LIFE CAN BE overwhelming. That’s becoming more and more true with the rise of pandemics, natural disasters, and economic downturns. Finding new ways to rejuvenate when our batteries run low is crucial to make it through hard times. And social media is always quick to suggest new and sometimes questionable self-care ideas, including the current TikTok tactic of putting some strange names to a few of the tried-and-true tactics we sometimes indulge in when life gets hard.
If you’ve ever spent an entire day in bed to regain some mental strength, you’ve participated in TikTok’s newly coined self-care trend called “bed rotting.” If you’ve only done it for a few hours, you’ve participated in a separate, but similar, trend—”carcass time.”
They may sound silly (the term “carcass time” apparently came from a viral video of a horse named Squidward that lays down a lot and looked like a carcass), but bet rot and carcass time have struck the online community as a way to recharge one’s mental and physical battery. We asked the experts: can bed rotting and carcass time be healthy forms of self-care?
What Is ‘Bed Rotting’ and ‘Carcass Time’?
Bed rotting is the act of spending all day in bed, spent either scrolling through social media, playing games on your phone or computer, or bingeing an entire season (or two) of a favorite show. As long as you stay put in bed for an entire day (with the exception of food and bathroom breaks), you’re doing what’s considered bed rotting.
The toned-down version is what’s known as carcass time—a few hours here or there to lay down and scroll through whatever content you choose to consume.
How Much Rest Is Too Much Rest?
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to how much you need to relax to recuperate from the stressors of life. Stressors look different from person to person, and everyone copes with them differently.
Medically, seven to nine hours of sleep a night is considered healthy for adults. When it comes to daytime rest, the occasional nap is okay, “but sometimes resting too much during the day can interfere with adequate sleep at night as well as [sleep quality],” says psychiatrist Gregory Scott Brown, M.D., a Men’s Health advisor. “Good sleep hygiene means making sure you’re tired enough at the end of the day to get adequate sleep at night, so if bed rot/carcass time during the day is keeping you up at night, it’s probably not a great idea.”
The struggle is nailing down a concrete number for what “too much” is. One way to get a feel for the degree to which you’re resting is to notice how a certain amount of rest is affecting the rest of your life. If the amount of rest you’re getting starts to take a toll on your mood, relationships with your friends and family, responsibilities at work, or self-care—these are “warning signs that we are over-practicing something that is supposed to be good for us,” says Kier Gaines, L.G.P.C., C.R.C., a mental health advocate and community leader.
Are ‘Bed Rotting’ And ‘Carcass Time’ Healthy Ways to Rejuvenate?
Again, there’s no concrete answer here. If these high amounts of rest are causing more issues in your day-to-day tasks then actually rejuvenating your energy to tackle them, then probably not.
The answer partially depends on what you do during your bed rot and carcass time. As it’s touted, it’s usually spent staring at screens—be it scrolling through social media or binging TV. As you can probably guess, too much screen time isn’t good for anyone. “Blue and green wavelengths of light emitted from our smartphones and tablets block melatonin release which can make adequate sleep more difficult to come by,” Brown says. Like most things, though, moderation is key.
Your outlook on the media you’re consuming also plays a part how “rejuvenating” your screen time may be. If bingeing several episodes of Vanderpump Rules is what recharges your battery, then have at it. But, if you find yourself getting agitated while watching your favorite reality star make a bad decision, you’re probably better off doing something that leaves you feeling more refreshed. “How we consume information is more important than what information we consume sometimes,” Gaines says.
Once again, the healthiness of your bed rot and carcass time comes down to how it affects what’s happening around you. If you have a massively productive week after bed rotting through a Sunday, more power to you. Or, if you need a few hours of carcass time after work to recharge your social battery before meeting friends for dinner, that’s okay too. Again, the concern comes when the bed rot and carcass time start to pull you away from the things you should be doing—like caring for your kid, showering, or making deadlines at work, says Rheeda Walker, Ph.D., licensed clinical psychologist and director of the Culture, Risk, and Resilience Lab at the University of Houston.
This prolonged rest could be “masking depression [low energy accompanied by inability to enjoy life] and anxiety [overwhelming worry, fear, that brings on fatigue],” Walker says. It’s important to note, though, that depression can still present in the opposite way—working too much or being too active.
The best course of action is to be open and honest with your doctor or a mental health professional about how you’re feeling and functioning on an everyday basis. “Depression is incredibly clever and can disguise itself in the need for more rest,” says Gaines.
What Are Other Ways to Rejuvenate?
If your bet rot or carcass time sessions are weighing you down more then lifting you up, there are other ways to re-energize. If you’re in need of some time spent in bed, but are feeling drained by screen time, journaling or reading are both worthwhile exercises to replace your TV shows or social media binges, says Walker.
Try out different things and see what works best for you. “Experimentation is the name of the game here,” says Gaines. No single suggestion is going to stick with everyone.
Cori Ritchey, NASM-CPT is an Associate Health & Fitness Editor at Men’s Health and a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor. You can find more of her work in HealthCentral, Livestrong, Self, and others.