Bed Rotting: I’ve Made My Bed, Now I’ll Lie In It

Bed Rotting: I’ve Made My Bed, Now I’ll Lie In It

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I like big beds and I can lie (down)

Scrolling on my phone in bed—as I’m wont to do on weekends (or really anytime I’m not sitting upright)—a curious post made me stop short. “Bed rotting,” it read, my depraved brain instantly flashing visuals of necrophilia and coprophilia. “Ew,” I groaned audibly, almost flinging away my phone in disgust, until I read the latter half of the sentence: “…is the newest form of self-care for Gen Z.” Granted, Gen Zers have a proclivity for the absurd—like consuming laundry detergent or getting broccoli haircuts—but I have faith that they draw the line far before coitus with corpses and eating poop for pleasure.

I have a rigid weekend routine that begins every Friday evening as soon as I clock out of work: I eat dinner at home at around 9PM, a game with my partner until midnight, and then start a new TV show, which I watch until 4AM. I wake up between 12PM and 2PM on Saturday, resume watching the show I had started the previous night, eat lunch in bed at 4PM and go down for a nap at 5PM. Upon waking up at 7PM, I usually start framing legitimate excuses to opt out of plans that I enthusiastically made during the week (there’s a running joke among my friends about my ovulation cycle because I use “period cramps” as an excuse almost every week). After successfully clearing my schedule, I eat dinner in bed by 9PM and repeat the game-until-12-watch-tv-until-4 cycle. On Monday, I return to work a little disgusted with myself for having whiled away my precious holidays, but adequately rejuvenated to take on the week to come. I—and many others who know me well—call it my “weekend coma”. Turns out, Gen Z calls it like they see it: bed rotting. A Gen Z trend that this millennial is only too happy to co-opt.

So what does rotting in bed entail? Simply put, it involves intentionally spending prolonged periods of time in bed doing nothing, very much akin to how you would convalesce from a fever. First-time bed rotters might be inclined to do an elaborate skincare routine (strictly without leaving the bed, it goes without saying), but seasoned pros will know that all you need to rot in bed is a bed and yourself—a good WiFi connection and a snug duvet are just added bonuses.

I clearly remember the first time I bed rotted. I was 18, had just broken up with my first boyfriend and was obviously convinced that I was going to die of heartbreak. I cried and cried… and then I cried myself to sleep. I dreamt blank dreams, occasionally dotted with abstract swirls of color—like a Windows screensaver (sorry, Gen Z, you won’t get this reference). When I woke up 10 hours later, I was dazed, but it took a while for me to remember that my boyfriend’s parting words to me were, “You’re too clingy.” Minutes later, I was reeling from the sudden onslaught of memories and felt like I was experiencing the final moments of my relationship all over again. I longed for the sweet escape of sleep (aren’t teenagers just comedically dramatic?). During the next few days, I slept like my life depended on it, waking up only to eat and excrete. One week later, I emerged resolute and revitalized, determined that I wasn’t going to allow a boy to upend my life like this. To this day, I credit that sweet sopor for snapping me out of my adolescent melancholy. It was almost like the Neuralyzer from Men in Black had wiped my memory clean (sorry, Gen Z, another reference you won’t get), empowering me to pick up the pieces and move on.

Those who hadn’t discovered the joys of bed rotting were surely introduced to it in some form during the pandemic. In 2020, when people became sequestered indoors, there was only so much Dalgona coffee and banana bread we could make or Netflix we could watch before tiring of it. As working from home became a reality for the foreseeable future, afternoon naps became a pleasant byproduct, and we began sleeping longer hours. People reported getting more total sleep during the pandemic, even though the quality of sleep suffered (but that’s a topic for another time). Day after day, watching the waves crash against the shore from my seaside apartment and the birds congregating for their sunset murmurations, simultaneously reading reports of natural healing in the absence of human intervention and families running from pillar to post in search of oxygen tanks, my brain lulled itself into inertia as an act of self-preservation. My privilege to use sleep as a form of escapism was aptly reflected in Ottessa Moshfegh’s book, My Year of Rest and Relaxation, which was presciently published in 2018. “Sleep felt productive,” thinks the unnamed protagonist as she strives to slip into a year-long slumber. “Something was getting sorted out. I knew in my heart that when I’d slept enough, I’d be okay. I’d be renewed, reborn. I would be a whole new person, every one of my cells regenerated enough times that the old cells were just distant, foggy memories.”

Every now and then, as I prepare for my weekend snooze, my partner or parents will look at me with simmering disapproval, their expressions clearly giving away what they dare not say aloud. The words “you’re sleeping away your prime years” trying to penetrate the fortress of foam pillow I’ve built around my head, but they are expertly deflected. I have a case to make here: my writing job requires me to speak to people (both over Zoom and in person) and show up at events throughout the week. Making small talk is an occupational hazard I have come to accept rather grudgingly. So when I slip into my two-day coma, I think of it as a radical rebellion against the capitalist structures that ask that we go out and spend money on food and clothes during the weekend in order to justify what we do during the week. When I watch Netflix or read in bed for hours on end, I may be rooted to my bed, but I travel inward into faraway lands of courageous wizards, intrepid hobbits, Regency Era monarchs, and dead photographers trying to solve the mystery of their own deaths (I’m currently reading the 2022 Booker Prize-winning novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida). Let’s just say that watching Farmer George say, “I’m good with buttons,” actually nourished my soul a lot more than a night out on the town ever has.

That’s not to say that bed rotting doesn’t come with valid criticism. Health professionals have pointed out that prolonged spells of inactivity and excessive bed rest can lead to compromised cardiovascular health, muscle stiffness, and inadequate REM sleep. But with the world rushing towards post-Covid normalcy with dizzying speed and corporations racing to make up for lost time, perhaps giving into this torpor every so often has its benefits. I simply think of it as an agreement with my body that hustles incredibly for five days in return for two days of rest.

As the weekend approaches, Moshfegh’s lines once again echo in my ears: “Soon, I’d be home again. Soon, God willing, I’d be asleep.” Needless to say, I will be making my bed, and I will be lying in it.

This article was originally published on British Vogue.

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