Is ‘bed-rotting’ healthy self-care or a mental health warning sign?

A young woman relaxes in her bed by scrolling on her phone and eating pizza

You may have seen or heard the term “bed-rotting” recently gaining popularity on social media or in the news. The term for lounging in bed has led to much discussion of whether taking a break to reduce stress and spend time doing nothing is healthy self-care or a sign of depression

The answer has to do with why you’re taking a time-out and how it makes you feel.

Benefits to spending time lounging in bed or “bed-rotting”

Life can feel so demanding with activities ranging from school demands, family demands, social engagements, extracurricular activities and household chores. Our society tends to put too much emphasis on and, in some ways, glorify being busy or productive all the time. This can lead to feeling burned out and doesn’t allow us time to rest or recharge without labeling this as “being lazy.”

Allowing yourself to rest or “rot” without feeling guilty about this action is one way to reclaim the rest that we all need. 

Who is bed-rotting best for, and what are signs they might need a day to recharge?

Some people might do a lot of activities throughout the day but do not enjoy the things they spend their time doing. We can see this with burned out students, employees and parents who do a lot for others but little for themselves. 

If you find that you’re feeling more down, have a negative outlook, or experience increased irritability, it may benefit you to schedule time when you’re not expected to do more than lie in bed and recharge with a show or movie. 

How to manage guilt/shaming associated with bed-rotting or taking a day to recharge

Schedule it! Self-care often falls to the bottom of the list for people. Unless you make it a priority by scheduling the activity, it’s unlikely to happen, as other more pressing tasks will fill your day. 

Let the people closest to you know that your plan is to rest so that they can help navigate childcare or manage expectations for the day. If the idea of staying in bed all day sounds relaxing to you, look critically at your schedule and carve out an hour or more to recharge. Remind yourself that, by taking this time to rest, you’re more likely to feel more motivated and have an improved mood.

How can spending long periods in bed, or “bed-rotting,” be harmful?

First, I don't think the name “rotting” is doing it any favors as a healthy activity. At its core, I believe it's allowing yourself to rest without feeling guilty about it. However, with any activity, we want to ask ourselves whether what we did was productive, pleasurable or improved our mood. 

If someone decides their whole evening will be spent “bed-rotting”  and they find they really enjoyed it and their mood improved, that's great. 

However, they may do the same thing the next day and find they did not enjoy it so much and were more depressed after being on their phone for a few hours. More and more, research is pointing to the negative impacts of social media and phone usage on our mental health — particularly young adults' mental health. This activity could become problematic if people spend the bulk of their time “bed-rotting” without realizing the negative effect it’s having on their mood and motivation. 

Make sure you have other activities that make you feel good or that allow you to rest and recharge. Incorporate those self-care activities with the demands to be productive. 

How else could bed-rotting be linked to depression or other mental health concerns?

There’s a strong circular link between depressed mood leading to inactivity — meaning, the more depressed you feel, the fewer activities you do, leading to a more depressed mood and more inactivity. To break this cycle, being more active improves our mood and our motivation. “Bed-rotting” could start off as self-care to rest but then turn into fewer productive or enjoyable activities, more time on social media, more sleep issues and more social isolation, leading to more depression. 

Red flags that you need to reach out for mental health help

Bed-rotting is only recharging when it has an end and is used in moderation. If you’re experiencing depressed mood and low motivation most days for a couple of weeks or more, you may want to reach out for support. 

People can fall into the trap of avoiding activities and turning to “bed-rotting” due to feeling overwhelmed or down. If you’re having a hard time engaging in meaningful or pleasant activities on your own, a trusted friend or health care professional may be able to help. 

How bed-rotting could affect sleep patterns

Too much time in bed can lead to sleep onset issues or frequent wakeups during sleeping hours. We want to limit our time in bed so that when our head hits the pillow at night, it’s a sign to our brain that it’s time to sleep. If you spend too much time in your bed doing other activities (for example, spending time on your phone, working, watching a show), then it takes longer to quiet the mind to fall asleep. It’s best to find a comfortable spot outside of the bedroom to do these activities, then only go to your bed when you’re ready to sleep.

How less screen time can benefit your eyes, brain, mental state and overall health

Bed-rotting and physical health

People with chronic issues, such as chronic pain conditions, should be very intentional with this activity. Physical pain often leads to inactivity and worsening mood over time. While you may need to rest an acute injury, people with chronic pain generally benefit from pacing themselves with a daily schedule that includes important activities and time to rest. 

Spending too much time in bed can put chronic pain sufferers at risk for increased pain and health complications.

How to make bed-rotting as healthy as possible

To avoid becoming destructive to your mental health, bed-rotting should be an activity that’s used infrequently. Intermix this self-care activity with other activities that bring you pleasure or rest as well feeling productive. For example, people may escape into their phones to avoid thinking about how messy their room is rather than focus on one small part of the room to clean. Cleaning a small, realistic part of a room can help you feel productive and help improve your mood. Make specific goals or plans for the day to ensure you have a good mix of pleasurable and meaningful activities.


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