How TV binges are affecting business

WE'VE all done it - staying up way past midnight to watch just one more episode of our favourite TV shows, despite having to work in the morning.

But there is an emerging trend that one Toowoomba psychologist has observed, where people's consumption of subscription streaming is affecting their performance on the job.

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings once said his company's biggest competitor wasn't other streaming services - it was sleep.

Toowoomba psychologist and director of JP Smith Recruitment and Human Resources Jamie Smith said in the past 12-18 months he had met hundreds of people who were regularly giving up sleep to watch on-demand TV shows, which was in turn affecting their productivity.

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Mr Smith said employers who noticed their employees' performance had dropped were sending them to him to figure out what was going on.

"They've got these subscription television services and they are burning the midnight oil with it - and when I say the midnight oil I mean it literally - they're up until 12 or 1 o'clock and they get this fatigue that sets in," he explained.

"But they're compounding this effect by getting up the next morning and they're starting to get addictions on these energy drinks... through the day to keep themselves performing and alert so its throwing their whole circadian rhythms out and they're just falling in a massive heap."

Mr Smith also said the often dark content of TV shows was another contributing factor to the issue.

"Sleep is just so critical to good functioning and if you can imagine - you're suddenly not getting much sleep, your cognitive processes are getting shot to bits, you start making bad decisions, life starts getting hard, so you need a release," he said.

"What do you need to release? You need to unwind in front of Netflix again so it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Part of what made Netflix and other streaming services so enjoyable was that they were tracking the content you consumed, senior lecturer at the University of Southern Queensland's Mechanical and Electrical Engineering School Dr Andrew Maxwell said.

"When the content is good, and you're engaged, and they keep pushing more of it to you, you end up on that traditional gambling addiction."

He also said the amount of time people spent in front of screens wasn't the only barrier to sleep - it was the screens themselves.

Dr Maxwell said the blue light released from OLED and LCD screens affected the photoreceptors in people's eyes and stopped the production of melatonin, one of the necessary hormones to regulate sleep.

Instead, the blue light triggers the release of melanopsin, melatonin's opposite, which interrupts normal sleeping patterns even further.

Putting screens away an hour before bed and getting a decent night's sleep - seven to eight hours for most adults - will solve that problem.

But Dr Maxwell said there were technical solutions to minimise exposure to blue light late at night - for modern Apple and Samsung tablets - and that in the future, TVs would have a night mode.

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