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.

Neutral spine
Neutral spine

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Comments 46 comments

Baxter 6 years ago

Thanks for this article. There doesn't seem to be much solid information out there about sleeping on the floor. I did it while staying in Korean, and so many people there (especially poor students -__-) continue to sleep on the floor years on end, so I guess it can't be to bad for you.

Thanks again.

Ben 6 years ago

I had been wondering about this topic. One thing I do know for sure, is the floor depending what it is made out of can SUCK the heat out of you.. Which I guess over a long period of time can cause joint problems. I sleep on the floor now because it seems to be better for me. I use to have a very expensive bed. It was great, but I found if I sleep on the floor my body is more tone and not as soft as my bed. So I have no idea what anyone thinks of this. Or if there is any proof that you might be able to stay a little more trim sleeping on the floor.

Andy Johnston 6 years ago

Sleeping on the floor? No thank you. That's why beds were invented. Although I had heard it can be helpful for those people suffering from back problems. But I'm not sure it would be good to sleep without some sort of support for the natural curves of the body.

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Frank L. Wright 6 years ago from San Diego

I wouldn't trade in my memory foam mattress for anything now, but I do have fond memories of sleeping on rocks under the stars on the week-long camping trips I used to go on with my buddies :) besides... the ancient Egyptian aristocracy used to use solid stone sheets as sleeping surfaces, and it worked well enough for them!

Anna 6 years ago

I started sleeping on the floor as a kid, and I still Do today! I find it more comfortable and I like to stretch out really wide.

luis 5 years ago

30+ years old here. I've been sleeping on the floor for some ten years now. Never had sore muscles or pain in the back after sleeping. The best thing is that 'my bed' can disappear or be relocated in a matter of seconds.

My setup is like this: carpet floor, 1/2' mat, comforter, a couple of blankets, and cover.

Jeff 5 years ago

Man, my body feels beat up when I sleep on the floor. I camp occasionally & occasionally crash on someone's floor when traveling.

I wonder if it is good for your neck to sleep without some kind of neck support (rolled towel, rolled sweatshirt, cylinder pillow). Anyone study this?

Amy Robinson  5 years ago

Thanks for the in depth research. I sleep on the floor as much as possible. Yoga mat + comforter. Fold up in AM. Boyfriend doesn't like it but my back sure does :) until I make the full switch to a shiki futon, may the floor be with you.

janis paegle 5 years ago

I have been sleeping on a floor for some time and I rly like it, I have big roomn with lots of space and i had a good bed but sleeping on a floor is just better, cant rly tell why

lauren smith 5 years ago

I sleep on the floor. Its really comfy.

ariel 5 years ago

i won't go into why i sleep on the floor but i have been on the floor exclusively for a year now. It works well for me and i prefer it now. i am 56 and occasionally have back or knee pain from standing for long periods but i don't think sleeping on the floor makes them any worse. i'm wondering if i'll ever want to sleep in a bed again!

alex 5 years ago

I had to comment on this. I recently moved into my own place. Without a means of transporting furniture and being too cheap/broke to pay a delivery person to help me, i have been living furniture-less for a couple of months now. My first weekend sleeping on the floor depressed the hell out of me. Every time i got into floor I would think "What kind of hobo am i?!" Now after a month or so, i am LOVING it. I sleep more soundly, I wake up feeling good and i don't ever overheat and wake up in a mad sweat. I am really feeling like this may be true love. Now my only concern is how will i ever find myself a man who also enjoys this?....and how to make a floor bed esthetically pleasing? hmmm......

jyhmin 5 years ago

well, sleeping on the floor is kinda good if u sleep with your back on the floor, but if i lie on my arms.. its such a pain. What kind of possitions u guys sleep on the floor anyway?

dd 5 years ago

I used to sleep on a king sized bed, 10 feet by 12 feet and about 1 foot thick. Then it got infected by bed bugs. So I tried sleeping on the cement floor and let me tell you, I am loving the floor much more than my bed and I am never going back. No bugs, no pillows, no back aches, no sleepless nights. No neck cramps that I used to get because of my pillows. I instantly fall asleep anytime I want. I sleep better and sounder even in the sweltering tropical summer nights. Next thing I did was to get rid of the A/c too.

jimbo 5 years ago

sleeping on the floor is not as some people imagine. the vast majority of people who sleep this way do in fact have some form of mattress to sleep on albeit very thin. this is the way i learned to sleep whilst living in japan. i had a tattami flooring which is natural and slightly sprung, on top of that i laid out a soft thin futon which took away the hardness of the floor and then a duvet on top in winter. if you have a bad back just remember to lie flat on your back with a small head, neck support. after sleep i would just pick up the futton and roll it up and store it away in the wardrobe, its just a great space saver to do away with your bed. back in uk and i got this great hard foam bed that is giving me some serious lower back probs again.. gunna have to get a futon a.s.a.p!

Sherry 5 years ago

My husband and I have been sleeping on the floor for 5 years now. He and I both have back problems. We cannot stand sleeping in a bed now! It kills our back and joints now. We love sleeping on the floor. Our sleeping bags get heavy duty use. We recommend coleman xl sleeping bags the ones that are made out of cotton canvas on the outside and flannel on the inside. Then we spread them out on the floor and cocoon ourselves in separate blankets.

Kyle t 5 years ago

Ya umm I've sleep on the for and for 5 years idk if it's bad but I had no bed but now I do and it's really hard for me to sleep in anyone got any help ful suggestions

lew 5 years ago

ive been sleeping on the floor for 3 years. i have a rug to sleep on then normal blanket. i do it because i had depression and sleeping in the bed i used to share wih my girlfriend wasn't an option so i deconstructed the frame and put it in storage. i dont feel my health is suffering although its not as comfortable as a matress and some days i wake up tired despite having alot of sleep.

phee 4 years ago

Ww. I stumbled across this page and have just learnt that modern people actually choose to sleep on the floor. I had no idea. Maybe I'll try it!

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MyFavoriteBedding 4 years ago from United States

Sleeping on the floor never bothered me when I was young, but I don't think I would like it too much today. I suppose if you had the right items, such as the neck roll, maybe it would be do-able. Very interesting hub, thanks

Tim 4 years ago

I am sleeping on the floor next to my bed tonight because my girlfriend is staying over and it is a twin mattress so no room for me. I googled about sleeping on the floor and came across this page. I had no idea people actually preferred sleeping on the floor. But she's snoring away so I'll give this a go and see how I sleep tonight!

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Just For Fun 4 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA Author

Hey Tim, if you don't like the floor and she's a heavy sleeper, place her on the floor and when she wakes up in the morning swear up and down she insisted you take the bed. Then thank her for being so thoughtful.

Dan 4 years ago

I've slept on the floor before, either for curiosity or when rowing with the lady, just the floor and a blanket. Always found it pretty comfy, but I do wake up a bit sore. I'm wondering if the body gets used to this, I'm sure it would, if I do it consistantly.

Jen 4 years ago

Did anybody else consider the middle ground of buying a memory foam mattress topper and using it as a thick sleeping mat? I've been sleeping on a mattress on the floor for some time and thought maybe it was a little unusual until I discovered this website! Memory foam mattresses are expensive but the toppers themselves can be really reasonable, e.g. up to £50. I'm looking forward to trying it out!

Carlos 4 years ago

I learned to sleep on the floor from memories of my father, who was a very rustic, earthy type fellow. I sleep soundly and awaken very refreshed. I must add that this is a lifestyle choice for me, that is, living simply and feeling close to animals and nature.

I recommend that anyone with a passing interest give it a try, and try to couple it with eating healthy, excercising, yoga, meditation, philosophy etc. I have been doing this for a very long time and my body, mind and spirit appreciate it very much. Please have a look into stoicism as well they are related.

Good Luck,

Hixxy 4 years ago

from my experience i can say that slepping on the floor makes u feel better in general, just need a few nights to get used of it :) i really do love sleeping on the floor!

Rain Wilber 4 years ago

It is interesting that all those cultures who slept on the floor, had FAR LESS incidences of back pain... Mattress selling is a huge industry now, and a big money maker, they will do anything to make you believe that you need a big puffy mattress to get the best back, nothing could be further from the truth.

Thank you for this great article.

Mike Q. 4 years ago

Can you feel the floor through an air mattress? I don't see how you could. But I sleep on a concrete surface, and BOY, is it hard!

Edward 4 years ago

My share of experience.

2 years ago I decided to try sleeping o hard surface - floor was no go, 'couse of dust. I needed something higher. So I just disassembled my old bed - leaving only bare wood, put a sleeping bag on top, and that's it.

I'm having a good night's sleep.

But still searching for clinical aprovals of such methods. maybe they'll say - HARD IS GOOD for your back!

kelly 4 years ago

My mattress is the devil. Everyday I wake up feeling worse and worse and I think I have finally hit the breaking point. I just tried out sleeping on my folded up blankets on the carpet and my back felt much better. Goodbye awful mattress :)

Super Mommy 4 years ago

I sleep on the floor with my toddler because I don't want her falling off of my bed and she can climb out of her crib. I just put down fluffy blankets and we camp out every night. =) I do have a queen size bed but it gets no use at the moment. I found this site while looking for some kind of cheap mattress topper thing or something we can put for padding so i dont have to constantly wash blankets to put under us.

Angelina 4 years ago

I sleep on the floor and I hate it hate it hate it!!!!! All of my friends make fun of me and I feel like a poor hobo! I'm afraid to invite any friends over to my house because I'm afraid they'll laughf at me! I'm 11 years old and my parents can't afford to buy paint for my room or a bed. I have NOTHING in my room not even a dresser it's just one flimsy mattres in the middle of a small overheated room I have been depressed lately WHAT SHOULD I DO?!?!?!

Aaron 4 years ago

Angelina, get a job! You could also look on freecycle or craigslist for free beds.

dora 4 years ago

aaron shes 11. a job is not going to help an 11 year old who goes to school.

Paul 4 years ago

They're decent comments on where she can look. And yes she can - I had a home business at 11 which could rake in a couple hundred bucks a week cleaning.

Brandon 4 years ago

I am laying on the floor right now for my first nights sleep on the floor! I am hoping this is going to be awesome and just what I needed! I have a bad neck and back. I am excited to see how I feel in te morning :) I loved Carlos's comment also!

Brandon 4 years ago

Same guy as above^^ NIGHT 1 WENT GREAT!! :)

heather 4 years ago

I'm in 8th grade and over the past year I've been having to pull all nighters or 1-6 hour nights (if i'm lucky hah) nearly every day. Sometimes I'm just DEAD tired, feeling horrible, sore, and 'sleepy'-sick as a mofo doing hw/projects/studying on my bedroom floor. a lot of the time I just cannot stay awake but don't remember falling asleep, and i'll find myself on the carpet at 6am (just in time for the bus!) with my body ON my arms and my face under my dresser. my back/neck hurts so bad 24/7 and I feel about 55 at 13. not a good feel at all. so I wouldn't really recommend flooring it like that if you're a preteen.

oh god I miss my bed .__.

I have a question though, how badly (if it all) is this impairing my growth and mind and that sorta thing? thanks (:

lassensurf 4 years ago

I thought I was in the rarity sleeping on the floor next to my unused bed. I started doing it a week or two at a time over a year ago, and slowly kept going back to the floor for longer periods. I haven't slept in my bed for about 8 months except once or twice and REGRETTED it the next morning. I feel great every morning and have no problem bouncing out of bed to turn off the alarm clock.

I was happy to see so many other comments from others doing the same as me. My room has really old carpeting. I put down a microfiber blanket and thin comforter below me and a quilt and blanket on top. No pillow.

I've also just used a sleeping bag. I've got a nylon-filled REI mummy bag that I used for probably a month and only stopped for the freedom blankets provide. I just roll it all up against the wall each day.

Hannah 4 years ago

I sleep on the floor because I can't sleep on my bed. It hurts my back every morning I wake up. My bedroom floor is hardwood and that seems to be more comfortable than my bed.

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CanvasArtShop 3 years ago

For me I can sleep on both the floor and my bed but it's just so much more comfortable sleeping in a bed! Only time I sleep on the floor is when my backs painful and the bed seems to make it worse at times!

George Barber 3 years ago

I sleep on a mat on the floor in a homeless shelter. It's safe and comphy

Styles 3 years ago

I came home drunk from my buddies one night and the bed creaks like a mofo so I slept in a sleeping bag on the floor so I wouldn't wake my wife up. Been sleeping on the rug in a sleeping bag ever since. Love it. The dog sleeps at my feet on his dog bed. Maybe one day he'll come in drunk and join me on the floor. Truth be told I have amazing vivid dreams now that I'm sleeping on the floor. Great article, enjoyed the comments too!

Floor Sleeper 3 years ago

I'm a five-year floor sleeper but occasionally have bed relapses because my bed-sleeping spouse is irresistibly cuddly. This is how I see the contrast:

Cons of sleeping on the floor:

1. Sleeping apart from spouse

2. The cold (actually the same as "1". But it can be ameliorated by using some kind of insulating layer---a mat or heavy blankets)


1. Sleeping apart from spouse

2. The cold (again, often the same as "1.")

3. The kids never want into your bed in the middle of the night

4. A life without back pain

5. Room for my feet

6. It's easier to get up in the morning---both physically and mentally.

7. It forces me to make my bed up every morning (fold it away) and set it out neatly every night.

8. If you can also get rid of your bed altogether, you've gained around 20 square feet right of floor space every day.

9. When abroad, whether in a hotel, hospital, hostel, or tent, I never have to be uncomfortable. (NB. Never trust the cleanliness of a strange floor: take their bedding, and spread it out between yourself and who-knows-whatever-microbes are under you all night)

10. It's cheap

11. It's closer to the Klingon spirit of things

Every time I switch back to the floor my back thanks me. But after a month-long relapse it's a restless sleep for the first few nights. After about four days I sleep thoroughly, and after two weeks that simple blanketed floor feels like sweet temperate feather down. So I wouldn't suggest trying it unless your willing to tough it out for half a month. And make it easier on yourself for the first week by exercising more strenuously during the day.

Incidentally, there's now scientific confirmation of the ancient practice of sitting on the floor: Could floor sleeping be similar?

TimHanze 2 years ago

Hi, does any parent have any suggestions about the easiest way to get their little one to sleep?

I have read various websites with ideas but I am still struggling.

Thanks you

D. 2 years ago

Been at it almost 8 years now. Only every now and then do i stare at furniture and change my mind. Glad to see i am not the only floorer on earth......

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