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Is it OK to stay in bed all day when sick?

Quick Answer

It can be okay to stay in bed all day when you’re sick, depending on the severity of your illness. For minor illnesses like a cold, it’s usually best to get up and move around periodically if you’re able. For more severe illnesses that require rest like the flu, staying in bed all day helps your body conserve energy to fight off the infection. Listen to your body and get the rest you need, but also try to stay as active as you’re able.

When Is It Okay to Stay in Bed All Day?

Here are some instances when it may be advisable to stay in bed all day when sick:

  • You have a fever – Fevers are a sign your body is fighting an infection. Rest helps preserve energy for healing.
  • You have body aches and pains – Laying down can provide relief from muscle aches and joint pain.
  • You have an acute respiratory illness like the flu – Severe coughing, chest congestion, and trouble breathing warrant staying in bed.
  • You have vomiting or diarrhea – These symptoms can lead to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Laying down helps prevent falls and conserve energy.
  • You feel weak and fatigued – Exhaustion is a common symptom of many illnesses. Bed rest helps regain strength.
  • You have a migraine – Migraines usually require resting in a dark, quiet room.

In general, the more severe your symptoms, the more appropriate it is to spend the day in bed recuperating. Listen to what your body is telling you.

Benefits of Resting in Bed When Sick

Here are some of the benefits of getting adequate rest and staying in bed when you don’t feel well:

  • Conserves energy – Your body devotes its resources to fighting infection rather than normal activity.
  • Aids the immune system – Sleep and rest allow cytokines and white blood cells to work effectively.
  • Reduces strain on the body – Laying down eases demand on muscles, joints, and the cardiovascular system.
  • Promotes healing – Immobility facilitates tissue repair, regeneration, and recovery.
  • Provides comfort – You can bundle up comfortably and find relief from aches/pains.
  • Allows proper hydration – Laying down prevents dizziness and enables fluids to restore electrolyte balance.

Overall, adequate rest while sick helps activate the body’s natural healing abilities.

Risks of Staying in Bed Too Long

While rest is beneficial when ill, too much time in bed can also pose some risks, including:

  • Muscle atrophy – Long periods of inactivity can cause muscles to waste away and weaken.
  • Joint stiffness – Lack of movement leads to stiff, painful joints.
  • Skin breakdown – Being immobile in one position can cause bed sores.
  • Blood clots – Sedentary behavior slows blood flow, raising clot risk.
  • Constipation – Laying down can slow digestion and bowel motility.
  • Depression – Isolation and inactivity can negatively impact mood.
  • Deconditioning – Prolonged bed rest reduces endurance and function.

That’s why it’s important to get up and move periodically if you’re able. Even basic activities like walking to the bathroom, getting a drink, or sitting up to eat help counteract these risks.

Tips for Resting Effectively When Sick

Here are some tips to help you rest properly and recover faster when you’re under the weather:

  • Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of fluids like water, broths, and electrolyte beverages.
  • Eat nutritious foods – Consume fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to nourish your body.
  • Adjust room temperature – Keep your room around 65-70°F for optimal sleep.
  • Layer bedding – Use extra blankets or remove them as your temperature fluctuates.
  • Use pillows for support – Place pillows under knees, neck, or back for comfort.
  • Consider over-the-counter medications – Use as directed to manage symptoms like pain, fever, congestion, etc.
  • Alternate movement and rest – Get up intermittently to walk, stretch, or change positions.
  • Listen to your body – Let your symptoms and energy levels guide your activity.
  • Stay connected – Keep your phone close to communicate with loved ones.

Following these tips will help you recover your health faster while also avoiding complications of too much inactivity. Be sure to consult a doctor if your symptoms don’t improve.

When to Seek Medical Care

In certain situations, it’s important to seek medical attention even if you have been resting at home. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Blue lips or face
  • Confusion or inability to wake up
  • High fever over 104°F that won’t come down
  • Dehydration from frequent vomiting/diarrhea
  • Severe headache or stiffness in the neck
  • New neurological symptoms like weakness or numbness

Emergency care should be sought if you have trouble breathing, chest pain, loss of consciousness, signs of stroke, severe dehydration, or other concerning symptoms. Don’t hesitate to call 911 or go to an ER if you think it’s warranted.

Special Considerations for Vulnerable Groups

Certain vulnerable groups should take extra precautions when sick and resting in bed for extended periods:

  • Older adults – Greater risk of deconditioning, falls, and blood clots.
  • Post-surgery patients – Increased chance of surgical site infections and clots.
  • Hospitalized patients – Susceptible to pneumonia, ulcers, weakness, and delirium.
  • Pregnant women – Prone to circulation issues and thromboembolism.
  • People with mobility issues – Difficult to reposition or ambulate independently.
  • Individuals with mental illness – Isolation can exacerbate depression and anxiety.

These groups may need extra assistance with meals, bathing/dressing, medications, repositioning, and monitoring symptoms when resting for prolonged periods. Home health care or inpatient treatment may be advisable.

How Much Bed Rest is Recommended?

There are no standard guidelines dictating how much bed rest someone should get when sick. Recommendations vary based on the illness and individual factors like age, risk factors, and overall health status. Here are some general suggestions:

  • Colds – Rest as needed, but gradually resume normal activity as able.
  • Flu – Up to a few days of strict bed rest until the acute symptoms resolve.
  • Bronchitis – Limit activity initially, then increase movement progressively.
  • Pneumonia – Bed rest during the infection, followed by slowly increasing mobility.
  • COVID-19 – Isolate at home for 5+ days based on symptoms and risk factors.
  • Gastroenteritis – 1-2 days rest, but get up to prevent dehydration.
  • Back pain – 1-2 days rest, with gentle movement thereafter.

The key is finding a balance between adequate rest to promote healing and appropriate activity to prevent complications. Increase movement gradually as symptoms improve.

How to Make the Most of Resting in Bed

If you do need to spend an extended time in bed:

  • Stay connected – Keep your phone, laptop, books, etc. handy.
  • Adjust your position – Roll side to side, use pillows, or recline periodically.
  • Do gentle exercises – Try simple stretches, neck rolls, ankle circles, etc.
  • Keep warm – Use extra blankets and layers; change if you get sweaty.
  • Stay clean – Use wipes, dry shampoo, and lotion to freshen up.
  • Treat symptoms – Use medications, nasal saline spray, cough drops, etc.
  • Listen to your body – Eat when hungry, sleep when tired.
  • Manage stress and mood – Try relaxation techniques, gratitude practice, etc.
  • Prevent bed sores – Change positions, use pillows to offload pressure.

With some preparation and creativity, you can stay comfortable and engaged while you recover. Don’t hesitate to ask loved ones for help too!


Getting adequate rest is important when you’re sick, but too much bed rest also has risks. Finding the right balance depends on your specific illness, symptoms, risk factors, and how you’re responding to the additional rest. Listen to your body, be attuned to warning signs, stay connected with your healthcare providers, and enlist help as needed. With the proper precautions, some time in bed can help you bounce back faster.