What Is Bed Rotting, And Is It Healthy?

If you’ve not heard the term “bed rotting” before, you could be forgiven for assuming it’s a description of a rather unfortunate décor mishap, or perhaps a detail from a particularly gruesome serial killer case. If you have heard of it, there’s a pretty good chance you think it has something to do with depression, or is just the latest excuse for Gen Z to be lazy.

But if you ask some of those who choose to practice it, they might reply that it’s a wonderful self-care intervention and that we all could benefit from a little bed rotting now and then.

Is there anything to these claims? Potentially – but experts aren’t entirely convinced. So, what is “bed rotting”? Is it… safe? Should you do it?

Well – spoiler alert – you might be doing it right now.

What is “bed rotting”?

Grim as it may sound, “bed rotting” is actually relatively benign on its surface: it’s the practice of simply staying in bed all day. You might think of it as a “duvet day” if you’re a bit older than Gen Z, or “vegging out” if you’re a bit older than that; the main point is, you don’t get up, and you don’t try to be productive.

“You could be watching films, scrolling on social media, talking on the phone, eating, or anything you would normally do if you were at home relaxing,” psychologist Robert Common told The Independent last year.

“This differs from bed rest to recover from illness or injury,” he explained, “and is often used as a method of dealing with stress or anxiety.”

Like so many recently-coined evocative terms – we’re looking at you, goblin mode – examples are most readily found on TikTok, where some influencers can be seen in appropriately social media-ready beds, advertising their rejection of the hustle culture that can sometimes dominate our lives. Jeffrey Gardere, a clinical psychologist and professor at Touro University’s School of Health Sciences, told Health that it’s most popular amongst Gen Z and women – two groups that are more stressed out than pretty much anyone else these days.

“Our society tends to put too much emphasis [on] and, in some ways, [glorifies] being busy or productive all the time,” Nicole Hollingshead, a psychologist and clinical assistant professor of family and community medicine at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, told Health. “This can lead to feeling burnt out and not allow us time to rest or recharge without labeling this as ‘being lazy.’”

Is there any benefit to bed rotting?

There’s no denying that mulching around in bed can feel better than, say, forcing yourself to shower, hauling yourself to work, and putting in eight or nine hours at a desk job. But bed rotting goes deeper than a little self-indulgence.

“We live in a very fast-paced world, so stepping back, reconnecting with yourself, recharging your batteries and rebuilding some mental and physical energy is always a positive thing to do,” Common told The Independent. “In fact, it’s something that more of us should be scheduling into our routines if we can.”

It isn’t just rest for your body – although that’s undeniably important. Getting enough rest is crucial for good mental health, and bed rotting offers a chance for mental recuperation; it can be a break from everyday stress and exhaustion, and “puts us in a stronger position to reassess our goals and find the motivation to reach for them, manage our commitments and explore personal interests and hobbies without burning ourselves out,” Common explained.

A day, or even just a few extra hours, spent lounging in bed can help you cope with anything from being tired from a tough project at work to a full-on existential crisis. But can it be taken too far?

The dangers of bed rotting

There are a couple of things to be careful of when it comes to bed rotting. First of all, you want to be sure that it’s not a symptom of something more pathological: “Some people [bed rot] because they suffer from depression, or their mental health could be suffering in a lot of different ways,” Tiktok creator @lifeasraven, who has made a number of videos on the subject, told Glamour. “Some people with ADHD also struggle with this.” 

But if that’s the case, then bed rotting probably isn’t going to be beneficial. Before “bed rotting”, staying in bed all day was called dysania, and it’s a classic symptom of depression and anxiety. It’s also something of a self-fulfilling prophecy: “For somebody who is depressed, bed rotting sounds like a way of potentially withdrawing from others, not having social connections,” Lynn Bufka, associate executive director for practice research and policy at the American Psychological Association, told TODAY.com. “In the longer term, it may [reinforce] the idea that we can’t handle whatever it is that we’re avoiding.”

There are also physical problems that bed rotting might be covering for: Raven noted that she’d seen people discovering thyroid or other hormonal issues that were contributing to an inability to get out of bed. It goes without saying that “doing nothing” is not much of a strategy for dealing with these very real physiological problems – and, in fact, it may make things worse, as prolonged lack of movement has known detrimental effects on the body.

“When blood isn’t constantly pumping, it has a tendency to clot,” Daniel Landau, board-certified in hematology, internal medicine, and medical oncology, told TODAY.com. “When we walk or stretch, the muscles contract along the veins and force them to move the blood around. When we aren’t moving, the veins aren’t able to push the blood around.”

Too much of a good thing

Even when bed rotting isn’t a symptom of something more sinister, there’s still a possibility that it could create problems that weren’t there previously. Spending too much time doomscrolling, for example, may trigger anxieties you never had before; isolation from friends and family can induce depression.

But the real danger from bed rotting is something much more quotidian – and, frankly, kind of an obvious victim of a practice that involves staying in bed all day: It messes with your sleep schedule.

“Bed rotting is likely to interfere with your sleep,” physician assistant and tiktoker @medexplained2you told Glamour, “because the body is actually naturally conditioned – when it’s in bed – to release certain hormones that tell you to power down.”

“But if you stay in bed all day and then also try to go to bed, without ever having any breaks, your brain will get confused,” he explained. “It won’t know when you want to go to sleep or when you want to stay awake, and likely you will have an increase[d] risk of insomnia.”

That’s why, if you must rot, experts suggest that you do it somewhere other than your bed. It’s worthwhile making sure there’s a time gap between rotting and sleeping, too – basically, anything you can do to separate the bed from the rot is going to be beneficial.

The key, as ever, is balance. Feel free to bed rot now and then – but try not to take it too far, and make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons. Remember to try and stay at least a little active, even on a bed rotting day, and seriously consider leaving your bed to do it – sure, it won’t technically count as bed rotting, but we won’t tell if you don’t.

“Spending the odd day here and there throughout the month bed rotting is unlikely to do you any damage – quite the reverse,” said Common. But “whilst rest is important for wellbeing, exercise is also a powerful tool for maintaining good mental and physical health,” he explained – noting that “it’s also important to expend enough energy during the day to fall asleep on time, and maximize the benefits that come with proper sleep.”

“As with all things in life, balance is key,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s about not being on either extreme of the spectrum.”

The content of this article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.  

All “explainer” articles are confirmed by fact checkers to be correct at time of publishing. Text, images, and links may be edited, removed, or added to at a later date to keep information current.

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