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I’m sure you will agree with me when I say:
We are leading extremely comfortable lives.
Extra-thick mattresses, plushy sofas, ergonomic office chairs, padded car seats… Who would want to give that up?
Well, some people don’t mind ditching their comfy mattresses and turning their floor into a sleeping space. And if you want to join them, you should probably learn more about sleeping on the floor and all the aspects involved. So, let’s cut right to the chase!
Is Sleeping On the Floor Good for You?
The main reason why people switch to sleeping on the floor is that they believe it’s a better option than a mattress. This belief is based on hundreds of reviews, blogs, and articles online. However, there is always a chance that one of those famous benefits can be a myth. That’s why we have decided to take a closer look at the issue and answer the question “Is sleeping on the floor good for you?”
So, the first well-known benefit of sleeping on the floor (potential, of course), is pain relief. Many people claim that moving their sleeping spot onto the hard floor changed their life and reduced the back pain levels to a minimum (if not made the pain disappear completely).
Now, let me warn you right away:
There is no scientific or research-based evidence that proves these statements. I personally have never met a doctor who said that it’s better to sleep on the floor if you have back pain. In fact, research suggests that the best sleeping surface for pain should be medium-firm (1), not “hardwood-floor” firm.
Of course, if you transition from an overly soft mattress to a hard floor, you may start feeling better. You see, when lying on a soft mattress that cannot support your body in a neutral position (2), the heavier body parts (such as hips) sink in deeper. As a result, an unhealthy curve in the spine appears. Such sleeping posture can cause strain on your back and neck muscles, which can lead to pain. If you change the sleeping surface to a firm one (your floor, that is), you might get relief simply because your spine and back will become supported. However, there’s still a chance that the back pain may return after some time (especially if it was caused by something other than your mattress).
Now, since many people claim that sleeping on the floor helped them get rid of the pain, the trick may work in certain scenarios, so you might as well try it. However, make sure you consult your doctor first, especially if your pain is caused by a medical condition. Another famous benefit of sleeping on the floor involves one’s posture. Many people believe that a firm surface will help their spine remain straight not only during the night. However, this myth doesn’t have any scientific proof either. If you want to improve your posture, perhaps you should try special exercises instead (3). Now, some people also note that they feel much more well-rested and energized after a night spent on the floor. While there isn’t hard evidence to back such statements, we can suggest that this happens because a hard floor acts as a massager of some sort. If you toss and turn occasionally during the night, you will experience resistance. The floor will press against your body, which can mimic some kind of massage or acupressure and make you feel more alert in the morning (4).
Many sleepers turn their floor into a “bed” simply because they want more space. And yes, sleeping on the floor can give you all the space you need (even a bit more than that). It also gives you the freedom to test different sleeping environments. For example, if your bedroom window faces the street with an annoying street light right in front of it, you can move to your living room and enjoy a more favorable sleeping environment. Switching to floor sleeping might also be a good option for hot sleepers (especially if you had a foam mattress previously). By eliminating the multiple layers of padding and sleeping on the floor, you will likely feel pleasantly cool (or even chilly, depending on the weather). It might be a good solution for people who suffer from night sweats and don’t want to invest in a new mattress or a cooling topper.
Disadvantages of Sleeping on the Floor
I don’t want to disappoint you, but before you move your bed sheets onto the floor, you should consider the potential drawbacks this idea might bring you:
- Back pain. While some users note that sleeping on hard surfaces makes their backs feel better, others start suffering from back pain or aggravated symptoms. In fact, even a firm mattress that still has at least some amount of padding can worsen back pain (5). Then what can we say about hard floors? The thing is, when lying on the floor, your body develops pressure points because there’s too much resistance from the surface. It can lead to tension build-up and, consequently, more stress on your back. So, if you are already dealing with back pain and want to switch to floor sleeping, perhaps you might want to try a floor mattress first.
- Allergies. There’s a lot of stuff lying around in our homes (some of which we can’t even see), such as dust or even dust mites and mold, especially if you have carpeted floors. Naturally, if you sleep amongst all those things, you can start experiencing allergy symptoms. Runny nose, sneezing, coughing, eye itchiness or redness, and even trouble breathing are the most common ones (6).
- Affected relationship. This might seem far-fetched, but I’ve met people who were angry with their spouse for sleeping separately. Plus, sex can be rather awkward if you get rid of the mattress and both move to the floor.
- Temperature issues. Sleeping on the floor during summer can feel like bliss. The same scenario can turn into a disadvantage during winter. You see, colder drafts are typically concentrated on the ground, so they can make you feel quite chilly, especially when there’s no warm padding (like a futon mattress) to protect you.
What Is the Best Position for Sleeping On the Floor?
Lying on the back is considered the healthiest position for both sleeping on the floor and the mattress. This sleeping style promotes proper tension redistribution and back alignment. The thing is, it’s easier for the spine to remain neutral when the sleeper is lying on their back. Additionally, this position gives more chances to align both the neck and the hips with the spine. That’s why back sleeping is typically recommended for individuals with back pain.
Side sleeping isn’t ideal for lying on the floor unless users make sure their protruding body parts receive enough cushioning. This could mean stacking blankets or sleeping on a puffier Japanese futon. The main goal here is to prevent shoulders, elbows, and hips from pressing hard against the floor.
As for stomach sleeping, this style is generally considered the least healthy one, regardless of where the sleeper decides to lie down. When sleeping on one’s stomach, the head is usually turned to one side, which can cause a lot of strain in the neck. Stomach sleepers also often experience back strain when their belly sinks a bit deeper into the mattress. However, sleeping on the floor can actually help avoid that issue.
How to Sleep On the Floor Safely
So, if you are okay with the potential disadvantages of sleeping on the floor and want to start this experiment, there are some things to account for. I mean, you need to stay safe and healthy, so you might want to take the transition from your bed to the floor seriously. Here are the main considerations:
- Think about the accessories. First of all, sleeping on the floor can feel cold, so you might want to get a set of warm fleece pajamas. Also, don’t forget your pillow. Changing the sleeping surface might mean that your current pillow won’t work. So test it on the floor and see whether your head tilts or not when lying down. If your head and neck are not aligned properly when lying on a stiff surface, consider getting a new pillow to transition to the floor sleeping.
Generally, it might be a good idea to avoid tall pillows when sleeping on the floor. For side sleepers, a medium loft would suffice. For back and stomach sleepers, a thin pillow would be preferable when lying on the floor.
- Prepare your “bed”. Naturally, you won’t sleep directly on the ground. You need to add at least one layer between you and the floor. You can start with something thicker and comfier to ensure a smooth transition (for instance, a mattress topper or a Japanese futon mattress would work). You can add a couple of blankets, as layering might help you feel more comfortable until you get used to a firmer sleeping surface. And remember that you can always experiment with different configurations and several layers to feel the most comfortable. Later, you can switch to something thinner like a blanket or a mat (to give yourself some insulation from cold).
- Use the props. And I mean pillows. Naturally, the floor will not conform to your body, so you will have to do a little extra to maintain your spine in a neutral alignment. For instance, if you are a back sleeper, add a rolled towel or a round pillow under your knees. For side sleepers, it is recommended to place a pillow between the knees to align the hips. You might also want to add a small rolled towel under your waist and maybe even your neck to help your spine maintain a proper alignment. As for stomach sleepers, they are usually advised to put a thinner pillow under the stomach for extra support.
Who Shouldn’t Sleep on the Floor
While floor sleeping can offer a couple of benefits to some people, certain sleepers should avoid such experiments. Why? Because sleeping on the floor can be harmful to them. I am talking about:
- Older adults. Elderly people usually have weaker bones (7). This makes them more susceptible to fractures. And since sleeping on the floor can put too much pressure on the joints and bones, the risk of fractures increases even more in this case.
- People with mobility issues. Sleeping on the floor can be a huge limitation in this scenario, as getting up would be very challenging for someone who cannot move freely due to certain conditions. Typically, people with mobility issues are advised to sleep on taller mattresses (preferably with strong edges that can offer a light boost when standing up).
- Anyone with serious medical issues. You don’t know how sleeping on the floor can affect your current condition. Therefore, it’s best to consult your doctor before introducing such changes in your life.
- Cold sleepers. As I’ve mentioned before, your floor isn’t the warmest sleeping environment. So, if you get cold quite easily, you aren’t likely to feel comfortable when lying on the floor.
- Side sleepers who have sharp pressure points. When lying on one side, the shoulder and the hip may crash into the floor, even if there’s a futon mattress or a few blankets. That’s why side sleepers with sharp pressure points (or delicate joints) aren’t advised to sleep on the floor. They need their shoulders and hips to be hugged gently instead of being pressed against the hard floor.
Sleeping On the Floor When Pregnant: Dos and Don'ts
Generally, sleeping on the floor is considered safe for pregnant women. In some cases, it may even offer some relief for the back, as a firm sleeping surface would promote improved spinal alignment and consequently, decreased tension.
However, here’s the deal:
Pregnant women who plan to sleep on the floor shouldn’t forget about the mobility issues this may cause. After all, it can be very hard to get up from the floor with a belly. Therefore, pregnant women might require some assistance from their loved one in this case.
Is it healthy to sleep on the floor?
There is no scientific backup that could prove that sleeping on the floor is beneficial. However, some people note that it makes them more rested and helps with back pain.
Is it bad to put a mattress on the floor?
Generally, no. It might lead to faster wear and tear if you don’t place anything under the mattress, but using it on the hard floor can make your mattress feel more supportive and slightly firmer.
Is it healthier to sleep without a pillow?
It depends on your sleeping position. For instance, stomach sleepers don’t necessarily require a pillow and can maintain a proper alignment without it. Back sleepers need a moderate loft to fill in the natural neck curve and to support it properly. Side sleepers require taller pillows and aren’t advised to sleep without one. In this sleeping position, your head will sort of fall to the side putting a lot of strain on the neck. You need a puffy pillow that would fill in the space between the neck and the mattress surface for optimal support.
Will lying on the floor help improve posture?
There is no research that can confirm that sleeping on the floor can improve posture. Most experts agree that certain exercises are more effective.
Should I sleep on the floor with lower back pain?
If you have lower back pain, you should first consult your doctor and find the reason behind that issue. If your lower back pain is caused by an unsupportive or saggy mattress, moving to the floor might improve your condition. But in other scenarios, this experiment can also aggravate the symptoms, so you should be very careful.
There are many people who claim that sleeping on the floor changed their lives for the better. We hear stories about improved posture, higher sleep quality, more energy, and improved back health, and we really want to believe them.
However, even though sleeping on the floor helps some (and is quite common for many cultures), it doesn’t mean that this method works for everyone. You should be careful and avoid sleeping on the floor if you have any serious medical conditions. And try to listen to your body attentively. If you feel like it doesn’t respond well to sleeping on the floor, maybe it’s better to reunite with your mattress.
What made you consider sleeping on the floor? Do you want to improve your posture or deal with some other issues? Let us know in the comments!
- Ahmed Radwan, Philip Fess, Darcy James, John Murphy, Joseph Myers, Michelle Rooney, Jason Taylor, Alissa Torii (December 2015). 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. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2352721815001400?via%3Dihub
- Stephen Gill (January 02, 2020). How should you sleep if you have lower back pain? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/320870
- Jump Start by WebMD (n.d.). 6 Exercises for Better Posture. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/guide/better-posture-exercises#1
- T. Field, G. Ironson, F. Scafidi, T. Nawrocki, A. Goncalves, I. Burman, J. Pickens, N. Fox, S. Schanberg, C. Kuhn (September 1996). Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8884390/
- Francisco M. Kovacs, Víctor Abraira, Andrés Peña, José Gerardo Martín-Rodríguez, and others (November 15, 2003). Effect of firmness of mattress on chronic non-specific low-back pain: randomised, double-blind, controlled, multicentre trial. Retrieved from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(03)14792-7/fulltext
- Medicine Plus (n.d.). Allergy. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/allergy.html
- Brent Wisse (May 13, 2020). What causes bone loss? Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000506.htm