Why binge-watching TV is like parenting small children

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The first trailer for Stranger Things 2 is here. It’s 1984 and the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana are still reeling from the horrors of the demogorgon and the secrets of Hawkins Lab. Will Byers has been rescued from the Upside Down but a bigger, sinister entity still threatens those who survived.

OPINION: I was watching TV the other night - real, honest to goodness, free-to-air broadcast television - and came across an item on The Project about the dangers of binge-watching.

Apparently binge-watching TV for hours on end might actually be bad for our health. A new study says bingers are "98 per cent more likely" to experience poor sleep quality and fatigue, and are also more likely to feel tired when they wake up the next day too.

There's another activity that results in these symptoms as well - parenting small children.

Having three kids wrecked my life - then this kid came along.
NETFLIX

Having three kids wrecked my life - then this kid came along.

I know this because having three kids wrecked my life. OK, maybe that's a bit harsh, and of course I love them to bits, wouldn't change it for the world, yadda, yadda, yadda - but they definitely wrecked my sleeping patterns.

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I'm a victim of my children's taste in music

I literally can't remember the last time I enjoyed eight glorious hours of full, uninterrupted sleep.

I used to sleep like a baby. Or more precisely - not like a baby.
123RF

I used to sleep like a baby. Or more precisely - not like a baby.

But with our youngest now potty-trained, and bedtimes becoming a little less like exercises in total, soul-despairing futility, it seemed we were just starting to glimpse a sliver of light at the end of the long, dark, sleep-deprived tunnel that is parenting.

Then my partner signed us up to Netflix. Big mistake.

Prior to Netflix, the last time I remember binge-watching something was when I had an upcoming face-to-face interview with Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville to prepare for.

I blame Hugh Bonneville for sparking my binge-watching addiction in the first place.
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I blame Hugh Bonneville for sparking my binge-watching addiction in the first place.

Prime sent me a DVD of season one, so I thought I'd watch the first episode after my partner and our four year old (we only had one then) had gone to bed - you know, just to get the gist of it.

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Some five and a half hours later - around 2.30am I believe - I stumbled into bed, waking my gently slumbering beloved in the process. "What have you been doing?" she asked. "Watching Downton Abbey," I mumbled. "Fine, don't tell me then," she retorted, rolling over and going back to sleep.

Five years and two more children later, we are now Netflix late adopters. And my binge-watching days are back with a vengeance.

Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock in Daredevil.
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Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock in Daredevil.

It started out innocently enough - a couple episodes of Daredevil here, an hour or two of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt there.

Then I discovered Stranger Things. (Happily confirmed for at least two more seasons.)

One episode quickly consumed while my girls napped on a Friday afternoon was all it took.

For one wonderfully enthralling night I spent more time with these 80s TV kids than my own children.
NETFLIX

For one wonderfully enthralling night I spent more time with these 80s TV kids than my own children.

Later that night I snuck back into the lounge while the rest of my household slept and spent the next five hours watching the other seven episodes.

It's been all downhill from there. Daredevil led to Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and now The Defenders (admittedly there may have been a spot of purge-watching amongst this lot), while four seasons and 90 episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has replaced Kimmy Schmidt as my new late-night comedy fix.

Soon Netflix will release the second season of Stranger Things and like an expectant father I'm counting down the days until it arrives (64 at time of writing).

ITN

From having fun on set and farting, the grown-up stars of 'Stranger Things' speak about working with kids.

Just like when each of my three children were born, I know I'll be getting precious little sleep that night.

But what to do about this new, self-inflicted lifestyle choice that has replaced our kids as my main source of sleep deprivation?

The Project knows - to lend some credence to their binge-watching story they brought in a 'sleep expert', whose chief recommendation for chronic binge-watchers was "do it in moderation".

Really? Advice like that reminds me of whenever my partner or I drag ourselves to the doctor with the latest fatigue-induced illness our offspring have inflicted upon us. Invariably we are told the best remedy is just to "get some rest".

Which is about as likely to happen as binge-watching in moderation isn't it? Might as well tell us to parent in moderation - it can't be done, an unachievable oxymoron.

I know better - and accordingly have resigned myself to my late-night, tired-as-soon-as-I-wake up fate. Because just like parenting, binge-watching is for life.

 - Stuff

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