Psychiatrist: Bed rotting days are ‘tempting,’ but don’t help you feel rested — here’s how to recharge instead

Ashton Jackson
CNBC
Spending the day on the couch may do more harm than good.
Spending the day on the couch may do more harm than good. Credit: Pixabay

Millennials and Gen Zers are taking advantage of their off-days and weekends by “bed rotting” — a trend that involves spending the entire day under the comfort of their duvets while sleeping in, watching television or mindlessly scrolling a device.

It’s meant to be their way of decompressing or staving off burnout after a long work week, but the trend could be doing more harm than good, according to Samantha Boardman, a psychiatrist and clinical instructor at Weill-Cornell Medical College and author of the book “Everyday Vitality, Turning Stress Into Strength.”

“It’s very tempting,” Boardman tells CNBC Make It. “But the reality is, many people after they engage in some extended period of bed rotting, they don’t feel that much better. If anything, they feel a little bit more drained.”

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Why bed rotting could be doing more harm than good

Bed rotting could potentially disrupt your circadian rhythm, your body’s natural alarm clock that tells you when to sleep and wake, Boardman says. If you’ve ever had a rot day or just slept in longer than normal, it may have left you feeling groggy and less refreshed or made it harder to fall asleep at a reasonable time at night.

Getting enough sleep is important to your health. But too much sleep is also associated with many health issues, including heart disease, obesity and depression, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Similarly, research shows that extended time staring at your phone or TV screen can cause eye strain, sleep disturbance and poor mental health.

When you’re sleeping too much, binge-watching a new series or getting lost in social media, you aren’t engaging in true rest, Boardman says. You’re merely distracting yourself from whatever problem is at hand, be it exhaustion from work, a stressful problem or an unhealthy lifestyle.

Better ways to recharge

Lounging in bed for hours might sound like a good idea when you need to recharge, but the key to actual rest is more “intentional” and that’s “often the opposite of what we feel like doing,” Boardman says.

Try shaking up your routine, she says, recommending any low-intensity exercise or relaxing activity that puts you in a good mental space and helps your body recover.

It sounds counterintuitive, but rest, in Boardman’s opinion, can include whatever activity restores your mental or physical well-being in the long run.

“When you go for a walk outside, you meet up with a friend, you do something that even though you might dread it, you’re probably going to feel a whole lot better,” Boardman says.

Research shows that nature walks are especially effective in promoting mental health and well-being. A 40-minute walk in nature, for example, helped people feel more restored and focused than a 40-minute walk in an urban area.

Push yourself to do something productive, even if it’s only for a few minutes. Boardman asks her clients to keep a log of the activities they dread doing, ranking their dreadfulness on a scale of one to 10 and then writing how they felt after the task was done.

“They’re typically really glad that they did that thing… They went outside, they had one-on-one time with somebody who they care about, they were out in nature in some way,” she says. “Doing a little bit of something is much more restorative [than bed rotting].”

If leaving your home is absolutely out of the question, you can still find a better way to rot than just lying in bed, according to Dianne Augelli, a sleep medicine specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine/New York Presbyterian.

So that you don’t interfere with your sleep at night, move your rot session to the couch, the kitchen table or a guest bedroom, she said in 2023. Swap scrolling time with reading or meditating, she added. You can also walk around your home or turn on a quick follow-along workout to get your blood pumping.

Active resting might require a little bit of effort, Boardman says. But “it can be really helpful” in making sure you’re actually refreshed and recharged.

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