You would be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t spent an entire day in bed resting in an attempt to recover some lost sleep.
Be it from a hangover, illness or just general exhaustion, sometimes a day in bed feels required. In the days of yore, one would have called that resting. But what’s old is new again, and TikTok users rebranded this activity as “bed rotting.”
It’s not entirely clear where this trend started, but the hashtags “bed rot” and “bed rotting” on TikTok have a total of 32.9 million posts as of Sept. 20.
Is it OK to … bed rot? Are they signs of a bigger health issue? And are there healthier ways to do bed rotting? TODAY talked to the experts to find out.
What is bed rotting?
Bed rotting is a self-care trend that spread on TikTok. The term means to spend basically the entire day or even weekend in bed, doing everything from napping and doom-scrolling to watching TV and eating.
The idea is that, to help cope with tiredness or burnout, spending a day or two under the covers will offset some of the exhaustion.
Is bed rotting healthy?
Bed rotting can be a healthy self-care practice if you keep a few things in mind to make sure you’re doing it in a healthy way. First off, understand why you’re bed rotting, and be aware of how long you’re doing it and how frequently.
“It can be OK to have a day or so where you just take a break and … stay in bed — I do that myself on occasion,” Dr. Jen Caudle, a family medicine physician and associate professor at Rowan University, tells TODAY.com. “I think it can be a problem, though, if we are doing that to avoid things,” especially if you have mental illness.
“What I think of bed rotting is it’s like a self-care moment,” she says, adding that it should be “a half a day or whatever. It’s a moment.”
Your bed rotting habit may be in unhealthy territory if you’re staying in bed for much longer than a weekend here and there, or if you’re doing it more and more often.
“So if you find yourself … bed rotting to avoid situations, to avoid feelings … that’s a problem, as well,” she says. “If it seems that there may be a problem, there just might be.”
Bed rotting and mental health
While bed rotting can be a safe way to practice self-care, it can reveal also warning signs of mental health problems, Lynn Bufka, Ph.D., associate executive director for practice research and policy at the American Psychological Association, tells TODAY.com.
“For somebody who is depressed, bed rotting sounds like a way of potentially withdrawing from others, not having social connections,” she says, adding that depression screening asks if symptoms have lasted for two weeks or more.
As for people who have anxiety, Bufka says bed rotting might feel good in the short term, but it’s not a good long-term coping strategy because it means you’re just avoiding what makes you anxious.
“In the longer term, it may (reinforce) the idea that we can’t handle whatever it is that we’re avoiding,” she says.
How bed-rotting can disrupt sleep
Two experts — Dr. Dianne Augelli, a sleep medicine specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine/New-York Presbyterian, and Dr. Rebecca Robbins, a sleep scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston — are also concerned that staying in bed during the day when you’re not sleeping could disrupt your sleep cycle.
“I think it comes from a place that’s genuinely good … like self-care and taking time to just relax,” Augelli says. “But the place they’re doing it isn’t ideal in the long run.”
She explains that, as a sleep physician, she wants people to use their beds only for sleep and sex.
“If you’re using your bed to eat and you’re on your phone a long time and you’re intermittently napping, it can ultimately lead to problems with initiating or maintaining sleep or your brain being able to shut down when you want to sleep,” she says. “We don’t have that demarcation space.”
Augelli adds that sleep issues get worse as people age and if bed rotting becomes habitual.
“Sometimes when people are a little bit younger, in their early 20s, they might not have as much difficulty, but it can become a very, very ingrained habit. And then it’s very difficult for people to sleep.”
How to bed rot in a safe way
The experts said that it’s OK to bed rot as long as you take some precautions to protect your mental and physical health.
Avoid ‘rotting’ in your actual bed
Find a place outside your bed to “rot” during the day is best for protecting your ability to fall asleep in bed at night, Augelli says.
“I would definitely find a place that you can recharge,” she says, adding that it can even be a cot next to your bed, a couch or a guest bedroom. “A place that you are lying around and recharging and cutting yourself off from activities and responsibilities, that’s all fine. It can be anywhere else besides your bed.”
Be mindful of what you’re doing to while bed rotting
Caudle suggests that some bed rotting pastimes might be more relaxing than others.
“Even though I think a lot of people’s tendency in bed is to scroll (on their phones), sometimes that can actually be pretty anxiety provoking,” she says, adding that you should think about what activities “actually truly make you relaxed.”
“Maybe it’s actually reading a book … or catching up on magazines you haven’t read in a while or watching a movie,” she says. “Maybe it’s actually turning everything off and just having some silence.”
Get up every few hours and walk around
There is a risk for blood clots if you stay in bed for a long time, Dr. Daniel Landau at The Mesothelioma Center, who is board-certified in hematology, internal medicine and medical oncology, tells TODAY.com via email.
“When blood isn’t constantly pumping, it has a tendency to clot,” he says. “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.”
The legs carry the biggest risk of blood clots, which can occur anywhere in the body and be life-threatening. People who are pregnant, overweight, take certain medications, smoke, or have family histories of clotting are higher risk, Landau says.
Explaining that bed rotting is similar to a long car ride or flight, he recommends getting up every two or three hours to stretch your legs and reduce the risk of blood clotting. You should also avoid lying on wounds while bed rotting to reduce risk of infection.
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