Last Updated on: 1st October 2023, 12:30 pm
Whether attending a movie theater or watching a film at home, it’s a popular evening activity. It’s also a social pursuit, often for dates, which makes it disappointing if you fall asleep.
Given that watching a movie is a passive experience, often indulged in late in the evening when relaxed, the mind and body seize the opportunity to catch up on sleep.
If you’ve built up a sleep debt during the week, this will likely be repaid while watching a movie.
Women are likelier to fall asleep while watching movies than men.
The Journal of Women’s Health explains that women are 40% likelier to struggle with insomnia than men and find it harder to stay awake. Lost sleep will be regained while watching films.
Of course, you can train the body and mind to stay awake during a long movie.
Why Do I Keep Falling Asleep During Movies?
Watching movies is an almost ritualistic activity, especially for couples and families. Many people build their evening around the screen, preparing snacks and looking forward to a riveting story.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t always pair with our expectations.
Many of us doze off during a movie, often quite early into the running time, and some people can even sleep in the loud confines of a movie theater.
This isn’t necessarily a reflection on the filmmaking craft or a sign that you find the movie dull. Upon realizing they nodded off, many people will rewind and catch up on what they’ve missed.
Here are the main reasons why you may sleep through movies:
Modern life is hectic, and sleeping 7-9 hours isn’t always possible. This will lead to a sleep deficit or sleep debt. These lost hours of sleep must be regained eventually.
Sitting down to watch a movie is an opportunity to catch up on lost sleep, whether by accident or design. You’ll relax, stop making conscious decisions and choices, and enter a natural sleep.
As much as this can be annoying if you want to watch the movie, don’t resist the need to sleep. Movies can be watched at your leisure in the age of streaming and home videos.
Lack of Stimulants
Stimulants will have left your body when it’s time to watch a movie at night. Coffee, for example, has a half-life of 6 hours and should have expired by the evening.
These stimulants will keep you functional, especially when dealing with morning grogginess or a mid-afternoon energy slump. Caffeine must be purged by the evening if you’re to sleep well.
If you spend all day in front of a computer screen at work, relaxing in front of a TV screen will feel like an effort for your body or mind. Without stimulants to keep you alert, you may doze off.
Falling asleep while watching a movie can happen to anybody, and falling asleep twice in front of the TV is also common. If you regularly doze off watching movies, it can become a Pavlovian response.
The more often you find yourself sleeping through films, the likelier you’ll do so again.
Sitting down and turning on a movie can be associated with sleep, and when stirring music plays over the credits, your brain will start shutting down.
Women are likelier to fall asleep during a movie than men.
Sleep Medicine Research explains how female biology and hormones dictate that women need more sleep, making it likelier that a female viewer will doze off once relaxed.
Another potential explanation comes from The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Women have a lower metabolic rate than men and grow colder while static and watching a movie. This lower body temperature will promote sleep.
We must also consider that many movies are arguably made with male viewers in mind. According to a study entitled “Gender inequality in English-speaking film industry,” –
- 24% of female characters are portrayed in revealing or sexy attire, compared to 4% of males.
- 18.5% of films include at least partial nudity of a female character, compared to 5% of men.
- 14% of female characters in contemporary movies meet traditional beauty standards, compared to 3.6% of male counterparts.
This study suggests why women are less likely to be stimulated enough to stay awake during a movie.
How To Not Sleep While Watching a Movie
It can be frustrating if you constantly fall asleep while watching a movie.
As well as missing out on crucial plot developments and storytelling beats, you may upset a partner who wants to share a movie with you or waste money on tickets to a theater.
Here are some ways to minimize the risk of falling asleep while watching a movie:
Watch Earlier in the Day
Most of us watch movies in the evening when we can fully relax and focus on events on the screen. Sleep experts recommend avoiding screens for the last hour of the evening and reading a book instead.
You’re less likely to be exhausted if you watch a movie earlier in the day. You may also have traces of stimulants in your body, such as your morning coffee.
Swapping a late-night movie for a matinee isn’t guaranteed to help you stay awake.
If you still have a sleep deficiency, your body and mind may seize the opportunity to nap. Changing your schedule enhances your chances.
As well as time, consider a different place to watch a movie. If you watch movies in bed, try switching to the living room or den.
This change in scenery can trick the brain into remaining awake, while Behavioral Sleep Medicine suggests it will encourage earlier bedtimes.
Choose a Stimulating Movie
We previously alluded to the fundamental differences in how men and women are often portrayed on film. Choose a movie that holds interest, especially for female viewers.
One thing to look out for is the so-called “Bechdel test.” Named after feminist comic artist Alison Bechdel, a movie must contain three elements to pass the Bechdel test:
- The movie must have at least 2 female characters.
- These characters must have at least 1 conversation.
- This conversation can’t be about a male character.
You may be surprised how many major releases fail to pass the Bechdel test. If this is the case, it’s understandable that female audiences may not be as engaged with events on screen.
Avoid Growing Too Comfortable
As discussed, comfort plays a significant role in falling asleep during a movie.
You can deal with this by not making yourself cozy before turning on the TV. This way, you’ll find it easier to remain attentive to the events playing on the screen.
Comfort is subjective, and there’s little to gain by making yourself uncomfortable.
Just think about sitting upright rather than lying down, not reclining your easy chair or sofa, or lowering the temperature in the room.
If you’re worried you may fall asleep despite these techniques, try holding onto something small, like a teaspoon. If you fall asleep, you will drop this spoon.
The noise the item makes upon touching the floor may jolt you awake if you start to doze.
Keep Your Hands Occupied
If you can keep your hands occupied while watching a movie, you’re less likely to switch off mentally and fall asleep. Don’t play with your cellphone because that’s too many screens.
Knitting is a popular pastime while watching TV and movies, as once mastered, it becomes a rhythmic movement that doesn’t require intense concentration.
You don’t need to learn to knit to stay awake during a movie. Find something else involving the hands, even if it squeezes a stress ball. This will prevent your mind from closing down.
Pause and Stand Up
Standing up and wandering around, occasionally taking a break, will help you stay awake. You can also use this opportunity to have a drink of water.
Hydrating the brain will increase mental clarity and help you stay awake longer. You’ll also find it easier to concentrate on the movie for the remainder of the running time.
Converse to Keep the Mind Active
If you’re watching the movie with somebody who doesn’t mind talking, pause it and discuss events on-screen. This engagement will help keep the mind active so that you remain awake.
Watching movies is a popular hobby. However, you can train yourself to stay awake during movies, but don’t do so at the expense of catching up on sleep debt.