When most people think about sleeping on the floor, chances are that the first thing that comes to mind is a hurting back, a crick in the neck, and a day of aches and pains. For this reason, one recent survey found that 47 percent of Americans plan on spending significantly more than $1,000 on their next Queen sized (or larger) bed set. While Memory Foam mattresses and other state of the art mattress sleeping technologies seem to be all the rage at the moment, for people who are truly interested in their health, moving towards a more minimalist sleeping style might actually be worth considering.
In this short article, we take an in-depth look at eight scientifically proven health benefits that come with sleeping on the floor of your home. Since most people automatically assume that sleeping on the floor is bad for one´s back, we will also analyze the veracity of that claim. Sleeping on the floor might be for everyone, however, we will also look at some of the potential drawback (for certain people) that come with sleeping on the floor. Since sleeping on the floor doesn’t necessarily entail simply sleeping directly on your carpet or hardwood flooring, we also look five different ways to sleep on the floor and a few tips for getting used to a more minimalist sleeping solution. Lastly, we look at the best types of surfaces, mats, or minimalist mattresses that can be combined with sleeping on the floor strategies.
8 Scientifically-Proven Benefits of Sleeping on the Floor
1. Keeps You Moving
Believe it or not, one of the benefits that comes with sleeping on the floor is that this will keep you naturally moving throughout the night. Some of the newer mattresses on the market, like Memory Foam mattresses, actually restrict your movement through locking you into position. Staying in one position throughout the entire night is a recipe for a sore body. Sleeping on the floor, on the other hand, will keep you moving throughout the night, which is a completely natural way for your body to stay healthy.
2. Avoid Volatile Organic Compound Emissions
Another major problem with sleeping on mattresses is that you will be voluntarily spending between 8 and 10 hours of every day on top of a chemical infused product that is probably off-gassing dangerous chemicals into your home. The EPA has documented how volatile organic compounds, or VOCs can negatively affect the indoor air quality inside your home, and some mattresses are also coated in chemical flame retardants such as PBDEs which also pose a major health risk. Sleeping on the floor, then, is one strategy to limit the amount of chemical emissions you are exposed to on a nightly basis.
3. Strengthen Muscles
The firmness that comes with sleeping on the floor also has the ability to strengthen the tiny muscles that are located throughout your back. Because of the added pressure on different parts of your body, sleeping on the floor will encourage your back to naturally strengthen over time, and the stronger your back muscles, the less chance you will have of suffering from some sort of body pain.
4. Discourages Stomach Sleeping
While people who have problems with snoring might be encouraged to sleep on their stomach, the Mayo Clinic reveals that stomach sleeping postures put high amounts of stress on your back and your neck. Furthermore, for people who are overweight, stomach sleeping can also increase pressure directly on their internal organs, which is never a good thing. Because of the firmness, sleeping on the floor naturally discourages sleeping on your stomach and helps you become accustomed to sleeping either on your back or on your side.
5. Correct Posture
While maintaining good posture throughout the day is important for your back and bone health, sleeping posture is just as important. While sleeping, the muscles and ligaments in your back relax and heal themselves. This only happens, however, with correct sleeping postures, and sleeping on the floor can help you to achieve healthy sleeping postures that will help your body rejuvenate.
6. Takes us Back to Our Roots
Scientific studies have found that our Homo sapiens ancestors had much stronger musculo-skeletal structures than we do today. While this probably had something to do with their active lifestyle as hunters and gatherers, the fact that our ancestors either slept on the ground or in trees also probably played an important part in keeping their bodies strong.
7. Improved Blood Circulation
Our bodies are designed to naturally find a perfect sleeping posture and body alignment when sleeping on the ground. This, among other benefits, increases blood circulation. Sleeping on mattresses or other cushioned areas can actually reduce circulation to certain areas of your body through putting high amounts of pressure on certain body areas.
8. Cooler Night Sleep
One recent study found that up to 10 percent of the population reported suffering from night sweats. In our homes, hot air will rise, and the higher up you sleep, the warmer it will be. By sleeping on the floor, you will benefit from a cooler night of sleep, which often leads to a deeper and more satisfying night of rest.
How Does Sleeping On The Floor Affect Your Back?
The main objection that most people have to the thought of sleeping on the floor is that they assume that it is bad for your back. As we mentioned above, however, this is not necessarily true as several studies have shown that sleeping on the floor can lead to certain benefits for your back health.
The main consideration here is that evenly distributed support is essential for your overall spine health. Sleeping on the floor will obviously evenly distribute the pressure points along your back, whereas mattresses, and especially older ones, will tend to cave in and thus increase the amount of pressure located on certain areas of your body.
Furthermore, the Spine Institute of Santa Monica, California, recommends that sleeping on the floor might be a great idea for people who suffer from chronic back pain. The justification for their recommendation comes from findings that flat surfaces (like the floor) can strengthen and thus protect the small stabilizer muscles that are located throughout your back and support your body weight. Furthermore, floor sleeping also will keep your spine in a naturally neutral position thus helping promote tissue repair and back healing. If you spend long days hunched over a computer screen, sleeping on the floor might be just what your back needs to regenerate.
Some Potential Drawbacks of Sleeping On the Floor
Sleep is a personal experience. While some people might prefer to sleep on their sides, others do best on their backs. While there are several documented benefits that come with sleeping on the floor, this strategy might not be the best for everyone out there.
The main drawback that comes with sleeping on the floor is that it will be a bit harder to get down (and then back up) from where you spend the night sleeping. For older people or those who suffer from bad knees and joints, the effort needed to get down to the floor and then to get back up after a night of sleep might put undue stress on their knees and other joints. This might also be the case for overweight people who have a hard time getting up and down from the floor.
Also, sleeping on the floor could cause some potential respiratory problems for people who suffer from asthma, especially if you will be sleeping directly on carpeting on your floor. Carpets tend to gather all sorts of potential allergens, including pet dander, pollen, dust, and other things that can impede the health of your indoor air quality. If you suffer from respiratory allergies and your only option for sleeping on the floor is to sleep on old carpets, you might notice an increase in breathing difficulties.
Lastly, sleeping on the floor could also be uncomfortable for people who suffer from severe sclerosis of the spine. The unnatural curvature of the spine will mean that the flat surface of the floor will not put equal pressure points along your back. This could lead to increased pressure along certain parts of your back or spine and thus aggravate the back pain that is associated with this unfortunate condition.
5 Strategies for Learning to Sleep on the Floor
While sleeping on the floor is certainly an element of minimalist living, this doesn’t mean that you simply plop down on your carpet or hardwood floor, and cover up with a blanket before going to bed. Below, we quickly look at five different strategies that you can transition towards sleeping on the floor.
1. Move Your Mattress Directly onto the Floor: If you are not ready to get rid of your mattress quite yet, one way to enjoy some of the benefits of sleeping on the floor is to get rid of your bed frame. By moving your mattress directly onto the floor, you will notice a bit more firmness. Furthermore, you will also probably feel the cooler air that tends to accumulate closer to the floor level.
2. Give Yourself Time: If you have never slept on the floor, chances are that the first few nights will cause you a bit of discomfort. Transitioning to a new sleeping routine can be difficult, just as you will most likely feel some discomfort when sleeping on a new mattress. Make sure that you give yourself at least a week to allow you spine to adjust. One strategy might be to sleep on the ground one night, and then move back to your bed the next night for a week or two until you get used to sleeping on the floor.
3. Try Several Different Positions: Most experts agree that sleeping on your back is best when sleeping on the floor. If you have always been a side sleeper or a stomach sleeper, try to get used to sleeping on your back while on the floor. If you simply cannot get used to this position, try changing the side you sleep on. Sleeping on the floor will naturally encourage shifting to different positions throughout the night, and the more positions you can sleep comfortably in, the better your body will feel.
4. Invest in a Good Pillow: When sleeping on the ground, a high-quality pillow is essential to give your neck the support it needs. While you obviously don’t want a high pillow that unnaturally raises your neck at a strange angle, a good, firm pillow will help you get used to sleeping on the floor. Buckwheat pillows are a great option as they are all-natural, and the hulls of the buckwheat maximize air circulation to keep you cool. Furthermore, the individual hulls of buckwheat pillows will not compress with the pressure from your head thus reducing stress on your neck and spine.
5. Protect yourself from the Dust: Lastly, you need to take measures to protect yourself from dust and other potential allergens that might be lurking at floor level. This is especially important if you are sleeping on carpeting. Make sure to vacuum or clean the area where you will be sleeping on a regular basis. Close the door to your room so that your dog or cat won´t leave their hair and dander on the area where you will be sleeping. The cleaner the area where you sleep, the less chance of suffering from some sort of adverse allergic reaction.
What Surface, Mattress, or Mat to Choose When Sleeping on the Floor?
Lastly, it is worth mentioning that there are several different surfaces that can be used for sleeping on the floor. While a true minimalist might prefer to simply lay down a sheet or extra blanket directly on top of the floor where you will be sleeping, there are other minimalist surfaces that can be used for floor sleeping. All of these surfaces will offer the health benefits that were mentioned above while also costing you significantly less than a full sized bed and mattress.
1. IKEHIKO Tatami Mat: A tatami mat, such as this one offered by IKEHIKO, is a traditional Japanese sleeping solution. Made from 100 percent reed grass, this tatami mat offers a unique, natural smell that obviously will not off gas VOCs into your home. The thin layer of cushioning will separate you from the floor and provide a solid, cool, and firm surface for a quality floor sleeping experience.
2. EMOOR Japanese Futon Mattress: In Japan, Tatami mats are traditionally placed underneath a futon mattress, which is a small, firm mattress that can easily be folded up and put away after each night of sleep. This small futon mattress offers all of these qualities, thus allowing you to enjoy the benefits of sleeping on the floor while also maximizing the amount of space in your home through putting away your bedding on a daily basis. You can find a complete rundown of the benefits of the Japanese futon mattress along with some of the best products online at this complete article written by Natural Cave.
3. Leewadee Rollup Thai Mattress: Similar to a Japanese futon, the Thai people also have a rich, alternative floor sleeping history. Their rollup mattresses were also a minimalist sleeping solution that allowed people to maximize the amount of living space in their home. This Thai mattress provided by the company Leewadee is made from 100 percent Katok, a plant fiber that is actually sourced from the fruit of a tropical tree that is grown in the country. This Thai mat also is extremely durable as it includes double-stitched seams.
4. Farland Yoga Mat: If you are looking for an inexpensive floor sleeping solution, a yoga mat might be just the option for you. While yoga mats are generally smaller in size than some of the options mentioned above, they are also much less expensive. The Farland yoga mat is under $30 dollars and is made from nontoxic, recyclable, photodegradable and moisture-proof materials to guarantee a safe night of sleep.
5. Maxyoyo Baby Crawl Mat: If both you and your partner are planning to take up sleeping on the floor together, a larger sleeping surface might certainly be preferable. Since floor sleeping generally coincides with more movement and shifting, a larger surface will make sure that both you and your partner aren’t bumping into each other as you get used to sleeping on the floor. This Baby crawl mat manufactured by Maxyoyo is 47 by 78 inches, which will give you ample sleeping space. The ultra-soft short velvet will also offer comfort and the crawl mat can easily be rolled up and stored away during the day.