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After working another weekend shift, Dr. Jessica Gold returned home feeling burned out and succumbed to her urge to watch TV and sleep most of the day.
As Gen Z would say, she was bed rotting.
Gold is one of the many TikTok users who weighed in on the latest viral self-care term, in which users post videos of themselves tucked under layers of blankets, oftentimes with a phone or snack in hand.
The phrase describes staying in bed all day by choice, thereby “rotting” there, according to Gold, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
“I think it is OK to do if you need it,” she said, “and I have let myself do it, as long as you understand why you are doing it and turn to other coping skills as well.”
Bed rotting is similar to having a lazy day, but it’s “more of an immobile term, with less activity,” Gold said.
During a lazy day, you could still engage in activities that you find fun and relaxing while possibly spending time with friends and family, she said.
Check in with your mental health
At first glance, there is likely a lot of good that can come from slowing down to recharge, refresh and reset, said psychologist Simon A. Rego, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and chief of psychology and director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.
However, balance is important for well-being, he said. Spending too much time lying in bed can disrupt your mood and increase stress, said Rego, who is also director of the CBT Training Program at Montefiore.
“Be mindful and avoid overdoing it, no matter how good it may feel in the moment,” he said.
Lounging in bed for more than a day or two is concerning and could point to different mental health issues, Gold said.
“The urge to rot in bed all day, especially if it happens more and more, is likely about something more than just catching up on sleep or needing a day to do nothing, but avoiding the feelings, stress or pain of being awake,” she said.
This sort of behavior has been linked to symptoms of depression and anxiety, among other mental health illnesses, Gold added.
Your sleep hygiene may be at risk
Bed rotting could be affecting more than just your mental health — it could also have a negative impact on your sleep.
From a sleep science perspective, “bed rotting is exactly the opposite of what we want people to do,” said Kelly Glazer Baron, associate professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
The bed should only be used for sleep and intimacy, not for activities such as watching television, working or eating, she said.
As a general guideline, if you are not asleep within 30 minutes of getting into bed or are awake for more than 20 minutes during the night, you should get out of bed, Baron said.
If you want to relax somewhere comfortable, opt for a couch or comfy chair, she recommended.
“Having fatigue after a long day is normal, but if it is interfering with your work, social life or other important activities, then it is a good idea to discuss your symptoms with a doctor,” she said.
Activities beyond bed rotting
Bed rotting can allow you to isolate yourself, ignore your feelings, and possibly prevent you from participating in self-care activities that can help you, Gold said.
Recharging activities can energize us and “better prepare us for the inevitable stressors we face daily,” Rego said.
But don’t feel pressured to participate in an activity that someone else finds relaxing, he said, because one person’s “activity may be a chore to another.” Instead, learn coping skills that you want to do and think of them like hobbies, Gold said.
If you don’t want to leave the house, try reading a book or journaling instead of watching television, Gold said.
It may also be beneficial to talk to a therapist, she said. Therapy can help you learn new coping skills, get to the root cause of your bed rotting and determine if there is some mental health issue going on, Gold said.