The benefits of sleeping on the floor tend to be more anecdotal than clinical. People may find that they can derive the benefits that some say sleeping on the floor brings by opting for a firmer mattress instead.
Many people say that sleeping on the floor helps them get a better night’s sleep, improves their posture, and reduces their back pain.
However, there is little evidence to suggest that sleeping on the floor is any better than opting for a medium firm mattress.
It is important to note, though, that many cultures across the world regularly sleep on thin cushions or mats on the floor. This seems to cause no obvious side effects or problems.
This article looks at the risks and possible benefits of sleeping on the floor and offers advice on how to do it safely.
Although there is little research to suggest that sleeping on the floor helps with back pain, many people claim otherwise.
Advocates for floor sleeping say that it can reduce back pain, improve posture, and result in a better night’s sleep.
There is plenty of research to suggest that using a medium firm mattress promotes sleep comfort, boosts sleep quality, and improves spinal alignment. All of this can help reduce back pain, as one 2015 systematic review suggests.
Although sleeping on the floor has not undergone the same level of research and scrutiny, it is possible that the firm support it offers the spine may have a similar effect.
However, it is also possible that without sufficient cushioning around pressure points on the body — such as the hips, tailbone, shoulder blades, or back of the head — sleeping on the floor could increase pressure and discomfort. This could result in poor sleep as well as further pain.
As outlined above, many people report that sleeping on the floor reduces back pain. However, being sure of the specific benefits when compared with choosing a firmer mattress, for example, needs more research.
It is possible that sleeping on the floor may improve posture. Indeed, the spine is more prone to curving on a soft surface, so sleeping on a firmer surface may help align and straighten the neck and spine.
One aspect that people can be confident of is that sleeping on the floor is often cooler. People who tend to overheat at night may prefer the cooler temperatures when sleeping closer to the ground.
However, it is important that people with underlying health conditions speak with their healthcare provider before sleeping on the floor.
Just as many people report reduced back pain after sleeping on the floor, others say that it can cause, or worsen, back pain.
A lack of zoned support under specific pressure points, as one may find in a mattress, may cause discomfort to people who experience joint pain or arthritis.
Also, being closer to the floor means that proximity to dust and dirt increases, thereby increasing the risk of allergic reactions.
People with allergic conditions may find that the following symptoms increase with floor sleeping:
- sneezing and an itchy, blocked, or runny nose
- itchy, red, or watering eyes
- wheezing, coughing, or difficulty breathing
It may be necessary to vacuum and clean the floor more frequently to avoid irritation.
Mattresses and bedding that people use on the floor have an increased risk of bedbug infestation. To reduce this risk, it is better to have the mattress raised slightly and to ensure that no bedding touches the floor.
Mattresses need adequate air circulation to prevent mold from developing. A lack of air circulation around the mattress can increase the risk of sweat being trapped inside, with mold and unpleasant odors developing as a result.
Just as hot sleepers may prefer the cooler experience of sleeping on the floor, people who are more likely to wake up chilly may find their sleep more disrupted with floor sleeping.
Also, people with underlying health conditions that affect blood circulation, such as anemia or diabetes, may find that sleeping on the floor makes them feel much colder.
Sleeping on a harder surface, such as a floor or a firm mattress, can sometimes reduce circulation further. This is because the extra pressure on some areas of the body — such as the buttocks, shoulders, and lower legs — may limit blood flow.
Furthermore, getting in and out of a bed on the floor can be difficult for people with decreased or limited mobility, such as older adults, pregnant people, and individuals with obesity.
The following tips may help people who are sleeping on the floor for the first time:
- Ensure that the sleeping area of the floor is clean and free from clutter that could cause injury or accidents.
- Experiment with layers of bedding, such as blankets, pillows, thin cushions or mattresses, mats, or pads.
- Try out some different positions to see what suits best and where someone may need extra support, such as more bedding or a pillow. Pregnant people may prefer to support their bump when lying on their side, for example.
- Start by sleeping on the floor for short periods, such as by napping there or only sleeping there for part of the night. Gradually increase the length of time as the body grows accustomed to the firmer surface.
- It may help to place plywood under a mattress to increase the firmness level. People who are thinking about sleeping on the floor could try this first to grow accustomed to the firmer feel.
- Be sure to air any mattresses and bedding that touch the floor whenever possible. This can prevent mold from forming.
Although there is not much evidence for the benefits of sleeping on the floor, many people say that it reduces their back pain, improves their posture, and results in a better night’s sleep.
People with underlying conditions, allergic conditions, or limited mobility should always speak with their healthcare provider before sleeping on the floor.