Why You Shouldn't Stay In Bed Too Long

January 2nd 2016

Laura Donovan

It was probably pretty hard for you to leave your bed this morning, but be glad that you did. Research shows that too much time in bed can actually be detrimental to your health.

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A recent video by the Discovery Digital Network's TestTube reveals that too much bed rest can be hard on the body. Though we may not always realize it, our bodies are constantly moving in some way to protect our tissues from developing pressure ulcers, also known as bedsores. Pressure ulcers can result from "prolonged pressure on the skin," according to the Mayo Clinic, and they are most commonly seen on skin that covers bony body parts like the heels, ankles, hips, and tailbone. The people most at risk of developing pressure ulcers have health issues that limit their ability to shift positions, force them to use a wheelchair, or restrict them to bed rest for an extended period.

"Pressure ulcers [occur] when we don't shift our weight and allow blood to flow through our skin," TestTube's Trace Dominguez explains in the clip. "If the skin is deprived of blood for too long, it suffocates and dies. If the ulcers reach stage four, the tissue damage can get all the way to the bone."

The problem with too much time in bed

The problem with too much time in bed



"Too much bed rest can damage the human body and, in extreme cases, can kill," Dominguez continues. "Pressure ulcers kill 60,000 Americans every year."

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Dominguez adds that nurses are trained to move paralyzed patients every two hours to reduce the person's risk of developing pressure ulcers.

People have more than just pressure ulcers to worry about, though. A 2004 study in the journal Joint Bone Spine found that patients with lower back pain who were put on bed rest ended up with more chronic pain and received a higher number of medications.

In the TestTube video, Dominguez also cites a 2008 Journal of Applied Physiology study that found rats who were put in bed rest conditions showed signs of depression after just two weeks. They also developed higher cardiovascular stresses in addition to their depression issues.

"Other studies have found long periods of bed rest can cause forgetfulness, confusion, anxiety, and respiratory problems, or blood disorders," Dominguez says.

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Though bed rest can be helpful for certain illnesses and conditions, it's important to remember that too much of a good thing like sleep can have negative health consequences. Too much sleep can also result in an increased risk of heart problems and even lead to an earlier death.

In 2014, two studies published in the journal Sleep revealed a connection between adult depression and both getting too much and too little sleep. The findings also found a connection between depression and too little sleep in adolescents. Researchers often say that getting seven hours of sleep per night is ideal for adults, and the first study, which looked at nearly 1,800 same-sex adult twins, found that people who slept between seven and 8.9 hours a night showed a nearly 30 percent heritability of depressive symptoms. Sleep-deprived participants also turned up unsettling results. People who slept less than seven hours a night had increased heritability of depressive symptoms by 53 percent. 

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"As sleep duration moved away from the extremes and toward the 'normal' range, the effect of the non-shared environment was more strongly associated with depressive symptoms, while genetic factors became less important," the study authors wrote. "These findings show a gene-environment interaction between sleep duration and depressive symptoms."