Reporters love to ask celebrities to describe their perfect day. And members of the glitterati-class often say they'd spend it in bed. Madonna’s bed-rest fantasy involves dining and watching Breathless. Her kids would join her. She’d never leave her bedroom. Singer-model couple John Legend and Chrissy Teigen giddily celebrated Memorial Day 2015 by staying inert and instagramming their journey to nowhere. Shane Warne, who is Elizabeth Hurley’s fiance and famous in some capacity, revealed that his ultimate goal is to stay in bed all day, until the next day.
We get it.
Who wouldn’t smile at the prospect of spending 24 hours swaddled in Egyptian cotton, catching up on missed sleep and slightly esoteric Netflix shows? Especially on a Saturday. In January. During a record-breaking cold spell. When the windchill burns off skin like a Groupon chemical peel. And our apartments are brimming with heat and fortified Wifi.
There’s a name for perma-pillow time: Bed extension. It’s the stuff of everyone’s fantasies, and that’s probably where it should stay. In real life, staying in bed all day is bad for us and our sleep.
Compared to, say, sleep deprivation, bed extension has gotten the shaft from science. Researchers have repeatedly linked short-term and long-term sleep loss to being sick, sad, foggy, fat and financially fucked. When it comes to excessive horizontal time, expert advice hews closer to “refrain or whatever." The thin body of existing research on bed extension, however, should sufficiently scare us into joining the waking, walking world.
In one 2014 study, for example, healthy sleepers extended their time-in-bed by three hours a night. Compared to participants who stuck to their #hardeight schedule, the extended sleepers exhibited elevated depression symptoms and sleepiness levels. Spending three hours in bed didn’t actually correspond to three more hours of sleep — on average, participants got about two more hours of sleep. Granted, the experiment only involved people with otherwise laudable sleeping habits.
For people who already have the can’t-sleep blues, counting sheep at 3 a.m. may only amplify shuteye struggles. At least, that’s a core tenet of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), an increasingly popular outcome-based therapeutic method that, based on clinical trials, reduces long term insomnia symptoms as effectively as sleeping medication. CBT practitioners discourage lying in bed, which they call “sleep maintenance insomnia.”
Wishing and willing yourself to sleep only exacerbates feelings of anxiety and upset surrounding rest. A main part of CBT is “stimulus control therapy,” which hinges on the idea that overcoming a behavioral issue (e.g., not being able to sleep) requires breaking down negative associations with that issue. So, in CBT, lying in bed awake accomplishes exactly what insomniacs don’t want: It makes sleep into their white whale. Instead, they’re supposed to practice sleep restriction — they get up, go into another room and do something relaxing in dim light. Only when they feel tuckered do they return to bed and tuck themselves in.
So, yes, we all dream of spending the day in bed. But, most of us also dream about losing our teeth and doing weird things to childhood authority figures. Consider leaving 24/7 bed rest for Flu season, terrifying NASA studies and fodder for US Magazine interviews.