Sleeping On The Floor - How To Do It Properly To Relieve Back Pain
28th May 2020
Sleeping on the floor might sound like a weird, new-age kind of idea. I mean, we have beds for a reason, right? We’re so used to settling in for the night on our comfy mattresses, nestled in amongst the fluffy pillows.
But did you know that sleeping on the floor can help relieve back pain? Yep, there are advantages to it!
Doing it wrong can be an uncomfortable experience. It could be a memory you may want to bury in your memory foam and cushy covers. But if you get it right, it could be the best thing you’ve ever done. You may find yourself free of pain that’s been with you for years.
Ready to try it? We’ll break down the pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.
Why Do We Sleep In Beds?
Sleeping on the floor is quite different to sleeping in a bed. Beds are designed specifically for comfort, while the floor is definitely not. The floor is designed to make walking an easy experience. But walking and sleeping have vastly different mechanisms!
That doesn’t mean that sleeping on a hard, flat surface is a bad thing. Not at all, in fact. Consider this question: Why do you sleep in a bed?
I think most of us have never actually considered the answer to this. After plenty of soul-searching, I could really only come up with one legit response. Because that’s how I was taught to sleep.
No parents take home their newborn and create a baby nest on the floor. From the start, we’re nestled in soft, hug-like blankets and laid down on plush, spongy mattresses. No wonder the thought of sleeping on the floor seems primitive!
What’s The Difference Between Sleeping on the Floor or In a Bed?
When you start to seriously consider sleeping on the floor, you’ll notice there are some big differences between getting your Z’s in bed or on the ground.
Mattresses are designed for comfort, but provide some support too. The springs are made to give some way so when we’re on the mattress, it gives a little and feels slightly bouncy. Sure, you get harder and softer ones, but I’ve never come across a mattress that’s floor-grade supportive.
The floor, whether it’s carpeted, tiled, or wood, is pretty solid. There’s no giving way when you turn over, no molding to the shape of your bum, and no bounce when you need to get up. Your body is very well supported while you’re sleeping on it, but the comfort factor is a bit less than what a bed provides.
This is probably what you’ll notice first and foremost. As much as you’ll be creating your own padding, it never feels quite the same as a mattress. That floor seems to come closer and closer, especially as the night goes on.
A bed always feels comfy. The worst you’ll feel is a spring poking you in the back or a dent where you lie, but this is usually only likely to happen after a good decade of use.
How To Do It Properly
If you’re keen to try sleeping on the floor, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. Follow these steps to make sure you get it right from the start.
Choose Your Space
Some spaces are going to work better than others. You don’t want your spouse tripping over you while feeling their way to the bathroom. You’ll want a space that’s:
- Free of clutter and potential hazards.
- Within easy reach of a light source.
- Clean and dust-free.
Create Your Floor-Bed
You’ll be happy to know that you do get to lay down some comfy padding before settling in for the night. Here’s how to make up a great floor-bed:
- Create a base layer - thick blanket, sleeping bag, or rug.
- Add another layer or two, taking care to keep it level.
- Add one thin pillow to cushion your head.
- Use an extra pillow for knee or lower back support if needed.
Try Different Positions
The position you usually sleep in when you’re in bed may not be the best for floor sleeping. Try lying on your back at first. If that gets uncomfortable quickly, then try alternating between sides.
It is going to feel less comfy than your cushioned mattress in the beginning, no matter which position you’re in. The key is to stick it out for a week or so!
Before spending the whole night on the floor, it’s a good idea to try a couple of naps first. A few 2 to 3 hour stints can help ease your body into floor-sleeping. Build up your tolerance before attempting a full night. Easy does it!
Don’t try it for 2 days and dismiss it as being not for you. Like anything, floor-sleeping needs to be broken in. You should stick with it for at least a week (preferably two) before you decide it is (or isn’t) the sleep method for you.
Potential Benefits of Sleeping on the Floor
The benefits can be huge if you do the floor-sleep thing correctly. Even medically trained professionals believe so:
Can Alleviate Chronic Pain
Sometimes, pain can be caused by your body being in the wrong position when you sleep. This can be due to a saggy mattress, a pillow that’s too puffy, or simply getting far too comfortable and passing out in an unnatural position.
We may not feel it because we’re cushioned, but sleeping in these positions can put pressure on our joints. Over a long period of time, it causes chronic aches and pains.
Sleeping on the floor can fix this because it forces the body to sleep in a more natural, neutral position. You’ll find yourself lying in ways that take pressure off joints. This may feel uncomfortable at first, but give it some time and you should start noticing that you have fewer aches and pains during the day.
Sleeping on the floor is said to be especially good for:
The problem with lower back pain is that it creeps up on you. It can often come as a result of years of poor sleeping posture. Your mattress slowly sags and your body doesn’t even realize it’s in an unnatural position because it’s happened so gradually! Old injuries can also flare up if you’re lying in a position that twists or puts pressure on joints.
Making the move to the floor can ease long-standing pain. It keeps your spine aligned while you rest, not allowing your body to twist into any weird pretzel shapes.
Sciatic nerve pain is a beast. There are few things worse than your sleep being disrupted by a bout of sciatica. The good news is that sleeping on the floor can help soothe the burn, and reduce chances of it happening.
Sciatic pain can often be worse in the mornings, indicating that sleep plays a role in the ache. This is usually because the sleep position causes the nerve to be pinched, or extra pressure in the area. Choosing to sleep on a harder surface can prevent this from happening.
Can Help Improve Posture
Sleeping in the right position every night makes it easier for your body to stay in the right position during the day. It also helps if you aren’t in pain during the day!
Can Help You Get Up On Time
This one may sound odd but it’s quite true. Beds are made for comfort. When the alarm goes off in the morning it’s super tempting to snooze it and turn over and get comfy again. This is exactly what happens every morning (with me, at least!).
Sleeping on the floor isn’t nearly as comforting. So when that alarm rings, you should find it easier to tap it off and get up almost straight away. Fewer late mornings!
Potential Negatives to Sleeping on the Floor
Of course, everything has its balancing factors. Some possible negative side effects of sleeping on the floor are:
May Cause New Pains
If you’re used to sinking into a soft surface when you sleep, it can be quite an adjustment. Your muscles will most likely hurt from being forced to lie on a hard surface. Your joints may be painful as they spend the night in different positions to what they’re used to.
Even if your body is adjusting to sleeping in the right position, it can be painful. Just like a hard workout in the gym can cause pain to your muscles while doing good, sleeping in a natural position can cause pain while you get used to it.
May Be Harder to Stay Warm
You most likely won’t be as warm while you’re lying on the floor as you would be on the bed. The surface will be harder, colder, and there’s far less between you and the actual ground.
The trick is what you wear and what you cover yourself with. You may need to dress more warmly or sleep with socks on. Cover up with a thick blanket if you feel too cool.
Could Increase Chance of Allergies
There is naturally more dust on the floor than on the bed. Bedding down on the floor can expose you to more dust than you’re used to, which could have you sneezing all night long.
This is why it’s essential to make sure the space you choose is clean. It should be close enough to a window that you can catch a breeze if you need to, but not so close it settles dust on your face.
If this is something you’re struggling with, choose another sleeping space. If that's not an option, get a great antihistamine!
Who Shouldn’t Sleep on the Floor?
Sleeping on the floor is not for everyone. Those who should be wary of trying it include:
The older we get, the more brittle our bones become. It also becomes harder to maneuver ourselves comfortably. In this case, a medium-soft mattress would serve the purpose of supporting aching joints and muscles. It would also provide a platform that’s easy to get down onto and stand up from.
It can get cold down there, not to mention needing constant adjustment if you aren’t used to it. It’s definitely not the optimal sleeping spot for a pregnant woman.
I’m sure we can all agree that pregnant women deserve comfort over anything else, so sleeping on the bed is a good idea! You can always switch to sleeping on the floor once your baby is born. You may be spending time sleeping next to the crib anyway!
People With Allergies
As we’ve discussed above, allergies can be made worse by sleeping on the floor. If you do want to try, you may need to be a little OCD about cleaning your space and making sure it stays dust-free.
Breathing is kind of important. If your breathing suffers while you’re sleeping down there, it might be best to be elevated.
People With Bone Diseases
Your bones aren’t going to be as cushioned when sleeping on the floor. If you already suffer from a bone disease or disorder, sleeping on a harder surface could put more pressure on bones and joints, leading to pain.
People With Spinal Problems
Spinal problems can be bone-related or spinal cord-related. Either way, if it’s something you have to deal with, sleeping on the floor is not recommended.
Because you’ll be in an unusual position, things can get compressed and put pressure on nerves. This can either lead to pain, or it can lead to numbness. Neither of these are good things, and definitely something you want to steer clear of.
Sleeping on the floor may be unusual, but if you think about it, beds haven’t been around forever! They’re a fairly modern thing, and some cultures (like in Japan) still sleep on the floor more than on a bed.
If you're keen to try sleeping on the floor, be sure to do it the right way. Don’t expect huge changes overnight, either. Stick with it for at least a week (preferably two), and then decide if it’s for you or not.
You may find that back pain ceases, posture improves, and you find it easier to get up in the mornings!
Happy sleeping (on the floor!).