Bed rotting: Why it can be toxic

20 March 2024
Aiswarya Menon Written by Aiswarya Menon
Aiswarya Menon

Aiswarya Menon

Aiswarya is a writer and brand strategist. She is also a secret student of psychology and spends...

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Srinithi Sridhar Reviewed by Srinithi Sridhar
Srinithi Sridhar

Srinithi Sridhar

Srinithi Sridhar is a trauma-informed and queer affirmative therapist. She primarily works with...

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R: “It’s such a beautiful day out! Let’s go on a hike.”

A: “Oh, I wish I could. I have a list of things to finish today so that I can have a peaceful Sunday tomorrow before the hectic schedule of the week. Rain-check for next week?”

R: “Alright, see ya!”

A disconnects the call and returns to binge-watching the series she has seen multiple times curled up in bed. The day passes and none of her chores are done. Her dream of a relaxing Sunday seems to fade into oblivion, but Sunday comes and the cycle continues. When Monday comes, she feels overwhelmed by tight deadlines, and family and social commitments. As she sits in her untidy apartment, with no food and a pile of laundry in the corner, she feels her anxiety rising. 

Instances of stress and burnout have become increasingly common in today’s fast-paced world. Unfortunately, this is a reality we cannot ignore. An Economic Times article reports that 76% of Indian workers experience work-related stress. This stress affects their job performance. Additionally, 49% mentioned its impact on mental health. 

Social media creates unrealistic expectations (e.g., 6-figure influencers, passive income side hustles, etc).  Work-life balance worsens as companies resume on-site work. Social and political issues become more alarming.  

Surprisingly, we haven’t given up. We are actively trying to find and create different ways to take care of ourselves. Now you might be thinking – “Anything that helps me take care of my physical and mental well-being, sign me up!”. But, does it? 

As a consequence of easy dissemination, we come across new self-care and wellness trends on social media almost every day. These supposed self-care routines flout their benefits. But like all things on social media, these alleged self-care routines should be taken with a pinch of salt and research into the scientific backing is mandatory. 

After making sure that this newfound well-being approach is medically safe, another crucial question that needs to be addressed is: “Does this work for me?” 

What works for most may or may not work for you. Listening to your body and mind should always supersede trends and peer pressure. Consciously choosing routines that bring out the best in you, is a step towards a well-balanced life. 

Some popular self-care trends include:

  • Dry scooping: A trend where people consumed pre-workout supplements as is, without adding water for faster and higher compound absorption 
  • Skin cycling: Alternating your facial skincare routine to use specific products on separate days, to minimize skin irritation 
  • NyQuil chicken/Sleepy chicken: Cooking chicken in NyQuil cough syrup or cold medication as part of a challenge

While skin cycling came with a thumbs up from dermatologists, dry scooping and NyQuil chicken were prohibited by medical experts. In 2023, bed rotting has dominated the at-home self-care and wellness trends. With nearly 305 million views on TikTok, as reported in a New York Post article, and an increasing number of GenZ population implementing bed rotting regularly, we are left to wonder: What is bed rotting? Why has it gained so much traction? 

Bed rotting: Why it can be toxic

The Cambridge Dictionary defines bed rotting as follows:

bed rotting noun [U]

UK /ˈbed ˌrɒt.ɪŋ/ US /ˈbed ˌrɑː.tɪŋ/

the habit of spending a lot of time in bed to relax

Bed rotting is the act of spending prolonged periods in bed. This often happens for days at a time. It involves indulging in activities such as binge-watching TV shows, scrolling through social media, snacking, cuddling with a pet or loved one, or simply lying in bed to recoup and rejuvenate without feeling guilty about relaxing.

While relaxation is essential for mental well-being, can bed rotting affect our physical and mental health? 

The origin of ‘bed rotting’ 

A Mint article notes: 

“One of the earliest instances of the term ‘bed rotting’ was coined by US-based TikTok user @g0bra77y, whose video on the subject has garnered 1.4 million views. In the clip, she humorously questions who actually enjoys “rotting away” in her bed while expressing her affinity for the activity.” 

The origins of bed rotting are unclear. However, its growing dissemination can be attributed to social media platforms. The rise of self-care and doom-scrolling also play a role. These factors have caused an increase in bed rotting. 

Why is it a trend and among whom?

Bed rotting is a popular trend, especially among younger generations like Gen Z. Social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat gave birth and have contributed to this trend.

Users share videos of themselves participating in bed-rotting activities. Bed rotting allures individuals by rebelling against societal productivity expectations under the ploy of guilt-free relaxation.

Are there any pros to bed rotting?

Nicole Hollingshead, PhD, a clinical psychologist & clinical assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine shares in an article

“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 labelling this as ‘being lazy.’ Allowing yourself to rest or “rot” without feeling guilty about this action is one way to reclaim the rest we all need.” 

Bed rotting: Why it can be toxic

Bed rotting when done intentionally, mindfully, and in moderation, can be empowering as it:

  • Allows the body to rest and recoup
  • Aids in taking a break from the emotional and mental stressors of everyday life

However, the dangers of bed rotting are greater than the benefits. It’s important to acknowledge the importance of relaxation and self-care. They are crucial for maintaining overall well-being. Bed rest can be helpful in certain situations, like recovering from illness or injury. Introverts and people with neurodivergent issues may appreciate this downtime. However, it is important to differentiate between intentional relaxation and excessive indulgence. 

When time-in-bed (TIB) increases over 8 hours

While bed rotting may seem appealing, it can have several negative consequences on our physical and mental health, as a study published in J Sleep Med Disord noted. Staying in bed for too long can cause depression and cognitive impairment.  Lack of physical activity or a sedentary lifestyle can also lead to detrimental health consequences such as: 

  • Obesity: Acts as a starting point for cardiovascular diseases 
  • Muscle atrophy and weakness: Deterioration of muscle mass and bone density
  • Physical discomfort: Muscle stiffness and back pain
  • Sleep deprivation: Exposure to tech devices affects circadian rhythms, thus making it difficult to get proper sleep
  • Blood circulation issues: Hindered blood circulation, inducing swellings and higher risk of blood clots
  • Psychological effects: Lack of endorphins — the ‘feel good’ hormone —  intensifies the risk of stress, anxiety and depression

Where do you draw the line between relaxing and bed rotting?

While it is okay to scroll on your phone from time to time and to rest on your bed, rotting in bed is not helpful. Drawing the line between relaxation and bed rotting requires self-awareness and balance. Setting boundaries is crucial. Allocating specific time for relaxation is important too. It should not interfere with daily responsibilities and goals. Engage in activities that promote physical and mental well-being. Working out, pursuing hobbies, and increasing social interactions help strike a healthy balance.

Practical tips to avoid bed rotting

50-30-20 daily routine rule

Create a schedule. Include time for work, leisure, and self-care activities. Use the 50-30-20 financial rule as a guide. Take note of the time you spend on various tasks daily. This includes work, chores, relaxation, and dealing with traffic. For instance, allocate 50% of your time for work and essential care like eating and showering. Dedicate 30% of your time to sleep. Allocate the remaining 20% to self-care activities. These activities can include exercise, meditation, reading, and socializing. Try to stick to this routine to the best of your abilities to maintain a sense of structure and purpose. If you miss one day, be kind to yourself. If it happens repeatedly, remember to be kind to yourself even then. Re-evaluate your routine and make changes if needed. 

Set goals

Define short-term and long-term goals to stay motivated and focused. Using a planner will help you organize your priorities and tasks. A to-do list helps list non-negotiables and miscellaneous tasks. Both tools will help you keep track of everything you have to do. 

Engage in physical activity 

Incorporate regular exercise into your routine to boost energy levels. It can also improve your mood and help you stay physically fit. Get that dopamine hit from 20 minutes of outdoor exercise rather than indoor scrolling. 

Practice mindful relaxation

Doom scrolling might feel good, but is it what you want for your mind?

Binge-watching TV shows might feel good, but is it what you want for your mind?

Is this what you want to feed your mind for extended periods? 

Engage in activities that help you relax, like meditation or reading. Take care of yourself by journaling, through art, or pursuing hobbies. 

We are all so connected with the outside world that we miss out on connecting with ourselves. Let’s try that, shall we? 

Seek social connections

Bed rotting: Why it can be toxic

Maintain social interactions by spending time with loved ones. Join clubs or groups with shared interests. Consider volunteering. Use social media channels to find like-minded people in your city. Get together for a Sunday coffee hangout. Social connections are crucial for well-being.

You can also join some free Support Groups in India. 

Seek professional help

Let’s come back to the two friends we came across at the beginning of this blog and recollect their interaction. Apart from the tips mentioned above, what steps could A have taken to improve her self-care? 

What seems like a harmless activity to alleviate stress and exhaustion, can often cause long-term and irrevocable side effects on your physical and emotional well-being. If you find yourself being cocooned in your bed for days on end, the best thing to do is seek professional help. 

A mental health professional can help you recognize your triggers and patterns; guide you to effectively manage daily instances of stress and anxiety, so you don’t feel as overwhelmed, and support you in your journey as you navigate your way back to a well-rounded living experience. 

While taking short breaks to relax and recoup is advised, bed rotting when left unchecked could blur the fine line between self-care and self-harm*. Bed rotting is not intentional or mindful and can therefore harm our health. The potential risks involved far outweigh the benefits.  It affects our physical and mental well-being, hindering overall wellness. 

We can prioritize our well-being by balancing relaxation and productivity. This helps us avoid the negative effects of being idle for too long. Effective self-care involves a holistic approach. This approach combines adequate rest with engaging in fulfilling activities.

* Self-harm here means harming yourself in the long run, by not taking care of your well-being in the present. 

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