Surprising Side Effects Of Lying In Bed Too Much

If you've ever been tempted to curl up in bed and stay under the covers for a day (or a week), you're not alone. But lying in bed too much has more negative health consequences than you might expect. Sure, the occasional extra-long night of sleep, or taking a conference call from your bed once in a while won't hurt you, but spending a few days bedridden can quickly become unhealthy.

Of course, you likely first think about bedsores. These sores can form due to pressure on your skin from the mattress if you're forced to lie in bed due to injury or illness and aren't moving at all. But along with bedsores, you'll also experience a loss of muscle and a decrease in bone mass — and these are only a few of the possible physical side effects (via HuffPost). Getting up after a long time spent in bed — think days, not hours — could be tougher than you'd expect.

It can affect your mental health

As reported by Business Insider, laying around in bed for days or months at a time can increase one's chances for developing depression or anxiety. While certainly a more extreme example, this was evidenced in a 2014 study in which NASA recruited 55 participants to lay in bed with their head at a downward angle and their feet raised upwards for 70 days (via Next Shark) in order for scientists to determine how the body might respond to prolonged periods of immobility during space travel (via Seeker).

Aside from the physical side effects experienced, such as a loss of blood volume and muscle mass, one participant who completed the study, Drew Iwanicki, told Vice about the significant toll the experience took on his mental health, writing, " ... I could feel a significant psychological shift. I became accustomed to my isolated antisocial state ... I was certain that I was one bad day away from a mental breakdown." 

Business Insider also pointed to research conducted on pregnant women confined to bed rest, citing they are more prone to anxiety, depression, isolation, and feeling out of control. Further, a 2019 study published in Osong Public Health and Research Perspectives found that long periods of inactivity was particularly harmful for those with depression and circumstances that could lead to becoming bedridden should be avoided in order to protect their quality of life.

It can worsen back pain

Over one-quarter of the United States workforce experiences back pain, according to HealthDay. For those with lower back pain, it's logical to think that rest and recovery would be the best medicine. However, science tells us that back pain may be better served with movement rather than inactivity. 

Researchers of a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine randomly assigned three treatments to participants with acute low back pain, including bed rest, back exercises, or continuing daily life as normal. They found that between bed rest, exercise, and standard everyday movement, bed rest resulted in the worst health outcomes, including more time off work, greater pain intensity, and back disability.

While a bit of bed rest to provide a brief respite from severe pain can sometimes help, Harvard Health Publishing confirms too much can have the opposite effect. That's because lying on your back can put extra pressure on the discs, ligaments, and muscles. Additional negative impacts include weakened muscles, constipation, and even blood clots. 

It can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes

Spending too much or too little time in bed, even if it's to sleep, can be bad for your health, according to the American College of Cardiology. While many of us understand the dangers of too little sleep, it may surprise you to know that oversleeping can put you at a greater risk for heart problems. Data suggests that those who sleep for more than eight hours per night have a greater risk of developing chest pain (angina) and coronary artery disease, a condition in which the heart doesn't get enough blood and oxygen due to constricting blood vessels.

Interestingly, a 2020 study  published in BMJ Open points to another increased risk of a major health condition when lying down for longer periods of time. Researchers gathered data from over 17,000 middle-aged adults in Norway and found that 362 of the participants who had spent nine or more hours a day lying down had developed diabetes at an 11-year follow-up. 

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), science has shown that heart conditions and diabetes are associated. Having diabetes doubles one's risk for developing cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States. By laying in bed for long periods of time over the course of several years, we increase our chances of developing both conditions.