Now that I am back state-side in the city that doesn’t sleep, I realized that I had gone 25 days without watching TV and I did not even notice. While I was traveling in France (Link to articles traveling in France) the bedroom John and I were sleeping in did not have a TV. In fact, the TV upstairs in his grandpa’s office did not even work, I don’t think. We did not have strong enough Wifi to stream anything from Netflix or Amazon, but admittedly, that thought had never even crossed my mind during my entire trip. The only TV I actually saw was in his mom and dad’s remodeled place next door which was actually a TV projector and because of the 95 + degree temperatures coupled with the no-air conditioning allowed mentality of the French and the Tee-pee-tent like ceiling that seemed to attract the heat and double it…watching anything on the theatre sized projector was something you really had to commit to voluntarily. If you wanted to watch something (I actually admittedly don’t think the screen is hooked up to cable because they were watching DVDs every night) you would have to be super committed to it because by the end of the film, you have essentially settled into a sauna-setting and will be 5 pounds lighter from sweating and potentially dehydrated.
So given my desire to stay cool and comfortable, we did not opt-in for any films or movies or TV experiences throughout the 17 day trip. In fact, even on the flight back, I could not even find a single in-flight movie to watch when I was trying to stay away. I ended up just drinking loads of champagne in the business class lounge and then continuing to do so the entire flight back until my blood was probably 5 percent champagne and I was smiling ear to ear.
Once I was home, I saw my TVs… one in the bedroom and one in the living room…and out of default behavior, I turned on the TV. The noise of the commercials was so unsettling, that I went to OnDemand and clicked on a show I once enjoyed. Within a couple of minutes of watching the Season Finale, I had to turn it off. It felt so negative and I felt like the music and drama was elevating my stress levels. I wondered… do I even need TV anymore? What are the benefits of not having a TV? Does having a TV in my room or around impact my health or my sleep?
Does TV Impact Sleep?
I put on my research hat and was shocked to find a statistic on Sleep.org that 2/3 of people worldwide watch TV before bed. That means 6 out of 10 people channel surf and let TV consume them without maybe even considering if sleep impacts the ability to sleep.
I thought about the benefits I found from going to bed without a TV while I was staying in France. Here are just a few off the top of my head…
My Personal Benefits from Not Watching TV
- I found that John and I had more Sex and that we did so both in the morning and at night.
- I fell asleep faster when the lights went out because it was time to go to bed rather than having something else to look for or watch.
- I do not believe I was necessarily more efficient with my free time per-se, but I spent far less time looking for entertainment to avoid being bored. For example, I was not wasting half-an hour in a never-ending Netflix quest to find a movie that I actually wanted to watch or a new series that I would be distracted by in a binge watch.
- Instead of watching TV, I was doing other things automatically. John and I played ping-pong, we helped his uncle with gardening work, we went fishing in the morning with real worms and old school fishing rods. One night when we both had a little too much to drink and could not sleep, we went for a walk outside and spent a half an hour just looking at the stars (which btw, you can see very clearly in the middle of the French country-side). These are all activities I probably would not have been automatically doing if I had a TV right in front of me.
- I was writing more in a paper notebook or reading tangible books and even attempting to do a crossword puzzle from a newspaper.
Overall Negative Things I Found From When I Watched TV
- I would use TV as an excuse to stay up instead of sleeping with the rationalization that “…just one more episode…” was okay as I would stay up to see what was happening in the next episode or continuing to watch a movie that was way longer than anticipated.
- I would forget I was even watching TV sometimes as it became such an auto-pilot habit for me. Sometimes I would finish watching films on Amazon Prime Video or Netflix that were not even good! I was not even enjoying the things I was watching, yet I was continuing to watch it just out of a default habit. That seems CRAZY.
- I felt anxiety based on the type of show I was watching. The music from shows like “The Affair” or “Succession” were dark and haunting. The murders and accidents and things that people did to each other were also all pretty negative things; watching these shows and plots definitely were not making me see the world in a better perspective nor were they making my life feel more positive or adding to any type of profound insight other than simply being a form of idle-minded entertainment.
- I wasn’t having a conversation with John when I was in bed watching TV. When the TV was off we had some great conversations before sleeping and after we woke up in the morning. It made us connect better.
- I didn’t wake up from any background noise if something happened in the plot and I had fallen asleep during the middle of a movie or show.
From my personal experience I have made the decision to cancel my cable without even considering the scientific support and the multiple blogs and posts people have written about the negative impacts of watching TV on sleep and the overall brain. In this article, for instance, the writer cites a Nielsen statistic that found the AVERAGE America “watched an average of 5.1 hours per day, or 153 hours of TV a month” and that the number of hours per day watched only continues to increase. Right now…I’m going to call it a day. My next post will focus on the research and what the experts say on the impact TV has on our sleep and our overall well-being. J