Is Sleeping on the Floor Good for You?

Is Sleeping on the Floor Good for You?

I was livid with my wife.

I mean, here I am... the COO of an internationally renowned sleep company. If anyone ought to have a beautiful, amazing bed, it ought to be me!

I had one, too. It was gorgeous. It was made out of what seemed to be the single heaviest timber I've ever experienced. I carried the whole thing up a flight of stairs, so I ought to know. It had such luxurious cabinets that opened behind my head, and a couple shelves that were just right.

Hidden drawers down the bottom. It really had the works, and it held aloft my incredible mattress with ease.

Then... MY WIFE SOLD IT, LITERALLY OUT FROM UNDER ME!

I don't think capital letters and bold are too much in this case. It was one of my great joys. I'd take visitors on tours of the house and lead them directly to my bedroom to show them what a grand bed I slept on, and ask if they felt bad for not sleeping on such a magnificent bed.

Anyone who answered in the affirmative was given supper and drinks to console them.

Anyone who said theirs was better was promptly escorted from my home, never to darken my door, or lay eyes on my majestic bed again.

Then, it was sold... to a guy named Eli. Eli and his friend came and took it away the other day, and to add insult to injury, I had to actually help them load it into their van!

I shared a moment with the frame before it went for good, however. We said our goodbyes. Well... I said goodbye. The bed was too broken up to answer.

I might have cried.

Anyway, that night I was sleeping on the floor. The hard, hard floor. Granted, I was on my cushioned mattress, which made the whole experience significantly softer, but that mattress was now laying right on the carpet instead of being held a foot and a half above it.

I was floor-sleeping, but I had no idea that's what people called it.

So far, we really only have anecdotal evidence about the potential benefits of sleeping on the floor. But, because we're the unafraid sort here at Swanwick and believe that if you're reading this you're probably intelligent enough to make your own decisions, we're going to discuss a few of those anecdotes, and I'll finalize with my own. (So, read to the end.)

(Or, skip down. Whatever. I don't mind.)

Is sleeping on the floor good for your back?

Does sleeping on the floor help back pain?

Really, there's no proof that floor-sleeping is good for back pain. But, there are plenty of people who will vehemently testify that it is, and they might not be wrong. Just using a little bit of logic, we can probably all agree that a soft mattress doesn't really give a huge amount of support. You just kind of sink into it. This naturally causes your spine to curve, and even after one night of that you can develop back pain.

Red radiating diagram of someone with back pain or shoulder tension or some such thing after sleeping in the wrong position.

Another piece of the floor-sleeping puzzle comes from Harvard Medical School, who recommend placing a board under your mattress if you find it too soft and are experiencing back pain, or putting it directly on the floor. (Something I now know about, myself.)

That's not to say that the boffins are recommending a complete switch away from your mattress altogether. Though a harder, flat surface may help with back pain, it also depends on what the actual cause of your back pain is, as well as your overall sleeping position.

That said, sleep researchers did find in a recent review of about a zillion (24) articles of various research (some of them controlled trials) that medium-firm is the best way to go when it comes to back pain.

Results of this systematic review show that a mattress that is subjectively identified as a medium-firm mattress and is custom inflated (self-adjusted) is optimal for promoting sleep comfort, quality, and spinal alignment.

Does it treat sciatica?

For those of you who don't want to bother Googling "what is sciatica?" I'll help you out with a quote from the Mayo Clinic:

Q. What is sciatica?

A. Pain radiating along the sciatic nerve, which runs down one or both legs from the lower back. It's usually caused when a herniated disc or bone spur in the spine presses on the nerve. Pain originates in the spine and radiates down the back of the leg. Sciatica typically affects only one side of the body.

Will sleeping directly on the floor improve your sciatica

Once again, anecdotally speaking, sleeping on a firmer mattress has been known to improve your symptoms and decrease pain. Because, as we already discussed (which you would know as long as you're not skimming 🤨) a softer mattress sees your body sinking into it and curving your back, it can worsen your sciatica, and stress out your joints.

But there's no hard evidence (see what I did there?) to say that sleeping on the floor will treat your sciatica. Best to talk to a physician that you trust before you try out floor sleeping directly. For the love of God, don't hurt yourself!

Will it give you good posture?

More "stories from the internet" suggest that sleeping on the floor will improve your poor posture, and they're not entirely without their merits. Once again, as long as you're not skimming this article, we'll agree that:

  1. Soft surfaces let your spine curve
  2. Hard surfaces provide support

Chronic pain from poor posture might be alleviated by sleeping on the floor

Ergo, some suggest that the hard surface of the floor helps keep their spine straight, and therefore improves their posture.

But, without the evidence, if you've got horrible posture, it's best to check with an expert who knows your history personally.

Is floor-sleeping bad for you?

Now that we've discussed whether floor sleeping is good for, we're going to discuss whether anything suggests if it's bad for you.

The positivity you may hear about floor sleeping-relieving back pain can be confusing. Many swear that it helps their back pain, while others can't bear the idea of it. Because, as I'll state for the third or fourth time, soft mattresses allow your spine to curve... but that's because it's naturally in a curve. On a hard surface, your spine is going to have difficulty maintaining that curve.

Depending on your body weight, your mattress may allow your spine to curve too much

Depending on your body weight, your mattress may allow your spine to curve too much.

It's the Goldie Locks Syndrome all over again.

"This bed is too hard! This one's too soft!"

Isn't there a "just right" in there, anywhere??

Well, maybe.

The Lancet published the findings of a 2003 study where researchers seemed to conclude that the harder the surface, the fewer the benefits.

Findings

At 90 days, patients with medium-firm mattresses had better outcomes for pain in bed (odds ratio 2·36 [95% Cl 1·13–4·93]), pain on rising (1·93 [0·97–3·86]), and disability (2·10 [1·24–3·56]) than did patients with firm mattresses. Throughout the study period, patients with medium-firm mattresses also had less daytime low-back pain (p=0·059), pain while lying in bed (p=0·064), and pain on rising (p=0·008) than did patients with firm mattresses.

Interpretation

A mattress of medium firmness improves pain and disability among patients with chronic non-specific low- back pain.
Is it conclusive? Not really. But, it's certainly something to think about.

What about allergic reactions?

The other day, my wife (the same one who sold my bed frame) asked me to vacuum. Helpful as always, I grabbed our Super Amazing Cyclonic Bagless Vacuum and stomped to the directed area. I noticed that the place where all the dirt and nastiness you vacuum up swirls around when the vacuum goes "BRRRRRR!!!!" was full to the brim.

"Babe! Don't you ever empty this? You're going to kill our Super Deluxe Supreme Hurricano Vacuum!"

Sleeping on the floor might not be for you if you've got a thick blanket dust on your floor

She told me that yes, she does empty... every single time before she starts. The amount in the grub tank was simply everything that gets picked up when she vacuums. I was disbelieving, but as instructed I emptied the tank, vacuumed, and lo and behold, it was full of more nastiness.

Something tells me that the closer to the floor you're sleeping, the closer you are to this James Brown level funk. So, if you're the sneezy type, maybe sleeping on the floor isn't for you. If you have health conditions like allergies or asthma, definitely pause a minute and think about it before grabbing your sleeping bag and hitting the floor.

Will you feel colder?

Like a good loaf of bread, heat rises. Ergo, the closer to the floor, the cooler it's going to be. Now, certainly there is evidence to suggest that sleep quality improves with a cooler sleep. Especially if you "sleep hot", you might find a better night's sleep on the floor. But, does that mean it's not without its ills?

In winter, you need to double-check your preferences. To sleep on the floor when it's cold is going to make you feel colder in winter than in summer. (Duh.) Your body heat needs to be regulated to the right temperature. Just like with mattress firmness, we're in Goldie Locks land, and you need to find the "just right".

Check out our article on the best AC temperature for sleeping for a little more on that.

Who shouldn't sleep on the floor?

Sleeping on the floor isn't for everyone. While some folks can get away with it and even receive health benefits from it, there are some who will never win gold in the Floor Sleepers category of the Olympics.

Older Adults

As we age, especially into our golden years, we tend to lose fatty tissue. The less fat you have around the harder it is to keep warm. This is why pneumonia is so prevalent in the comorbidity category for aged deaths. As we spoke about earlier, the floor is colder than higher up in the room. You may find yourself too cold if you sleep on the floor.

Sleeping on the floor might not be for you if you have limited mobility

Folks prone to feeling cold.

Oldsters aren't the only ones who feel the cold. If you've got anemia, Type-2 diabetes, or hypothyroidism you might find floor sleeping makes you colder than you already generally feel, and you'll probably want to avoid sleeping on the floor.

People with limited mobility.

If you have problems sitting down on the floor, or getting back up, probably best to sleep on a mattress instead of the floor. My son recently helped one of our elderly neighbors out of the garden because he simply couldn't get himself back up after falling back on his rear.

If you have limited mobility and/or need a helping hand off the floor [or garden] then take "the helping hand" of a bed when sleeping, as well.

What about sleeping on the floor when pregnant or with a baby?

Let me start off by saying that I... have never been pregnant. However, as the loving husband of someone who has, I just want to say that if you're pregnant and having difficulty getting comfy when you sleep, you should do whatever you feel is best to get comfy, and many pregnant women feel most comfortable when they sleep on the floor.

Caveat: Sometimes getting out of a chair is hard enough when you're very pregnant, so just bear in mind that to sleep on the floor requires you to actually get down on the floor, and you'll have to, at some point, get back up again.

It's all good, baby.

My wife and I were co-sleeping with our son Jesse from day one.

While we were co-sleeping in a bed during this time, something that the boffins in white coats tend to discourage, we weren't on an overly soft mattress. Anecdotally, I can tell you that rolling over on a baby on a plush, super soft bed is going to feel a lot different than if you try and roll over your baby on the floor.

There are lots of people all around the world whose natural tendency it is to sleep on the floor even without a baby, and that doesn't change when they do have one. If you're in doubt (because a doubtful mother isn't exactly uncommon) then talk to an expert.

How to sleep on the floor like a pro:

Wanna have a crack at sleeping on the floor and need someone to give you some best practices? I've compiled this list. Though not exhaustive, it'll at least get you started:

  1. Either get rid of your bed like my wife did, or find some other cleared space where you're happy to sleep through the night. (I'd probably recommend sleeping next to your bed, just in case you want to pull the plug on this experiment before morning.)
  2. Build a nest! Once you've chosen your sleeping area, put down a blanket or two, a yoga mat, a sleeping bag, or a combination of that kind of thing and form yourself a little place to be.
  3. Find a thin pillow and use that for the evening. I think they're best anyway, but for the sake of this exercise, they're definitely best for sleeping on the floor.
  4. Your sleep position comes into play here: Lie yourself down. Stomach sleepers sleep on your stomachs. Back sleepers on your backs. Side sleepers on your sides. If you're like me and you're a combo stomach, side and back sleeper, then just gently rotate yourself through the evening like you're on a rotisserie.
  5. For the back sleepers and stomach sleepers among us, grab a second pillow and throw it under your knees for extra support as long as it's comfortable.
  6. Some folks recommend trying only a partial night on the floor, but I'm hardcore and throw caution to the wind when it comes to most things. Different strokes for different folks. Do your thing.
  7. If you want the best chance at improving your sleep quality no matter whether you're sleeping on the floor, or on a plush cozy mattress, you need to get yourself the best blue light blocking glasses on the market. People sleep best when they wear them 2-3 hours before lights-out. To start sleeping at a certain time, they're a must.

My Anecdotal Summary

While floor sleeping isn't exactly a new thing (believe it or not, way back in the early days of the human species, we didn't sleep on mattresses) it might be a little bit new to you. If you're feeling like you want to give sleeping on the floor a try, then please do. We're all for little hacks that might get you a better life - especially when it comes to your sleep quality.

Which leads me to my own personal sleeping experience.

That first night sleeping on the floor away from my gorgeous, glorious, magnificent bed frame, when I was only sleeping on a mattress on the floor, I actually had a fantastic night's sleep. So did my wife. Enough so that she even commented on how good her sleep was. It was one of the first things she said upon waking. As per usual, and because we didn't have any other option, we slept a full night like that.

Being one of the many side sleepers in the world, she was on her side, and I gently rolled myself around and into different positions as I tried once again to find the single best sleeping position.

Would I sleep directly on the floor?

Maybe if I were looking for back pain reduction and couldn't find it any other way.

Also, we're coming into the hot summer months down here in Australia, so a little extra coolness isn't disagreeable. In winter, I might change my tune. But, as it is, if my wife takes a little while in finding us a replacement frame, then I'm more than happy floor-sleeping.

Are you a floor-sleeper? Tried it in the past and hated it? Loved it? Let us know in the comments! 👇 We're all about promoting sleep quality improvements and your own anecdotal evidence might just be what someone needs to get a better sleep result.

Danny Zoucha

COO of Swanwick

Danny is the COO of Swanwick and talks so much about business to his wife that she's trying to get on the payroll. He's from Nebraska, but lives in Australia, and is a pro at tripping up stairs and making extremely rich pasta.

Swannies of Choice: Classic & Aviator Day Swannies




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