When I was in highschool, I was convinced my bed sucked. So much so that I went on a strike and decided to sleep on the floor until my mom bought me a new one.
Suffice to say ,she never did and eventually I went back to sleeping on the crappy bed that I had. However, sleeping on the ground for a month or two wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. It felt good to have something sturdy on my back.
In some ways, I just stopped sleeping on the ground because I was tired of having blankets everywhere. I also found it hard to get comfortable sleeping on my side since my hips would dig into the ground, and my body orientation just always felt wrong.
However, I also found that it was much easier to get up in the morning since I didn’t feel comfortable per se. But at the time, I figured that sleeping on the ground could be healthy. People had been doing it for thousands of years before we figured out straw mattresses and the like. So what’s the deal with sleeping on the ground anyway?
Is It Healthy to Sleep on the Ground?
A lot of vegas and paleo hippies are starting to sleep on the ground because it’s what our forefather cavemen use to do. This isn’t the worst idea in some ways, and I can see the logic behind it. But back then, the overall lifespan was around 40 years old, or lower–and we didn’t have vaccines and tons of other modern implementations that we now have in common society. So just because it was done back then, doesn’t mean that it was healthy.
Most articles on the web encouraging sleeping on the floor are more like “Buzzfeed” type articles that list tons of benefits with zero cons without any actual research. However, there hasn’t been much research at all done on sleeping on the ground versus sleeping on a mattress.
Dr. Josh Levine from an orthopedic surgery center at the Stanford University School of Medicine thinks that “from a spine standpoint, it’s fine”. Additionally, Dr. Chua of the Division of Sleep Medicine at the University of Utah explains that sleeping on a soft mattress can be bad for your health. “Too soft of a mattress will make your back sag and slouch.”
However, Chua also goes on to counter other claims that sleeping on the ground could be harmful, or even unhealthy. He explains that if your mattress is too firm, or the floor is too firm, it could straighten your back out too much. It’s not that sleeping on the ground is more comfortable, it’s just that back then, it was better as a means to survive. “Evolutionarily speaking, we needed less comfort. If we were too comfortable, we would become dinner.”
Now when we use mattresses, we want to get the deepest and most comfortable sleep possible. The floor can limit that in many ways. Additionally, if you have a sore injured back or other sore areas, you could find that the floor is not a good solution. A good mattress can provide that. “The hardness of the floor can hit certain pressure points of the body, such as the tailbone, heels, and shoulder blades,” Dr. Chua counters.
Other skeptics like Jeffrey Goldstein, a a spinal surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, seems to be somewhere in the middle. He thinks that all we need is a flat surface with evenly-distributed support.
Pros to Sleeping on the Ground / Floor
So while it’s not really healthy, or unhealthy, a lot of it comes down to your personal preference. There are pros and cons either way.
One pro of sleeping on the ground is that you’ll save room without a huge mattress–especially if you were using a king sized mattress. Now, I’m not sure what you’re going to do with this amount of room in your bedroom, but you could do some exercise perhaps? Or just roll around?
If you don’t want to buy a yoga mat, or some memory foam cushions (is this really sleeping on the ground / floor) you can get rid of your mattress and save some good money! Just keep in mind that you might have to invest some money into a decent “floor” setup, like in the picture above.
Good for Back Sleepers?
If you like sleeping on your back, you might find that you have a better time sleeping on your back. When I slept on my back it was OK, but when I slept on my sides, I had some serious hip pain with my boney hips digging right into the ground. I just couldn’t get comfortable, unless I was flat on my back.
Can Help with Alignment
If you feel like you could benefit from a super sturdy floor, chances are you can. If you have posture problems, or hunch a lot, try sleeping on the floor with a decent yoga mat. However, you could find that you don’t get much sleep, and you wake up feeling even more tired to hold yourself upright.
Cons to Sleeping on the Ground / Floor
Even if you LOVE sleeping on the ground, there are going to be some cons.
You have to Eat Bugs
One reason humans stopped sleeping on the ground in the first place is because they didn’t want bugs or other creatures to crawl or get inside their mouth. They also didn’t want things crawling on them.
If you’re sleeping on the ground, you can expect spiders to crawl inside your mouth, nose, and perhaps without you even noticing. You might just have a few more bug bites of spiders digesting in your stomach.
Without a Bed, You have a Messy Floor
When I slept on the ground, I had sheets everywhere and bedding in disarray. Having a bed means you have somewhere to put your shit when you’re sleeping, but if you don’t have a designated place, it sometimes just makes your room feel messy.
A messy bed feels bad–yes, but imagine a messy floor. This means that you have to make your bed much more often than your “real bed” if you value walking around.
Not good for Side Sleepers
One of the best places to sleep for a side sleeper is a memory foam mattress that lets your hips be horizontal without pressure. However, if you’re on the floor this can be a bit painful.
So what do we recommend? Well, there’s no harm in trying the sleep on the floor method, but I wouldn’t recommend throwing out your mattress just yet.
If you’re like me, you’ll find that there is a reason most of modern human society sleeps on mattresses.
Or maybe, you’ll find that you prefer sleeping on the floor, like some eastern cultures.
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