We’re living in a chronically sleep-deprived world. Research has estimated that just under 40% of Australians are experiencing inadequate sleep. This doesn’t just mean you’re a little more dependent on your morning coffee – poor sleep can have massive impacts on your overall well-being.
There are other factors to consider when it comes to poor sleep, including timing of caffeine, sleep hygiene and regulation of our internal rhythms. But one factor that is often overlooked with sleep quality is what you’re sleeping on. Could sleeping on the floor be the answer to your sleep woes?
The Potential Benefits Of Floor Sleeping
Many floor sleepers report all sorts of benefits, including pain relief, faster recovery, deeper sleep and improved posture. But although humans have been sleeping on the floor for thousands of years, there isn’t a huge amount of research that looks into the effects of floor sleeping compared to sleeping on a bed or mattress.
One physiotherapist has proposed the potential benefits of floor sleeping for musculoskeletal health based on the observations of nomadic tribes and other primates. He suggested that lying on one side on the ground could realign the vertebrae, and that variations of position could correct neck pain, stretch out fascia and even fix bunions. However, there is little research to further support his theories.
Another potential benefit of sleeping on the floor is the lower temperature. For us to reach the deepest stage of sleep, we need our core body temperature to rapidly drop as we fall asleep. The floor can be significantly colder than a raised bed, so this is one theory around the floor being a better choice for deep sleep.
There is a small amount of research regarding other alternatives to beds, such as hammocks. One study of Brazilian children found that sleeping in a hammock was associated with a significantly lower risk of scoliosis. Researchers believed that using a hammock was a form of training and strengthening the spinal muscles.
Drawbacks Of Floor Sleeping
Given the limited research around sleeping on the floor, it’s not surprising that the evidence for its drawbacks is also minimal. But we can be sensible and look to the common-sense downsides.
One major consideration is the potential for exposure to dust. This could be particularly problematic for those with allergies. Pollen and other common allergens can be tracked in on shoes and clothing, eventually gathering on the floor. If you have allergies but are set on floor sleeping, it might be best to ban shoes from the bedroom and make sweeping or vacuuming a frequent habit.
And of course, there is the need to get down onto the floor in the first place. Many people with chronic pain or arthritis may not have the ability to lower themselves to the ground safely. If you’re not sure you can get yourself down and back up safely, please don’t sleep on the floor!
Unfortunately, the research is fairly limited in comparison between floor sleeping and sleeping on a mattress. It could be beneficial for some specific concerns, but more studies are needed to confirm this.
So what if you want a good night sleep without sleeping with the dust bunnies? Let’s have a look into how firm you want a mattress for a deep, healing sleep.
How Firm Should Your Mattress Be For Good Sleep?
The good news is there is plenty of research out there around mattresses and sleep quality.
One review looked at the effect of different mattress types on sleep quality, pain and spinal alignment. After looking at 24 articles, the researchers concluded that a medium-firm mattress or a custom inflated mattress adjusted by the sleeper are the best choices for promoting a comfortable high-quality sleep and correct spinal alignment.
A randomised control trial of mattresses for chronic lower back pain supported this conclusion. It found that patients with medium-firm mattresses experienced less daytime pain, pain while lying in bed and pain on rising compared to those assigned a firm mattress.
Is Memory Foam Disrupting Your Sleep?
Firmness isn’t the only consideration when it comes to sleep. One of the most important factors in sleep induction and maintenance is body temperature before sleep onset and in the first stage of sleep.
Recent research compared the effect of high rebound mattress toppers versus low rebound mattress toppers such as memory foam on body temperature and deep sleep. It found that people sleeping with the low rebound topper had a higher body temperature and less stage 4 deep sleep compared to those using the high rebound mattress toppers.
This suggests that memory foam could be disrupting your deep sleep by keeping your body warmer and reducing the deepest stage of sleep. If you are finding that your bed is just too warm for a good night of sleep, you might need to either drop the temperature in the room or lose the mattress topper.
Final Thoughts About Floor Sleeping
Although sleeping on the floor is an ancient practice, modern research is still catching up. There isn’t enough evidence at this stage to say that floor sleeping is the best choice for sleep and health. But there are plenty of anecdotes out there from people that claim that sleeping on the floor has transformed their health and their life.
There is more evidence to support specific types of mattresses for health conditions, pain and overall sleep. However, it is important to remember that mattress research is often paid for by the companies producing the mattress. If you’re a mattress-lover, go for a mattress that supports your health concerns and aids with deep sleep. Skip the memory foam topper and go for a medium-firm mattress.
If you think that sleeping on the floor or moving your mattress to the floor might benefit you, give it a try. Make the changes step by step so that your body has a chance to adapt to your new sleeping arrangement. You can use materials such as a tatami mat, yoga mat or futon as a sleeping surface on your floor.
If you do try floor sleeping, give it a decent go – many people have reported that the first few nights were uncomfortable and even painful, but soon they were seeing significant benefits.