get fried and click play (in moderation).
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