Is Gen Z's "bed rotting" trend self-care or reckless self-indulgence?

Spending all of one's time in bed is generally not seen as healthy. But some experts say it actually has benefits

Published November 15, 2023 8:30AM (EST)

Teenage girl lying in bed (Getty Images/fotostorm)
Teenage girl lying in bed (Getty Images/fotostorm)

Too often in the modern age, social media trends influence our lifestyle choices and self-care routines. It can be unclear where some trends come from and they aren't always backed by evidence. One recent TikTok trend, known as "bed rotting," involves individuals choosing to spend prolonged periods in bed, doing little else.

While initially seen as a form of relaxation and self-care, some experts caution against the potential detrimental effects on mental health and overall well-being, such as increased sleep issues, social isolation and less overall productivity.

With over 165 million views for the term, TikTok users are clearly interested in the phenomenon, with one sleep science expert, Vanessa Hill, sharing that bed rotting “is 100% backed by science.” Hill highlights that this trend isn't just about lazing around but instead serves as a means to normalize the importance of rest in our lives. In a world where productivity is often held as the ultimate goal, bed rotting encourages us to break the cycle, permitting ourselves to do less without the weight of guilt.

Beneath the surface, bed rotting carries subtle advantages. Many of us are trapped in the relentless pursuit of productivity, which can have adverse effects on our mental and physical health. Trends like bed rotting offer a moment of respite, a chance to reflect, and an opportunity to prioritize our health, both mentally and physically.

However, bed rotting does have its critics, especially within the wellness community and the medical field. For individuals grappling with depression or anxiety, bed rotting may not necessarily provide the ideal relaxation strategy — and may even make the problem worse.

The excesses of escapism

Excessive bed rotting has the potential to lead to social isolation, a risk factor for depression and anxiety. This is especially concerning for children, who have unique social, developmental and emotional needs that require interaction and physical activity for their holistic development. While rest is undeniably vital, striking a balance is key.

Courtney DeAngelis, PsyD, a psychologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, weighs in on the bed rotting debate in a statement to Health. She acknowledges that, when practiced in moderation, bed rotting can have a calming effect on the body, providing respite from stress and exhaustion, particularly for individuals engaged in physically or mentally demanding roles.

When practiced in moderation, bed rotting can have a calming effect on the body, providing respite from stress and exhaustion.

However, spending excessive time in bed can impede meaningful connections with friends and family, potentially increasing stress levels. Our beds should primarily serve as sanctuaries for sleep and intimacy. When they become spaces for lounging, our brains may struggle to distinguish between rest and other activities, which can lead to sleep disruptions.

DeAngelis also underscores the importance of avoiding bed rotting right before bedtime, as engaging in activities like working or watching television can “confused your body at night” and hence inhibit one's ability to fall asleep promptly. Instead, she suggests reserving the bedroom for sleep and intimate activities while moving other leisure activities to an alternative space.

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Setting limits and avoiding overindulgence

To prevent the adverse effects of excessive bed rotting, DeAngelis emphasizes the need for setting time limits. Although bed rotting may offer temporary relief, it should not become a daily habit or a go-to solution for fatigue, tiredness or depression. Moderation is the key to a healthy relationship with bed rotting.

 The bed rotting trend offers an intriguing perspective on modern self-care. By allowing ourselves to take a break, we can alleviate the pressure and anxiety that often accompany our hectic lives. Nevertheless, it is vital to approach this trend with caution, as overindulgence can result in social isolation, disrupted sleep, and a negative impact on overall well-being.Striking a balance between rest and productivity remains essential.

While recognizing the benefits of bed rotting, it’s important to remain aware of the potential consequences to make informed decisions about these routines. Your bed serves many purposes. Preserving this association can lead to improved mental and physical health in the long run.

By Monica Manmadkar

Monica Manmadkar is a Science & Health Editorial Intern. She is currently a second-year undergraduate at Columbia University, who combines her interest in science/health with journalism.

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Bed Rotting Beds Depression Health Mental Health Rest Sleep