‘Bed Rotting’ May Feel Wonderful, But Doing It Too Often Could Mess With Your Sleep

Photo: Getty Images/skynesher
Sometimes the only thing you feel like doing after a taxing day or week is relaxing in bed—maybe you add to the mood by ordering in and queuing up your favorite TV show or movie for a little horizontal recharge. There is, in fact, a name for the practice, according to people who embrace it on TikTok: “bed rotting.” Videos tagged with the term have been viewed over 303 million times on the social media platform thus far.

The idea is to really let loose and not do much at all—to decay in your bed, if you will. If the word rotting gives you a bit of pause because it sounds yucky, that’s the point. The name seems to stem from the slang term more than 300,000 people voted as the Oxford Word of the Year for 2022— “goblin mode,” defined by the online dictionary as "a type of behavior which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations." In actuality, it appears that the definition of bed rotting varies greatly (some proponents talk about doing it all morning in their videos, while others claim to rot in bed for days).

Experts In This Article

How bed rotting can disrupt your sleep

While rotting in bed may seem like a great self-care practice, regular bed rotting can mess with your sleep in a couple of ways, according to Angela Holliday-Bell, MD, board-certified physician, sleep medicine specialist, and certified sleep expert for aromatherapy company NEOM Organics. “It’s totally fine to spend a day doing something that makes you happy, but it can definitely impact your sleep if it’s on a consistent basis because a huge part of setting ourselves up for good sleep is establishing a consistent connection between your bed and sleep,” she says.

These associations can be weakened, though, if they’re not consistently reinforced. “[The idea] is that as soon as you get in the bed, your brain is trained to know that you’re going to sleep, and when you spend excessive amounts of time in bed watching television, talking on the phone, eating, and doing other activities, it dilutes that relationship,” says Dr. Holliday-Bell. Even doing activities that are supportive of falling asleep, like reading in bed, can hinder your ability to doze off if you do them for long enough in bed because they weaken this association.

"A huge part of setting ourselves up for good sleep is establishing a consistent connection between your bed and sleep."—sleep doctor Angela Holliday-Bell, MD

Staying in bed for too long can also make it tougher to stick to a set wake time, another key tenet of a great sleep routine, according to Raj Dasgupta, MD, board-certified pulmonologist and sleep medicine specialist with Keck Medicine of USC. Keeping a consistent wake time helps your body know when to start producing the melatonin necessary to help you fall asleep. In a nutshell, not getting out of bed or spending the day oscillating between being awake and asleep while bed rotting, can disrupt your circadian rhythms and your sleep-wake cycles by making it harder for your body to understand what time of day it is and what state it should be in.

Often, there's a psychological component to bed rotting that's worth exploring as well

Bed rotting has been billed as a way to cope with anxiety and depression, but according to Dr. Dasgupta, leaning on this as your primary form of self-soothing can actually exacerbate anxiety and depression, in part by isolating you from others and preventing you from doing other self-care practices, so it's worth considering the why behind your bed rotting. Should you find that the reason is because you're feeling anxious or depressed—not just because you needed a little downtime in a comfy spot—it may be worth exploring other coping mechanisms like exercise or therapy, or consider reaching out to a mental health professional for support.

Getting quality shut eye is also a big part of balancing your moods and another reason to be mindful of how much time you spend bed rotting. "If we're lying in bed all day, especially consistently, we're not engaging in the other activities that are also beneficial for sleep like getting movement, getting sunlight, and going outside," says Dr. Holliday-Bell. She and Dr. Dasgupta also recommend journaling, and making time for friends and loved ones. "I love that sentiment of taking back control of self-care, and part of that is indulging in sleep and rest, but you have to be careful in how you do it because you don't want that to create downstream effects," says Dr. Holliday-Bell.

Physically being in bed for hours on end can also cause various aches and pains from not moving muscles enough, too, according to Seema Bonney, MD, Mattress Firm's sleep doctor who also has a background in emergency medicine.

How often you can bed rot without it becoming an issue

Spoiler alert: There is no magic number here, but it's best to make bed rotting the exception, not the rule, when it comes to your self-care routine. "Looking at it from both a sleep and muscle standpoint, I think limiting this to two or three hours once every few weeks [is best]," says Dr. Bonney.

So if you need the occasional day between the sheets to recharge, go for it—but if you're in the mood for some extended TV time or horizontal chill-time more often than that, consider moving your pillows and blankets to the couch and set up there to protect your shut-eye.

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