Have you ever opened up Netflix intending to watch an episode or two of your latest show before bed only to suddenly find you’ve watched 10 episodes and it’s the middle of the night? If so, you are not alone, you are among the many for whom binge watching has ruined their sleep. Even the CEO of Netflix declared sleep to be their biggest competition.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Netflix and TiVo have actually improved my sleep, the secret is to put in counters to the bad, and exploit the good.
First, the bad: you can watch your favourite shows whenever you want. This makes it very easy to keep watching when you should be asleep. TV is just as good at night as in the day now; the channels don’t go off the air for the night, and there is more than just infomercials on in the early hours. The fact that the next episode plays automatically also makes it very hard to resist finding out what happens after that gripping cliff-hanger. This removes the natural end point and makes it very easy to accidentally keep binge watching until it is time to get up for work!
These bads have some pretty simple counters. First, no TV or other streaming device in the bedroom; if you have decided it is time for bed then it is time for sleep. Second, switch off autoplay! This adds back in the natural end point and forces you to make a conscious decision to watch the next episode, giving you the chance to check the clock and make sure it is not too late.
Now for the good: you can watch your favourite shows whenever you want. Wait, wait, before you scroll back up to check, yes that was the bad side of Netflix too! This is because although it can tempt you to binge into the wee hours it also gives you a lot more control of how you watch TV. I remember as a child we didn’t have a choice; it was whatever the channels were deciding to air or nothing. If you wanted to watch your favourite show you had to plan out your day so that you would arrive home in time to catch the start of the episode. Now instead of planning your life around the TV guide; with Tivo or Netflix you can plan your life first and fit your favourite shows in when it is most convenient to you.
Most of my favourite cable TV shows give after 8pm, and often run until 11pm which is well after my bedtime. Without TiVo or Netflix I would have to choose to either sleep or catch the shows I actually want to watch. But now I don’t have to, I can watch them at a time that is convenient for me without having to wait for the VHS to come out.
Like all things streaming has both good and bad sides. The flexibility to watch whenever you choose can be bad, but with a little discipline it can become a good.