Why you shouldn’t watch The Fall before bed

There's no rationalising Jamie Dornan's creepy character. Prepare for a poor night's sleep, says Ellie Walker-Arnott

People are always saying we shouldn’t watch TV before going to sleep – and with good reason.


Scientific studies have shown that watching telly before bed can negatively affect your quality of sleep. Just two or more hours of screen time can significantly suppress your melatonin levels, making it harder to get those 40 winks. In fact, experts says that in order to get a proper night’s sleep we need to switch off for at least half an hour before we want to drop off.

It makes an awful lot of sense but like many my precious downtime is still spent laptop on knee, watching telly from my mattress. And in an attempt to catch up before it returns to BBC2 tonight, I recently watched series one of The Fall. On my own. In the dark. 

It’s no secret to my friends and family that I am a complete and utter wimp with an irritatingly overactive imagination. I could count on one hand the number of horror movies I’ve sat all the way through and I wouldn’t even need all five fingers.

A creaky floorboard can haunt me for hours. I can’t be anywhere near a curtain-less window once the sun’s gone down. I’ve even been known to shower with the bathroom door open. Not that I’ve seen Psycho. (Obviously. I’d be terrified.) I’ve just heard about it.

When it comes to TV, I can reel off lists of episodes, scenes and scenarios that have creeped me out. One episode of Waking the Dead (starring a pre-Downton Michelle Dockery) has been bothering me for five long years.

But in the interest of watching good telly – and so I don’t get fired from my job – I can normally make myself watch thrillers or detective dramas. “I am a 25-year-old woman now. A supposed grown-up,” I say to myself. “It’s just telly.”

I can convince myself that what I’m witnessing will in no way ever happen to me. After all, I don’t own a creepy doll or live in a rough area, a secluded farm or a draughty old manor house. I have no connections to clowns, nuns or known psychopaths. I don’t have an abusive husband and I’m not part of a gang. My friends like tearooms, vintage markets and making their own Christmas cards – not drugs, guns and knives.

But when it came to The Fall my usual rationalisation process didn’t work because Jamie Dornan’s horrendously creepy character Paul Spector targets people a lot like me: professional, brunette women in their twenties or thirties who live on their own (I don’t actually but my housemates did happen to be out that night…). 

There’s no reasoning behind Spector’s murders. He’s a family man who gets his kicks from killing in his spare time, and from doing it in the most sadistic way possible: meeting, maybe even charming his victims, following them,  spying on them, silently letting himself into their house, killing them agonisingly slowly, and posing and arranging the corpses. 

Watching the credits roll on The Fall while alone in a dark house with less locks on the door than I’d like, I started to see why some TV should be kept separate from bedtime. I didn’t drift off into peaceful slumber and I can promise you it had nothing to do with my melatonin levels.

The Fall returns tonight at 9:00pm on BBC2.


(Though I’d recommend you record it and watch it in the middle of the day when you’re surrounded by trusted friends and relatives.)