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Sleeping on the Floor: Should You Do It?

Sleeping on the Floor: Should You Do It?

Sleeping in a nice, cozy bed, surrounded by mountains of pillows and warm blankets is the norm for many people in the U.S. The sizes vary, too. You can sleep in kingly comfort, with all the room you need, tone it down to a modest queen, or be uber practical with that contemporary twin.

The thought of trading your bed for the floor is not a thought that has crossed the minds of many. But, sleeping on the floor is actually not uncommon — it’s standard in many cultures worldwide.

While many have traded their beds for the minimalist approach of flooring sleep, many still wonder what the benefits a hard floor could possibly offer when it comes to a good night’s rest.

Here, we take a look at some of the benefits (and drawbacks) of sleeping on the floor, helping you decide if it’s something worth a try for yourself.

Floor Sleeping Is Nothing New

Contrary to popular imagination, mattresses have not always existed. For thousands of years, people had to sleep on hard ground, without the comforts of springloaded support. Mattresses are still a relatively modern invention in terms of human history.

Today, the mattress is considered commonplace in Western culture, but cultural sleeping arrangements still vary around the world. For example, it isn’t out of the ordinary to still find hammocks in use in some cultures.

Flooring sleeping is still done in some Asian countries, as part of their cultural tradition. In addition to being a space saver, many believe floor sleeping is also a back saver.

So, floor sleeping is nothing new. But is it still something we should be doing?

Potential Benefits of Sleeping on the Floor

At first glance, the thought of forgoing a comfortable mattress for a hard floor seems counterintuitive, and that’s understandable when you’ve likely been sleeping on a mattress since before you could even crawl. For many, sleeping on the hard ground is only reserved for camping trips.

But, aside from being a low-budget, space saver, many people believe that floor sleeping may actually have some benefits when it comes to health and wellness. Let’s take a look at a few.

Could Ease Back Pain for Some

One of the biggest pros that floor sleeping advocates suggest is the benefits of floor sleeping to relieve back pain. Typically, it is thought to have the same effect as a firm mattress in regard to back pain.

The rationale is the fact that soft surfaces (e.g. soft mattresses) can make back issues worse, as it sinks and causes joints to twist and the spine to curve.

Basically, some modern mattresses can lead to poor sleep posture. They simply lack the support.

Instead, firm sleeping surfaces are typically recommended for those with back pain, especially lower back pain. Some suggestions include placing a plywood board underneath the mattress to deaden the springs a bit, or placing the mattress itself on the floor.

Unfortunately, research into the actual effectiveness of sleeping on firm surfaces is scant. In fact, one meta-analysis of numerous research studies found that out of all the mattress options, medium-firm mattresses proved most effective in terms of back pain relief. These are certainly softer than the floor.

Might Help Improve Posture

In addition to the potential benefits of alleviating back pain for some people, some believe that sleeping on the floor could also help improve posture. Poor posture is one of the main contributors to back pain, spinal misalignments, and issues like sciatica.

Good posture is important to help support the natural curvature of the spine. The principle behind this claim is similar to the claims of the benefit above. Simply put, a firm surface, such as the floor, could provide better support for your spine, essentially helping it stay straight and naturally aligned.

However, one of the issues is the extra pressure that floor sleeping could put on the spine. Some utilize a small pillow underneath their lower back to help alleviate the pressure.

May Keep You Cooler

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of sleeping on the floor is in regard to temperature, particularly the potential to help keep you cooler while you sleep. The theory is simple, since heat rises it makes sense that sleeping on the floor, in a lower position, would make for a cooler sleeping experience.

This may be of greater benefit to those who tend to get hot while sleeping at night. High temperatures have been shown to reduce sleep efficiency, and higher core temperatures have also been shown to disrupt slow-wave sleep.

So, if you have issues with waking up soaked in sweat, sleeping on the floor could help cool down your body temperature, making for a more comfortable sleeping experience.

As far as room temperature goes, the optimal temperature range is between 60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Drawbacks of Sleeping on the Floor

It is clear that sleeping on the floor could provide potential benefits for some people. However, it may not be the right move for everyone. In fact, it actually comes with drawbacks that need to be considered.

It May Make Back Pain Worse for Some

One of the potential benefits of sleeping on the floor can also be a drawback. This is most evident when it comes to back pain. The causes of back pain can be quite diverse. For many, back pain is positional in nature, what brings relief to one person may exacerbate the pain for another.

So, sleeping on the floor could actually make back pain worse for some people. It comes down to support and cushioning around pressure points on the body.

For example, the stiffness of the floor could put unwanted pressure on the hips, shoulders, and parts of the back, exacerbating feelings of pain and discomfort.

Floor Sleeping Could Make Allergies Worse

The presence of home allergens shouldn’t take anyone by surprise. Whether it's animal dander or dust, allergens are roaming around most homes. Allergens certainly don’t make sleep any easier, as they cause itchy, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, and more.

The floor might be a hotspot for collecting allergens. The floor collects dust, dirt, grime, skin cells, mites, and more.

So, if you sleep on the floor and your home isn’t immaculately clean (and really, whose is?), you could run the risk of exposing yourself to an increased level of allergens — reducing sleep quality.

Not Comfortable For Most

The plain truth is the fact the floor sleeping simply isn’t going to be comfortable enough for the vast majority of people. If you are used to sleeping on a mattress, then the floor will provide quite a shock to the system. It might make for a restless night.

Also, it can be too cool for some sleepers. While it may be fine during the summer months, sleeping on the floor during cold winter months might be too chilly and uncomfortable for those in the Northern hemisphere.

Should I Sleep on the Floor?

At the end of the day, it really boils down to preference. The best way to conclude if floor sleeping is something that could be a benefit to you is just by testing it out.

Testing it out with a nap might be something simple to try first. But keep in mind, it can feel radically different than a traditional bed with a mattress, so one nap might not seal the deal.

Tips for Floor Sleeping

If you do want to try floor sleeping there are some important things to keep in mind.

  • Make sure the floor is clean – It is imperative to keep your floor (i.e. your sleep space) clean and free of debris, dirt, and dust. That means sweeping, vacuuming, and mopping the space you plan on using, as well as washing floor bedding regularly.
  • Take it easy – Don’t be afraid to ease into it. If the flat floor is your goal, start by using mats, blankets, or a sleeping bag to gradually get to that point.
  • Choose the right bed accessories – The floor will keep your back firmly in place, more so than a mattress. But, this also means you’ll need a thinner pillow to avoid neck strain.

Who Should Avoid Floor Sleeping?

Floor sleeping is not for everyone. There are certain groups that should not even consider sleeping on the floor at all.

  • Pregnant women/people with limited mobility – Floor sleeping is not conducive for those that are pregnant or those who may have knee or hip troubles. The point is simple, getting up and down from the floor can be difficult.
  • Older individuals – Aside from being rough on an aging body, sleeping on the floor could increase the risk for sickness (due to allergens and other debris).

The Sleep Pod for the over heaters among us

Many people consider sleeping on the floor in order to cool themselves off, literally. Some people are prone to sleeping hot at night. But there is good news. Before you move to the floor, consider the Sleep Pod.

It features a four-way stretch material that is lightweight and ultra-breathable, keeping you cool in bed while the gentle pressure keeps you relaxed and snoozing all night long.

Conclusion

Sleeping on the floor is nothing new. But it is not right (or advised) for everyone. It comes with both benefits and drawbacks, alleviating back pain for some, but making it worse for others. Either way, there is a lot to consider before sprawling out on the floor.

Sources:

Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomised, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial | NIH

What type of mattress is best for people with low back pain? | Harvard Health

Effect of different mattress designs on promoting sleep quality, pain reduction, and spinal alignment in adults with or without back pain; systematic review of controlled trials | NIH

The Effects of High-Temperature Weather on Human Sleep Quality and Appetite | NIH

Sleep and allergic disease: a summary of the literature and future directions for research | NIH