Actually, ‘Bed Rotting’ Can Be a Very Legit Form of Self-Care

It’s called rest, people.
Photo of woman in bed holding newspaper
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There are few things I love more in this world than doing nada. This would have shocked college me: My calendar was booked every single day with plans ranging from study sessions to dinner reservations to drunken weekend shenanigans. But now, after years of spending nearly every waking moment with classmates, friends, family members, or coworkers, I truly appreciate the privilege of jumping into my cozy window-side bed, ignoring everything and everyone around me, and just scrolling through TikTok or browsing Zara’s latest styles. In other words, doing stuff that is absolutely meaningless—or is it?

The internet is now calling my favorite little self-care ritual “bed rotting,” which is defined, generally speaking, as wasting away under your cozy comforter for a few hours and being intentionally unproductive, perhaps with some bedside snacks (so you don’t have to get up) and the next episode of The Summer I Turned Pretty streaming in the background. The term is fairly new on TikTok (and viral, too, with more than 2 billion views of videos featuring people munching away, watching YouTube videos on repeat, or simply scrolling through Instagram from the comfort of their beds).

The general concept of having a “lazy” day every once in a while, however, isn’t revolutionary. So why, then, is my precious me-time practice (doing absolutely nothing in bed) suddenly being framed as something that’s inherently unhealthy or worrisome? For instance, headlines have described this “phenomenon” as “the toxic side of self-care” that warrants “warnings.”

To be fair, there’s some valid criticism of spending too much time hiding out under the covers: It can be concerning, for example, if you’re struggling to function in your daily life or you’re sleeping a lot as a means of escaping deeper emotions, which could signal mental health troubles. In that case—say, you’re not interested in doing much of anything or you consistently feel tired all day—“bed rotting” could be a sign of depression that warrants talking to a professional, like a therapist.

For the most part, though, doing nothing from time to time isn’t a dangerous health risk. In fact, making people feel “lazy” or otherwise less than for giving themselves a break is a pretty insidious message, and that’s especially true considering the hell of a time we’re having as a country: We’re coping with life during a global pandemic, sky-high inflation is making everything so expensive, and let’s not forget we’re in the middle of what’s likely the hottest summer on record.

Biologically speaking, “we aren’t designed to go, go, go,Bonnie Zucker, PsyD, author of A Perfectionist’s Guide to Not Being Perfect, previously explained to SELF. “Our nature is not to have a nonstop 12-hour workday and a six-hour sleep cycle. That’s really going against what our biological needs call for, which is adequate downtime.” I mean, think about it: There’s a reason that rest is the solution for anything that wears your body down, from the common cold to job burnout. “It isn’t just your muscles that do work,” Jaime Seltzer, director of scientific and medical outreach at myalgic encephalomyelitis advocacy group #MEAction, told SELF last December. “All of your organ systems do work, and your brain and your heart tend to demand a lot. So even if you’re thinking very hard, you are definitely doing work.”

Still, we as a culture tend to only praise certain types of self-care—you know, the socially acceptable ones like attending a workout class or listening to an enlightening podcast. On the flip side, online shopping and streaming movies on Netflix are typically seen as “wasting time,” since you could have fully embraced #hustleculture during your hours off.

But this “wasted” time that so many people in the US seem to frown upon can, in fact, be an excellent use of our precious free hours if it gives our minds and bodies a much-deserved break and leaves us feeling rejuvenated. From that perspective, trends like bed rotting should actually remind us that aimless and unstructured rest is a legit, perfectly healthy way to take care of ourselves.

Sure, maybe your definition of a restorative break involves downloading a self-help audiobook or taking a luxurious shower (okay, valid). But, personally, I don’t have the attention span to listen to something educational when I’m already exhausted, and the idea of blow-drying my thick hair for the next hour sounds anything but chill.

Anyway, the point of this little rant is to emphasize that we, as a culture, need to stop preaching such a narrow-minded version of what self-care should be, and instead acknowledge that physically and mentally resting in bed doesn’t mean you’re rotting: It can be a damn good (and normal!) way to unwind (and it doesn’t deserve such an intense and scary name).

Doing nothing and not talking to anyone on a Sunday allows me to recharge my social battery so that I’ll have the energy to hang with my pals during the week. Being unproductive by “wasting” my afternoon on TikTok destresses me after an overwhelming work day. So please let’s allow everyone to “rot” in their bed in peace—and if you’re inclined to shame, guilt, or troll anyone who is embracing rest, it might be a sign that you could benefit from a little R&R yourself.