With burnout levels continuing to rise – one recent study found that more than half of UK workers experienced it in 2023 – people have resorted to one unusual health trend in order to combat it: bed rotting.
For the uninitiated, ‘bed rotting’ essentially means spending a large portion of your time in bed doing mindless activities like watching TV shows, scrolling through apps on your phone, or simply napping.
The activity has become so popular that recent data from Protein Works has found that it was the most prominent health trend for 2023, with searches on TikTok for the term increasing by 401,000%, and videos featuring the term amassing a cool 52 million views.
However, while people are turning to bed rotting in order to better their mental health after burnout, it could actually be doing the opposite.
"Staying in bed for extended periods can seem like a harmless escape, but its impact on mental health is far from benign," psychologist Barbara Santini says.
"In the cocoon of their beds, individuals may find temporary relief, but this behaviour can spiral into a detrimental cycle."
What is bed rotting?
When someone is ‘bed rotting’ it essentially means they are spending an extended period of time in bed, not because of physical illness, but due to overwhelming stress or burnout.
"This concept has become a symbolic retreat for many in the face of relentless pressures of modern life," Santini says.
"In my professional observation, an uptick in burnout – a state of physical, emotional, and mental exhaustion caused by prolonged stress – has led to a surge in 'bed rotting.' It's as if individuals, unable to cope with the incessant demands of their lives, turn to the solace of their beds as a sanctuary, a place where the world's demands momentarily halt."
How bed rotting can impact your mental health
While rest is an essential part of alleviating stress and any overwhelming feelings, Santini says that extended period spent in bed can have several impacts on your mental health.
"Bed rotting can disrupt circadian rhythms, leading to sleep disorders, exacerbate feelings of depression and anxiety due to isolation and lack of physical activity, and can even affect cognitive functions due to reduced mental stimulation," she explains.
"In my practice, I've seen how this form of escapism, initially soothing, can evolve into a trap that hinders psychological well-being and personal growth."
Positive ways to deal with burnout
If you are seeing signs of burnout – which include deep exhaustion, low mood and irritability – Santini says its best to face it head-on with a multifaceted approach.
She recommends a mix of physical activity, mindfulness exercises, pursuing creative outlets, keeping structure and routine, and maintaining social engagement.
"Incorporating even mild forms of exercise can boost mood and energy levels," she explains.
"Also, mindfulness techniques like meditation and yoga not only relax the mind but also help in re-establishing a connection with the body."
Santini adds that creative pursuits can be a therapeutic outlet for stress, while having a routine or structure to your day can help you to feel anchored and give you a "sense of purpose and normalcy".
"Maintaining connections with others can alleviate feelings of isolation inherent in 'bed rotting’," she adds.
"Sometimes, the guidance of a therapist or counsellor can be instrumental in navigating out of the burnout cycle. While 'bed rotting' may appear as a tempting solution to burnout, it's a double-edged sword. As a psychologist, I advocate for a balanced approach to relaxation, emphasising active engagement in life's varied facets as a more sustainable path to recovery and mental wellbeing."
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Watch: Why the 'bed rotting' trend is bad for your eye health