We all know that sleeping on an unfamiliar mattress can be an uncomfortable or even sleepless experience — and some people choose to forego a mattress altogether, sleeping either directly on the floor or on a thin sleeping mat.
Sleeping on the floor is certainly nothing new. Anthropologists believe our ancestors slept on slim mats made of plants, and certain populations continue to sleep on the floor. More recently, proponents of the Paleo diet and lifestyle recommend sleeping on the floor as part of going “full caveman.”
So, what are the benefits of sleeping on the floor — and are there any downsides?
Advocates of floor-sleeping say that it can help with back pain and that it allows you to move around more during the night so you don’t wake up feeling stiff and sore. Katy Bowman, M.S., a biomechanics expert, told Men’s Health that she recommends sleeping on the floor to counter an “over-cushioned” lifestyle that could be weakening our bodies. “By sleeping without a mattress, you’ll strengthen tiny muscles that build over time,” she said. “You’re putting pressure on your body parts. It’s like a massage all night.”
Critics of sleeping on the floor note that sleeping on hard surfaces may cause joint pain. “The hardness of the floor can hit certain pressure points of the body, such as the tailbone, heels, and shoulder blades,” Ang Chua, M.D., a faculty member in the Division of Sleep Medicine at the University of Utah, Department of Medicine, told Refinery29.
Experts say that what’s most important is the quality of your sleep, regardless of whether you are on a mattress, mat, or floor. If your mattress is causing you back pain, it’s worth researching a new one. But if you want to give sleeping on the floor a try, there’s likely no harm in it.
“Sleep’s very personal, and even a soft mattress has support,” Jeffrey Goldstein, a spinal surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center, told Quartz. “As long as it’s not like a marshmallow, with lumps and bumps, any flat surface is good.”
[Editor’s Note: The information provided should not be considered a substitute for professional advice. Please consult a sleep doctor or other medical expert if you have questions related to your own health.]
Joe Auer is the editor of Mattress Clarity. He mainly focuses on mattress reviews and oversees the content across the site.
He likes things simple and take a straightforward, objective approach to his reviews. Joe has personally tested nearly 250 mattresses and always recommends people do their research before buying a new bed. He has been testing mattresses for over 5 years now, so he knows a thing or two when it comes to mattress selection. He has been cited as an authority in the industry by a number of large publications.
Joe has an undergraduate degree from Wake Forest University and an MBA from Columbia University.