Should you really turn off and go do something less boring instead?

watching tv
Well, the classic kids TV show Why Don’t You? advocated turning off your telly to do something else and now, a new study from America is backing that theory, but they reckon we should be sleeping instead of staring at our tellies, bleary eyed and tired but anxious we don’t miss our favourite late night show.

This new study on sleep, and the lack of it, has revealed that by far the biggest cause of sleep deprivation is down to telly watching… people are staying up to watch TV instead of getting enough sleep, and apparently, it’s causing all sorts of health problems not only in America but here in the UK too.


Psychiatrists who were commissioned to study the report’s findings were said to be “surprised” to find watching TV was the most predominant pre-sleep activity and that subsequently, many people’s sleep patterns are based around TV schedules rather than biological or light factors.

Researchers also concluded that watching telly is replacing “vigorous activity” such as sports – and I guess other forms of late night bedroom activity that make you sweaty and breathless, if you’re lucky – and the resulting lack of exercise is equating to poor sleep quality.

The American study of 21,475 adults found that 50% of those questioned routinely watch telly before bed and as a result, will stay up longer than they might otherwise do so that they don’t miss something they want to watch.

One in three of us Brits do likewise and it seems that problems resulting from sleep deprivation are one of the most common complaints that patients go to their GP with, and it’s something not to be taken lightly it seems; not getting enough sleep is known to increase the risk of obesity, heart disease and depression.

Dr Mathias Basner, one of the experts from the Division of Sleep and Chronobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, said of the study’s results, “While the timing of work may not be flexible, giving up some TV viewing in the evening should be possible to promote adequate sleep.

“According to our results, watching less television in the evening and postponing work start time in the morning appear to be the candidate behavioural changes for achieving additional sleep and reducing chronic sleep debt.”

In other words, don’t watch telly late at night and start work later in the morning or else you could well get fat, have a heart problem or get depressed. You may even be putting yourself at risk of having an accident during the day because the researchers added that anyone who sleeps less than seven to eight hours a night may suffer from “impaired alertness”.

So what do you think? Is this report a load of rubbish or do you think it has a point? I certainly think it makes a very valid point and I have personal experience to call on…

My husband reckons he can’t sleep unless he watches something on either the  TV or on his laptop. I removed the telly from our bedroom quite some time ago because I was sick of being woken in the night by that variation in sound that happens in action films or when adverts come on; the telly suddenly gets louder and someone screaming, shooting, exploding or shouting “Cillit Bang!” at 3am would wake me with a start and cause me to want to suffocate my snoring husband who didn’t set the sleep timer.

So, out went the telly and I thought that was the end of my nocturnal disruption, but no, then he started bringing his laptop upstairs and watching films or documentaries on that. Yes, he puts headphones on but he’s getting more mutton jeff as he gets older so I still hear everything that’s going on. Add to that the fact that the fan in his laptop kicks in every few seconds – and sounds like a Harrier Jump Jet taking off next to me – so that’s either not allowing me to fall asleep or is waking me up. And again, the urge to apply pillow to face can get quite overwhelming…

And one of the things that irritates me most of all is that he’ll all but have to prop his eyelids open with matchsticks to make sure he watches all of whatever he’s chosen to view. He’ll keep falling asleep then jolting awake when his chin hits his chest and he’ll turn up the volume in a bid to keep him awake long enough to watch the end.

So, in conclusion, yes, I reckon this study is spot on. Not only is TV watching ruining my husband’s sleep patterns, it’s vicariously ruining mine too and if I get fat or smother him in a fit of depressed rage due to sleep deprivation, he’ll only have himself to blame. Ditto if I have an accident due to impaired cognitive abilities in the day. I’ll squarely blame him and subsequently spend many, many years ensuring he doesn’t forget it.

Do you have a chronic tellywatcher in your life who’s destroying your sleep or are you yourself addicted to TV so much, you’ll force yourself to stay awake to watch it? Let us know!

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.