Bed Rotting: TikTok’s Self Care Obsession Or A Health Concern?
10 min read
Last Modified 20 November 2023 First Added 2 October 2023
Bed rotting is the trend that has swept across TikTok, advocated by young people as the self-care cure we all need, so why are health care experts concerned, and what effect does it have on our sleep?
Avid TikTok users will no doubt recognise the term, but those who aren’t quite so in tune with TikTok trends may be grossed out by it. While it’s not quite as gross as it sounds, the problem is that many accounts advocating for bed rotting aren’t health experts. Now the trend has gone so viral, health authorities have jumped in on the conversation.
So, what exactly is bed rotting and are the concerns raised by medical professionals fair? Let’s explore…
Bed rotting definition:
Bed rotting is the self-care practice of spending an extended period in bed during the waking hours of the day. It involves lying in bed while undertaking activities such as watching Netflix, scrolling through social media, and snacking.
Many of the videos surfacing on TikTok under #bedrotting include melancholic music and perfectly decorated bedrooms with angelic furnishings and soft bed coverings. Others talk through their love and passion for bed rotting. If you’re still a little confused, here is an example of what bed rotting looks like.
Whilst this may not look like anything out of the ordinary, it has surpassed over a billion views on TikTok, and the likes of Forbes, CBS and The Independent have picked up the story. This has led to an influx of opinions on the trend and has sparked debate from all sides of the argument.
A new “bed rotting” trend on TikTok is raising concerns for mental health experts. The viral trend involves staying in bed all day to sleep, watching tv and being on your phone. #bedrotting #trend #tiktok #mentalhealth #health #bed #sleep #mentalhealthissues #mentalhealthproblems #news #fyp #foryoupage #abc7news
You just have to look into the comments section of a #bedrotting TikTok video to see the masses of teenagers and young people advocating for the behaviour.
But this has led to an outcry from health experts and psychologists. Even parents are weighing in on the argument, worrying whether bed rotting is a road to negative impacts on a young person’s mental and physical health. We spoke to Dr. Michael Olla, Medical Director at Valley Spring Recovery Centre, for his thoughts on the trend:
Popularising this behaviour is incredibly harmful, especially for people with mental disorders. The term itself is concerning, unhealthy, and misleading. Self-care actions maintain your overall well being. When you stay in bed excessively, you’re not promoting self-care…. Making ‘bed rotting’ a trend seems like a way to popularise a harmful behaviour that can bring negative consequences to a lot of people.
It’s worth noting that most health experts only refer to the practice as harmful when it’s excessive or overly popularised. It’s worth keeping this in mind as there’s absolutely nothing wrong with needing to rest and recover. We’ll explore how to do this in a healthy fashion a little further on into the article.
The Western World is obsessed with productivity, and TikTok has become home to videos promoting ‘hustle culture’, super early morning routines, and working long hours. So much so that it’s not uncommon to see people bragging about not getting enough sleep, avoiding social occasions, and missing out on experiences in a quest to reach the demands of society’s expectations.
But the users of TikTok have made a stance, by laying in bed, doing nothing but relaxing and dismissing all of life’s perplexities. Many Gen Zers have come together to advocate this behaviour, normalising it and even romanticising the act. For young people who reject a hyper-productive lifestyle, it can be a relief to find a community of people who also enjoy spending their weekends at one with their mattresses.
So is bed rotting an act of retaliation? Perhaps. And despite its current virality, there are plenty of examples of bed rotting across history. John Lennon and Yoko Ono spread the message of world peace from their honeymoon suite at the Amsterdam Hilton Hotel, inviting the world’s press to witness their 7-day lounge.
We have even been using our bed to escape from the world for many years, as early as the Victorian era. Elizabeth Gaskell wrote in her novel North and South, about a woman by the name of Maria Hale who would spend her days rejecting her motherly duties, lying in her bed and avoiding all social interactions for hours on end.
It has also been used in the corporate world to rejuvenate workforces. The ‘duvet day’ incentive allows employees to take a day off, no questions asked, to reset and unwind however they like. It is even in the Oxford Dictionary.
A duvet day can be taken when one’s mood is so sour that the only solution seems to be to stay in bed.
There’s also the extreme Japanese concept of ‘Hikikomori’. This phenomenon of complete social withdrawal experienced by Japanese youth was first identified during the 1990s. Hikikomori is now considered a medical condition that the Japanese government estimates 1.5 million people suffer from. However, it’s worth pointing out that this condition is more about avoiding contact with society than it is about the odd day chilling out in bed.
Either way, is bed rotting that serious, and can it really impact our sleep, well-being and physical state? Or is it just a bunch of bewildered adults associating bed rotting with adolescent laziness?
At first glance, bed rotting may seem like a harmless act. Let’s face it, if the activity concept is to do nothing, then there is nothing to harm, right? Well, not exactly.
The trend on TikTok is normalising the behaviour of snuggling in your bed for umpteen hours a day, after work or school, and even for entire weekends.
The message being spread is that this behaviour allows you to avoid responsibilities and social interactions. There’s a sense of abstaining from your life goals.
The worry is that if this behaviour becomes a recurring theme, it could be very damaging to the body and mind. Let’s explore that with the insight of health professionals.
Thomas Ehring, a clinical psychologist at the University of Munich, discovered that ruminating on stressors and negative events can increase the chance of depression. This repetitive negative thinking can occur more frequently in situations where we aren’t engaged in stimulating activities.
Psychologists have also identified how bed rotting can be a dysfunctional avoidance strategy. Nathalie Savell, a holistic psychotherapist, insists that bed rotting is not what we need in times of persistent stress. She states:
People think they’re helping themselves because a stressed brain just wants to shut down, but what it actually needs is healthy types of stimulation and rest.
Although it may seem like an escape from life’s worries, choosing to bed rot instead can actually increase your anxiety. What’s more, becoming dependent on bed rotting as a coping mechanism for stress will make it more difficult to break the habit.
Bed rotting promotes a sedentary lifestyle, which is known to have harmful effects on our bodies, especially when combined with eating snacks. This undoubtedly can affect your metabolic health and the body’s ability to utilise blood sugars.
Part and parcel of bed rotting is to spend excessive amounts of time in front of a screen for long durations, which can be a cause for concern for young people.
The Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD) study has revealed early findings that children who use screens for more than 7 hours a day have a thinner cerebral cortex, which is associated with our attention and memory, affecting cognitive and social abilities.
Although bed rotting is a perfect way to rest a tired body, actively laying in bed for extensive periods of time can do more harm than good to our sleep.
Dr Chris Marlin Wolf, an ABPP Board Certified clinical psychologist, explores the phenomenon. He explained that due to a lack of stimulation from productivity and excessive day napping, we negatively impact our cognitive abilities, risking memory loss and reducing our attention span and problem-solving abilities.
Another medical expert we spoke to, Dr. Chester Wu, M.D, certified in psychiatry and Sleep Medicine, explains how bed rotting can distort our circadian rhythm through a lack of stimulus control:
Stimulus control aims to reinforce the association between bed and sleep and establish a consistent sleep-wake schedule. It involves going to bed only when sleepy … Bed rotting stands in opposite to many of the evidence backed ways to get better sleep.
So, although the bed rotting trend advocates for much-needed rest, it can actually promote behaviours that increase the chance of triggering sleeping disorders, such as insomnia.
Recognising the need to destress and clear your mind is key to supporting your body’s need for rest. Additionally, we’re aware that not everybody is going to totally turn away from their love for this new trend.
Instead, we spoke to health professionals to uncover whether you can bed rot in a healthy manner. Sleep expert Vanessa Hill explains that, in her opinion, bed rotting can be a helpful way to rejuvenate oneself.
Therefore, bed rotting should be done with precautions. Here are just a few examples of how you can indulge in some downtime that will actually help you feel rested:
1. Schedule your bed rotting time
Actively schedule time on an evening or weekend to plough your face into a pillow and watch your favourite series. Ensuring that you stick to that time frame can help you reduce the time spent in bed.
2. Switch up your bed rotting activities
Instead of scrolling through social media, how about spending your allocated bed rotting time reading a book, drawing, or maybe even catching up with a friend on the phone? These mentally stimulating activities will help your body rest and keep your mind active at the same time.
2. Add some light exercise in and around your bed rot
If you have had a substantial period of bed rotting, consider going for a walk. Exercising before sleep and exposure to sunlight will help your body’s metabolism, especially if you’ve been snacking. Getting some evening sunlight can contribute to a good night’s sleep, even if you have been bed rotting during the day.
3. Break up your bed rotting with calming activities
Participate in feel-good activities such as a gentle yoga session or meditation within your bed rotting session to avoid the negative consequences of limited movement.
4. Make your bed-rotting productive
A weekend bed rotting could be a time for a Sunday reset. Perhaps catch up on bills or plan your week from the comfort of your bed. That way, you are ready and rested for the week ahead.