19

votes

Does sleeping/sitting on a hard surface have any real benefits?

Answered on September 12, 2014
Created March 26, 2010 at 8:07 PM

Paleolithic men and women did not have sprung bedframes, cushioned easy chairs, soft mattresses or pillows. Many people around the world still do not have them either. What damage are we doing to our bodies, structurally and otherwise when we sleep and sit on modern furniture and is it realistic to think that returning to hard surfaces could reverse some of the damage done?

I am thinking of possibly throwing out my bed or at the very least trying to sleep on the floor. I have scoliosis (and my husband has back problems) and I have read evidence which says the floor is the way to go, but sometimes I think I am being slightly crazy wanting to do this.

Has anyone else had any experience of sleeping/sitting on the floor, was it hard to get used to, did you literally sleep on the floorboards or use some kind of mat and did it make any difference?

alt text

2436f4e6d010656b346629a77e9599dd

(270)

on November 06, 2012
at 02:10 AM

+1 for this. The book helped me!

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5147)

on January 02, 2012
at 03:14 PM

I sleep on a mattress about 4 inches thick. Maybe I should switch to a thinner one.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on December 31, 2010
at 04:52 PM

Juurti are you finnish?

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 24, 2010
at 06:37 PM

Serious, just read George Schallers book from the sixties (64?) and they sometimes make them on the floor, but seemingly more out of a habit than for real use. Following Schaller it could be a restant of their more arboreal past.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 24, 2010
at 06:35 PM

Yeah, and they also sh*t in them too... ;)

Cf1189fc2e0acdd49ce566e43238ffb6

on November 24, 2010
at 06:18 PM

8 steps to a pain free back is such an excellent book. I think just about everyone could benefit from reading it. I think posture is an often overlooked natural fix for back pain.

8347d512bca9b034d53da40dab8cd21c

(2517)

on June 30, 2010
at 05:21 PM

Really, that doesn't answer the question. The question was whether or not there are any benefits to doing it, not how or why one might do it.

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33 Answers

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14
89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on September 07, 2013
at 12:44 AM

Some thoughts:

  • From an evolutionary point of view, your question is really logical. I have been reading quite a lot of anthropological literature on hunter-gatherers (and semi-h-g), and their sleeping 'systems' are always very basic. I know of no literature about this in particular, so mostly it is descriptive. This is the only paper I could find, and it does not really include hardcore science, it is the mere observation (and opinion) of one physical therapist.

  • The literature on sleeping systems (bed/matras/pillow) seems to point to this: if you don't have back pain, it doesn't matter what kind of bed you have. if you do have back pain, it can make a difference, but it is hard to predict what bed will suit you best

  • The above leads to the conclusion that probably the influence of the bed as a cause of back pain is minimal. Other factors are needed to explain why people get back pain.

  • If you would change to sleeping on a mat or something similar, I think you would do best to take some adjustement period (very similar to going barefoot after years of being shod).

When travelling (backpack) and sleeping on a little mat I always had a terrible first night, the second was better, and after that, I slept like a beauty, although this could also be attributed to other aspects of camping (outdoors, living with the sun, physical activity, ...)

Please let us now the results of the experiment, if you are ready for it

11
0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on November 24, 2010
at 05:21 PM

I doubt there are any great benefits to sleeping on a hard surface compared to a bed.

Our relatives the Chimpanzees and Gorillas usually build a comfortable nest every night to sleep on.

does-sleeping/sitting-on-a-hard-surface-have-any-real-benefits?

Why do gorillas build new nests every night?

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 24, 2010
at 06:37 PM

Serious, just read George Schallers book from the sixties (64?) and they sometimes make them on the floor, but seemingly more out of a habit than for real use. Following Schaller it could be a restant of their more arboreal past.

89e238284ccb95b439edcff9e123671e

(10299)

on November 24, 2010
at 06:35 PM

Yeah, and they also sh*t in them too... ;)

7
0d821bf7d4028b84a6838062db0e9ce0

(754)

on March 26, 2010
at 08:59 PM

hmm don't most hunter gather societies try and make something for bedding? hammocks/ piles of bush, etc... I think the only place I've seen people actually sleep on rocks regularly outside of some sort of training is the Flintstones.

From a practical point you usually want something elevated because of bugs/cold/environmental factors, and after that its individual comfort levels and available materials.

From a modern standpoint I believe they did a couple studies where they found for back pain, softer = better and there was no gain from a deliberately hard surface, and if you are on something too hard, putting undue stress on parts of your body or putting your spine/bones in weird alignments because of it doesn't' seem like it would feel all that nice.

6
F643ceedde9bbf290f31fc2f814100ed

(486)

on November 25, 2010
at 01:37 AM

You could try a "japanese floor futon". It would be similar to bedding that we are accustomed to historically

6
38976302aaedbd8adf6ca4c5ec77b2f6

(120)

on March 26, 2010
at 11:12 PM

some information here about sleeping on hard surfaces

in my experience, sitting on the floor does wonders for hip flexibility and stiffness. sitting on a hard surfaces puts pressure on the muscles that are in contact with the floor, causing them to eventually relax. similar to when massage therapists stimulate the golgi tendon organs through deep tissue massage, causing the muscles to relase tension.

sleeping on a hard surface probably has the same benefits as sitting, the link above points to another link that has more information on that.

4
0b2182c5e61bf67f83b9c32de86d8d3d

(250)

on December 31, 2010
at 04:00 PM

I have been sleeping on a 1 inch thick foam pad for about 7 years, and I sleep great. It started after the birth of twin boys. My wife and I would each be responsible for one baby so I would often spend the night on the floor in one of their rooms (sleeping on a foam camper mattress). After I started sleeping in my bed again, I realized that my sleep wasn't nearly as good, so I moved the mat into our bedroom. Definitely the firmer feel helps, but maybe the temp is a couple of degrees cooler at floor level.

3c6b4eed18dc57f746755b698426e7c8

(5147)

on January 02, 2012
at 03:14 PM

I sleep on a mattress about 4 inches thick. Maybe I should switch to a thinner one.

4
42321851a87415b340d215f629e574dc

on June 29, 2010
at 04:09 PM

I injured my upper back about 10 years ago and have had mixed results with both ways of sleeping. It does not seem to matter if I sleep on my Tempurpedic or on a hardwood floor. How I feel afterwards all seems to depend on what position I fall asleep in. After reading '8 Steps to a Pain Free Back,' which I highly recommend, I do think the Tempurpedic is only effective if you sleep in the correct position. Regardless regular mattresses kill my back. If I am not at home I almost always pile blankets on the floor and just sleep there. Plus, the dog loves it when I sleep on the floor with her!

Regardless, experiment and see what works right for you. That's really the only way to figure it out.

Cf1189fc2e0acdd49ce566e43238ffb6

on November 24, 2010
at 06:18 PM

8 steps to a pain free back is such an excellent book. I think just about everyone could benefit from reading it. I think posture is an often overlooked natural fix for back pain.

2436f4e6d010656b346629a77e9599dd

(270)

on November 06, 2012
at 02:10 AM

+1 for this. The book helped me!

3
Ed2ccb759f0528b7bac965b251007960

on January 14, 2011
at 06:19 PM

When I was married with two young children, I was burgled when my wife went to get the kids from school. I expected them to come again so I started sleepinhe downstairs with a machette. They didn't come back but God help them if they had! I have always been fit and fairly muscular even though it is years since I played rugby (muscle memory). I was exactly the same weight as I was 20 years earlier (13 stone). I wasn't overweight. Anyway, I am too long to sleep all curled up on the settee so I slep on the floor with an open sleeping bag over me like a duvet. For the first week, I ached in the morning. Then over the course of successive weeks, I noticed something happen. I was beginning to look as if I'd been doing severe aerobics and weight sessions down the gym (circuits). I started to look as honed as a greyhound. It is fairly obvious, really. One's muscles must push against a hard surface and with the tossing and turning, the body gets a complete workout. It explains why we feel stiff when we first go camping sleeping on a field. It is exercise whilst sleeping! Make a fortune selling big sheets of chipboard for the bed! "Brand new from Greyhound Fitness! Only ??199-99! Get fit whilst you sleep!"

I am surprised no-one has realised this previously and championed it somehow. A video ??15-99! It happened a second time. After a divorce, I lost the plot for a while and had to sleep rough on concrete for a few months. The same thing happened. I lost about 3-4lb and looked muscular and honed again. The articles on the web only consider posture and bone alignment. But I guarantee....it had a profound effect on my musculature!

3
1eafa6cdae21875bd01bb3ce9cbd5fe7

(30)

on December 28, 2010
at 03:54 AM

I find that sleeping on a relatively hard surface (carpeted floor w/some blankets), my back feels wonderful, but only in the "supine" position (on your back). The problem comes when you try to sleep on your side, or on your front. SO, go ahead-try sleeping like that for a few nights, and see what you like most.

3
29e2bf6b555322d39d022126e12b08cd

(370)

on June 29, 2010
at 05:59 PM

I slept on the floor all winter. It was carpeted, and I used a blanket for padding. I started doing this because my mattress was too soft and uncomfortable and I couldn't afford anything better. I found that I woke up with less achey muscles. Thinking about starting this up again.

2
8be12378a6d810513f69643e21218998

on August 03, 2011
at 03:38 PM

I was curious about this subject because intuitively it seems parallel to barefoot running. At least some degree of sleep minimalism appears to be called for, in the absence of a severe back condition... too much support or cushion for the spine might make it lazy and weak over time, especially when you think of what proportion of our life we spend in bed. But if you're used to sleeping with all that support your whole life and suddenly try to sleep on a flat surface, it might be as traumatizing as trying to run barefoot after wearing shoes your whole life. Perhaps introducing a harder surface, by degrees, would eventually yield some benefits the way barefooting does.

1
02c7ae06582d98bcebbd85da5af04100

on November 02, 2012
at 03:38 AM

When is sleeping on hard floor obviously beneficial: deranged sleep pattern occasioned by middle of the night disruption - sleeping on floor somehow prevents the tired, unrefreshed, "heaty" sensation in the morning. This is an experience borne of years of being on call as a doctor.
Maybe there is a neuroscientific explanation: When sleep is disrupted, the sympathetic system is overstimulated. Going to sleep on a hard floor requires utmost discipline to disregard/ignore the discomfort of the cold hard floor, as well as loose thoughts that tend to prevent sleep. This requires frontal lobe inhibition of reticular activation. Maybe this frontal lobe broadcasting of inhibitory signals, as a side effect, has a salutary effect on sympathetic outflow. (which we know emanates from the hypothalamus)

1
1e9164a5a54003ac247d49c574dc7bfc

on May 21, 2012
at 01:04 PM

Yo, I was backpacking the Middle East for the past three months, sleeping on rock beaches, sandy beaches, mountains, pillows, pull-out beds, futons, couches, beds, cots.

When I returned to America (about 2 weeks ago now), I had enough money for 1 months rent and some food, not to get a bed. So, I've been sleeping on the carpeted floor of my bedroom with a copy of War & Peace underneath my pillow which is from the couch of my new roommates in order to elevate my head just a tad.

I have lower back pain. I.E., the curve of my spine from my tailbone about 4 vertabraes up is always stiff and painful and yoga stretches are a must on a daily basis to feel like I'm stretching that section out.

I watched a video on CrossFit Endurace (CFE) the other day and K-Star was talking about how as athletes we don't let that spinal curve go neutral often enough, and recommended getting a new, firmer bed.

Now, I don't know if that line of logic extends to the baroque of sleeping on the floor, but I can't say I notice any NEW adverse side effects from sleeping here as opposed to the past three months which were on every variation. I have no sleeping pad either.

As of right now, I wake up easier in the morning (this could also be the sun shining on my face from the window. But, I'm comfortable enough to sleep at night, but not comfortable enough to lay there when I wake in the morning.

Cheers, Jared

1
B5d433d4508fe4afd87f36233db0a0a3

on March 11, 2011
at 04:40 PM

For the past three weeks, I've been sleeping on the floor with a thin, foam mat under me. The thickness of the mat is less than a 1/2" inch. Sleeping supine, I felt relaxed and able to sleep and even meditate on my breathing.

Indeed, sleeping on any one side of the body requires at least two pillows for the head, in order to maintain spinal alignment. Rotating from one side to the next is necessary. The supine position is best. Morning muscle aches are none for me. Good luck!

1
Eafee106d73d49bdaec8cb3dae41d514

on December 28, 2010
at 06:25 AM

I think it's a mistake to think that sleeping on a soft surface is necessarily bad for a human back. Humans are by nature builders and makers, and there are many ways to make soft beds in natural landscapes. In some environments it's actually necessary, not for the softness, but to keep the ground from sucking away your body heat. In the end it all depends on the situation and what makes you as an individual comfortable. Do you have back pain or other forms of pain when you wake up? If so, then experiment. If not, you're probably fine.

I don't think it's the bedding that matters, it's the position. I worked at a summer camp and I didn't have a mattress when I went camping most of the time. Learning to sleep on a hard surface was difficult because the positions that make me comfortable on a soft bed are different from those that make me comfortable on hard, flat ground. Once that hurdle was jumped, it was fine and I woke up feeling better than on the soft bed. The beds I slept in at camp most of the time gave me a lot of back pain, and it was always a relief to sleep on the ground.

But when it comes to my bed, the one I sleep in at home, it's a regular inner-spring mattress and it does not give me back pain, so I'm not going to give it up.

1
84666a86108dee8d11cbbc85b6382083

(2399)

on June 29, 2010
at 02:49 PM

I have been sleeping on my yoga mat for the last two nights and I must say that I'm not really thrilled. I wake up at least three times a night, constantly rolling over. A sign of transition period or a part of this regimen ? I have no problems while sleeping in bed.

0
B5e15b7dad73875df34e9bf00d8f937b

on July 19, 2013
at 12:42 PM

I sold my bed a few months ago to make room for more studio space, as I am a designer. I then began sleeping on an army cot until it broke. I then took to the floor with my duvet cover about a month ago. The first morning was agony, but I did some yoga stretches and felt better. Since which my body has felt great and what's odd is that my hips are getting smaller without exercise.

0
2168ba258d3eb0b15ddc70e6a6ecec42

on July 13, 2013
at 04:11 PM

It helps me so much!!!

0
611285821bad28b14c672e49d219398e

on March 27, 2013
at 11:45 AM

I personally have tried sleeping on the floor, carpet and an old duvet folded up. After the initial adjustment I actually preferred it. Here are my positives and negatives from my perspective.

Positives:

  • My back felt good and I woke up refreshed.
  • I loved just folding up my bed and putting it in a cupboard.
  • I'm a minimalist (with a touch of OCD) the space had a positive impact on my anxiety.
  • Despite living in an a flat, sleeping on the floor literally feels more "grounding".
  • Not being confined to a space allowed me to relax more and get a better sleep.

Negatives:

  • I sometimes woke up a bit cold being so close to the floor (maybe draft)
  • Because of the draft I sometimes had neck pain on waking (possibly poor pillows)
  • Social; friends/family thought I was weird
  • Social; potential lovers don't want to sleep on the floor.
  • Social; No bed for guests.

I think most of my issues were social, the other issues could be fixed with finding a better room position/pillow. Modern beds are just so expensive and quite a status thing for some.

Despite all this im back to a 15cm firm foam mattress on the floor. I have to say its firm and solid, but do miss the space that I had before. Wishing I lived in a more conducive environment for Paleo living anyway, most of the meat/fish is farmed here to eat raw.

0
Be803dcde63e3cf5e21cc121097b8158

on March 17, 2013
at 03:41 AM

I use a bedding pad that is designed to go on top of a regular bed mattress. It is made of rubber and about 2 inches thick. Covered in bedding (a sheet and a cotton cover), it provides good comfort, but won't sink inwards like a regular mattress. (Well, not more than an inch.)

For me, finding bedding that is just thick enough to not cause bone soreness, yet thin enough so that I'll never wake up on my stomach with a spooned out back, has been a godsend.

Two more things:

Get a good bed frame or layout on the floor. Ideally, you'd want something as solid as the Earth. My current bed shakes and rattles -- I hate it!

Also, get a good pillow. This means possibly buying several. Right now I use a soba pillow and it's amazing. In the past I used one full of small wood blocks, which was also pretty good.

0
5ff5439ef59cce014d6e1873c30a8cd6

on March 17, 2013
at 12:55 AM

try it for a week and let us know.

0
6c2179a2aeb8abf0ca4d0de3ae74e671

on March 16, 2013
at 03:37 PM

What Is The Best Mattress For Your Back? It is not a hard flat bed. Being your back is curved and everyone of us has a history built into the wear and tear of our backs we all are different. Evey one in the world 5'9" 190lbs. will not benefit from one kind os firmness. We all being different may even find night to night what we need can change because of that days activity's. Correct back support comes from some surface following our curves we all have and holding your spine in a neutral position. That means if its firm it will not let your curves in your sleeping position sink into that area and let the spine line up correctly. Back sleeping is the best position to reduce weight on internal organs, side is ok but increases that pressure. Stomach is by far the worse position for any one.

0
Cddf40a25e2c362c3fbeebc2f91bb25c

on October 19, 2012
at 09:24 PM

back in asia we used to have packed straw mattresses. nice. stiff. everycouple of years they'd get buggy and we'd toss em.

a couple folks have mentioned sleeping on plywood/chipboard. be careful. those have ALOT of formaldahyde.

sleep well.

0
Ed27e9f9c5b29ff86d5fa187938f2e59

on September 28, 2012
at 12:37 AM

I slept on a 1" cotton pad on the carpeted floor from 20 April 2012 until ~20 September 2012. Then, I arranged my bed the way I liked it and began sleeping on it. I experienced difficulties with low-level pains in my calves and stiffness upon arising. I reverted to the cotton pad on the floor last night and noted a striking improvement. I will continue to experiment. I have run this floor-bed experiment over the past 18 months. Although I haven't documented it well, I have the impression that my bed is less helpful for my sleep. It MAY be the quality of my bed (cheap), or it may be the quality of the floor.

0
34896350c0da6c550875ed39aaf51463

on August 25, 2012
at 03:52 PM

After buying a bed, I have been sleeping on bed every night. Occasionally I do Savasana which is nothing but sleeping on hard surface with or without mat and just loosen all my body muscles. This sooths my body from all the pains and when I wake up, I'm completely refreshed and boost me to finish all my extra works needed for family life. Its still mystery for me that when I plan for just 10 mins sleep, without anybodies intervention, I wake up exactly after 10 mins by myself.

0
De94b964a0bb971614d6a5fd022eda26

on July 28, 2012
at 04:44 PM

i like to sleep on hardsurface like floor because its make me feel like strong and my muscles becomes strong so sleeping on hard surface is good experieance

0
8c98787554dfc3d0cd5fa4b024e61b09

(0)

on May 21, 2012
at 01:56 AM

my sis has scollisis it never hurts her she sleeps on it with a blanket it craks her back so its good but it can be bad if you smash your back so i hope u find youse to this

0
7ab65bb5ae9663f21d5df6d75a035f7a

(20)

on January 02, 2012
at 05:37 AM

A lot of factors go into how one feels after sleep - whether on the floor or on a soft bed. Sleeping on a hard surface on my back definitely opens up my lung capacity better than sleeping on my back on a soft surface. On the soft surface, my trunk sinks down further than my arms, and the resulting curve doesn't allow for the higher level of lung expansion I get when laying on a harder surface. I've tried tucking a thin pillow under my back, and found that helped me sleep straighter while on my mattress.

0
C7bea2b4a21affa567a4405c69c45715

on August 03, 2011
at 05:31 PM

My husband and I have been sleeping on the floor for five months now. I must say it does work wonders. We had a traditional mattress and bed frame but I woke with back pain everyday and tossed and turned all night. Every since I started sleeping on the floor I have slept like a rock. I can stretch out with having to worry about crowding my husband or falling off the bed. Plus I keep our home on 70-73 year around. I have thought about getting a futon mattress to put on the floor tho......

0
26b7615ef542394102785a67a2786867

on August 03, 2011
at 04:56 PM

I've done it plenty. I can sleep on anything. I do tend to sleep on my back more on a hard surface, rather than my side which is my usual position.

Sitting on a hard surface is another story. I'm thin and it hurts my sitz bones and the thin layer of muscle/fat over them (when I sit) like heck. I've come close to getting pressure sores.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on September 05, 2010
at 07:13 AM

We have a very firm magnetic mattress which I love. When I go to bed achy from gardening I wake up the following morning perfectly fine and not stiff. My husband thought it was too hard so we added a thin memory foam pad on top, and he now likes it.

Think of it as a carpeted floor at bed level!

0
55554b2e780f84ad6cc3fc31ce46d23f

on June 30, 2010
at 04:55 PM

short words. just do it. if its to hard and painfull try another time.

8347d512bca9b034d53da40dab8cd21c

(2517)

on June 30, 2010
at 05:21 PM

Really, that doesn't answer the question. The question was whether or not there are any benefits to doing it, not how or why one might do it.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on December 31, 2010
at 04:52 PM

Juurti are you finnish?

-6
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on November 24, 2010
at 04:36 PM

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