Sleeping on the Floor
Sleeping on the Floor
At the risk of winning most obscure topic of the year award, I've done a little learning about sleeping on the floor. Included is some history, how to, products, and side-topics.
Some history of sleeping on the floor.
Well, not surprisingly, I didn't find any websites dedicated to the subject. I came across a Japanese forum where contributors say that it was not uncommon for all cultures to sleep on the floor before the 1800s, including Americans, Native Americans, Africans, Asians, and Europeans. Whether in castles, farmsteads, or city dwellings, due to architectural custom and/or lack of room, people would roll up their bedding and make use of the space during the day. As people became wealthier and houses became separated into different rooms, beds became more and more common.
I checked about the medieval castle part, not because I don't believe them, but because I dig castles. According to Lise Hull, except around the central hearth (fireplace), castles were very cold. Servants and soldiers slept without heat, I'm assuming on the floor. The lord and lady's personal attendants may have had access to the same heat that the Lord and his/her family had, but they slept on the floor wrapped in blankets. The Lords slept on heavy blankets and furs and feather mattresses.
Why do people continue to sleep on the floor today?
There are many reasons people still sleep on the floor. They can't afford a bed, their mattress is bad for their back, they have no room in their homes for a bed, it's cooler during the summer, they don't like making their bed, they move around a lot, they can stretch out more, they just plain prefer it.
Is sleeping on the floor good for your back?
I can't find any scientific consensus as to which is better, a mattress or the floor. Everyone has different body types and sleep preferences. Some swear by it and some wake up in a pretzel. From what I've read combined with some common sense, it seems to depend just as much on your sleeping posture (see below) as it does with the hardness of the sleeping surface.
Is it okay for kids to sleep on the floor?
According to the parents on this child behavior forum, yes, it's okay. Many kids think it's more fun camping out on the floor. They say as long as the child likes it and it's not affecting their sleep, it's no problem and they'll eventually grow out of it. I've been to a couple of other forums and the parents there mostly agree as well.
Different ways to comfortably sleep on the floor.
Air mattresses. Pros: Portable, comfortable, inexpensive. Cons: Can deflate and puncture easily.
Exercise mats. Includes, martial arts, yoga, or pilates mats. Pros: Portable, inexpensive. Cons: Thinner and firmer (could also be a pro)
Camping mats. Similar to exercise pads but made more specifically with outdoor/camping use in mind. Pros: Portable, inexpensive. Cons: Thinner and firmer.
Cots. Pros: Comfortable, portable, keeps you up off of the floor. Cons: Can sag, not extremely sturdy.
Hammocks. Pros: Keeps you up off the floor. Cons: Not comfortable for long periods of time, easy to fall out of.
Futons. Pros: Comfortable, is also a couch, keeps you up off of the floor. Cons: Can be expensive.
Sleeping bags. Pros: Fairly comfortable, warm, portable, usually inexpensive. Cons: Hard on bare floor
Blankets. Pros: Portable, warm, inexpensive. Cons: Hard on bare floor.
The best way to get comfortable on the floor is a personal preference and will probably be a mixture of some of the above (soft blankets under sleeping bag, sleeping bag over camp mat, etc).
Proper sleeping posture- According to Clinical Specialist, Physical Therapist Jeanne Markusic, your spine will be the most comfortable in the neutral spine position, when all 3 curves of the spine, cervical (neck), thoracic (middle) and lumbar (lower), are present and in good alignment. (Separate, but important link, as poor posture is one of the biggest causes of back pain: How to find your neutral spine while standing). To achieve this while sleeping, don't use too many pillows under you head and don't sleep on a sagging mattress or surface. Jeanne agrees with what I've read before, that the best sleeping position for those with neck or back pain is on your side or back. When sleeping on your side, place a pillow between your knees to keep neutral spine. (I have read elsewhere that many people sleep flat on their backs with a pillow tucked under their knees) You can also support the natural curves of your spine by using rolls. Cervical rolls are inexpensive and come in different sizes. One is placed between the base of your head and your shoulders in order to support the neck and help maintain neutral alignment in you neck. A similar roll called a lumbar roll can be bought (or made) for your waist, where your lower back arcs.
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