Just one more, and then Ill go to sleep: How many times have you told yourself this and lost sleep? If you identify as a binge-watcherand who isnt one these days?then youve definitely said this and postponed your sleep, then felt the next day that youre not well-rested enough to function at your best. The fact is, if youre in your 20s, then you might not even get that feeling of lethargy the next day. But the truth is that theres no debt worse than sleep debt, and payback here can be a debilitating mess that takes a toll on your entire life.The growing impact of binge-watchingNow, we dont really need to explain exactly how binge-watching affects your sleep, because you already know it. You and the rest of the world have been taught since childhood that every human being needs seven to eight hours of sleep every night to maintain something known as the circadian rhythm of the body. This is the natural body clock that regulates everything from your hormones to immunity, and is based on the changes in the light we experience every 24 hours due to the Earths rotation. Binge-watching your favourite show can bring you a lot of happiness and excitement, but it breaks the delicate balance in your body and mind the circadian rhythm maintains. You might not feel the side-effects of sleep loss immediately, but in the long term, it can affect everything from your immunity and memory to your digestion.Another issue we have to address is the comparisons scientists are increasingly making between binge-watching and addiction. A 2021 study published in the journal Behavioural Sciences explains that binge-watching is indeed a potentially addictive behaviour. The researchers behind the study designed a Binge-Watching Addiction Questionnaire (BWAQ) and asked 1,277 people to answer it. They found that while there are people who watch TV series and movies as a part of their daily leisure and entertainment activities, there are increasingly a greater number of young people who have a craving for, dependency on, anticipate pleasure from, lose self-control over watching the same non-stop, like theyre running a marathon. The study suggests these maladaptive behaviours turn the simple pleasure of watching something enjoyable into an addiction that can be crippling and affect all other functional aspects of life.What makes binge-watching addictive?The question you might easily ask here is why do some people get addicted to binge-watching while others dont? The answer is not simple. Even a decade or two back, we had to wait an entire week for the next episode of a show to drop. Now, most OTT platforms drop entire seasons in one go, and this can entice you to watch it all in one sitting. It may also have something to do with more portable digital devices becoming available. When you have a single television in an entire household, the likelihood is that youll stick to a bedtime. But when you can watch your shows on your mobile phone, that too in high definition, youre more likely to take the device to bed with you. Add to this the fact that the lines between work and life are often blurred these days, and youre likely to keep your digital devices on and handy even at night, and the temptation to unwind with a good show or movie increases.And then theres the undeniable fact that has increased our binge-watching habits in the last year or two: COVID-19 pandemic and lockdowns. Staying cooped up at home without too many leisure activities did increase our dependency on digital devices in general. Everything from news and critical information to entertainment and an escape from the cruel realities of COVID-19 was provided to us through digital devices and the many OTT platforms. Yes, our reliance on the internet increased for good reasons, but many fell prey to binge-watching addiction too.Binge-watching and getting sleepSo, are the hordes of people binge-watching their favourite shows and movies doomed to be addicted to this behaviour and incur a huge sleep debt? Ronal Chervin, the president of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), says not. You can stream your favourite shows and movies without sacrificing the sleep you need each night. Responsible binge-watching is the way to balance your personal entertainment with your health and well-being, he explains, while also chalking out what binge-watching responsibly entails. The trick, experts like Chervin state, is to imbibe certain behaviours and limits to binge-watching. Here are the most critical of these: You know you cannot watch an entire season without compromising on your sleep, so set an episode limit for each night. Stop watching when the limit is up, and continue the next evening. Its easy to fall into the trap of auto-play, especially if youre lying in bed while watching. Break the loop, and take a bathroom or water break after each episode. This will also give you a moment to ruminate if you actually need to watch the next episode or need to sleep more urgently. Patience has high rewards, and this is certainly true when it comes to breaking the binge-watching addiction and getting enough sleep. Instead of pushing yourself to watch entire seasons every night, schedule a chunk of time on the weekends to catch up on it. You can make this experience more rewarding by adding good food, comfy chairs and good company to it. This will protect your sleep schedule during the week, and yet give you the joy of binge-watching. Streaming episodes can naturally increase the temptation of going on the auto-play loop, so heres how to get out of it. Download a limited number of episodes on your smartphone or mobile, and stick to that limit for each night. The blue light emitted from digital devices can be additionally harmful to your eyes and brain, and can also delay sleep. Get a blue-light filter screen for your digital device or use television to stream your shows rather than a hand-held device that needs to be close to your eyes. Dont use your smartphone or mobile digital devices while in bed. Turn off all digital screens at least an hour before your bedtime, and sleep will take you over naturally.