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Question: Is Sleeping on the Floor Bad for You?

Updated May 25, 2020

While some people are invested in buying luxury and comfortable mattresses in order to improve the quality of their sleep, some people ditch their beds in favor of a cold, hard floor. For some time, people have believed that sleeping on the floor can correct posture and help alleviate certain types of pain, but is that really true?

Is Sleeping on the Floor Bad for Your Back?

male sleeping on his back

Is sleeping on a mattress on the floor bad for you? Despite some people giving up on luxurious and comfortable mattresses in favor of sleeping on the floor, there’s actually no scientific evidence to suggest that might be a good idea. The so-called benefits of sleeping on the floor are pure speculations, not offering people the possibility to generalize. In order words, while some people have found sleeping on the floor advantageous, that’s not something you generally want to be doing.

It has been said that there are three main benefits of sleeping on the floor: it helps with back pain, it can treat sciatica, and it can help your posture. But are these claims, in fact, true?

  • There is no scientific evidence that can actually support the idea that sleeping on the floor helps with back pain. It’s true that some people have claimed it worked for them. The entire idea of sleeping on the floor to alleviate back pain has probably arisen from the fact that soft mattresses are generally bad for a person’s back, because they won’t allow the spine to stay aligned. In that spirit, some doctors recommended placing plywood under the mattress, a piece of advice that people overreacted and decided to ditch their beds altogether. If you want to get rid of back pain, buy a medium-firm mattress instead.
  • The second claim is that sleeping on the floor helps treat sciatica. Sciatica is a pain born from the sciatic nerve, and it is typically recommended that you sleep on a firmer mattress. Once again, there is no evidence that might suggest sleeping on the floor actually helps treat sciatica.
  • Third claim: sciatica helps correct posture. Much like the first claim, this was also an idea born from logical correlations (which doesn’t necessarily make it true). Hard surfaces are well-known for providing a higher level of support compared to softer surfaces. But without scientific evidence to support this idea, it’s best if you consult with your doctor before ditching your bed.

Despite the fact that there are people who strongly believe in the benefits of sleeping on the floor, in time, this practice causes joints to compress over time. This is especially true for people who adopt the same position every night.

When you sleep, there are certain parts of your body that weigh heavily than others (for instance, side sleepers will have their shoulders and hips pressing hard against the bed). Since the floor is hard and has no response to this weight, it creates pressure points that, in time, can lead to sores.

You may want to read: Is It Okay to Sleep on the Floor?

What Can Go Wrong?

So far, we have established that research doesn’t support any of the “benefits” of floor sleeping. At this point, some people may wonder “what can go wrong if I actually try sleeping on the floor myself?”

  • Sleeping on the floor can actually increase your back pain. This isn’t true for 100 percent of the cases, as some people have claimed that a hard surface such as the floor has actually helped improve this particular type of pain. However, a study published in 2003 has pointed out that sleeping on the floor brings more disadvantages than benefits. The study looked at more than 300 adults, divided into two groups that had to sleep on mattresses with different firmness levels. The results showed that people who slept on a medium-firm mattress had less back pain compared to those sleeping on a firmer one.
  • When you’re sleeping on the floor, your body is closer to potential allergy triggers. It doesn’t even matter if you’re sleeping on top of a carpet or not (although carpets attract more allergens that the actual floor itself). You are way more exposed to contaminants that range from dust mites to mold. If you decide to sleep on the floor, you are more likely to end up with breathing problems.

People Who Should Absolutely Avoid Floor Sleeping

Is sleeping on the floor bad for your back? Even without hard evidence to support the benefits of this action, some people still want to try sleeping on the floor. Even if studies have yet to give a yay or nay on the topic, there are some categories of people that should avoid sleeping on the floor at all costs, such as:

  • The elderly: With age, the bones in our bodies become weaker, which means that sleeping on the floor is more likely to cause fractures.
  • People who are prone to catching colds: There are certain medical conditions that can get much worse if you catch a cold, like hypothyroidism or type 2 diabetes. When you sleep on the floor, you are more likely to feel cold.
  • Those with limited mobility: When people buy a mattress, they typically don’t take into consideration the height of the bed, but there is actually a way to determine if your bed + mattress combo is of appropriate height. When you sit on the edge of the bed, the back of your knees should form a perfect 90 degree angle, and the soles of your feet should touch the floor. This helps you get in an out of bed properly. When you sleep on the floor and have limited mobility, you will find it very hard both to lie down, as well as to stand up, so it’s best to be avoided.
  • People with arthritis.

You may want to read: Sleeping on the Floor: Bad or Good?

Conclusion

The subject of sleeping on the floor will be controversial until there’s enough research to balance the odds either in favor of or against this practice. In the meantime, people are simply making assumptions based on logic and what others have told them works.

Always remember that these “solutions” which aren’t scientifically proven might not render the results you expect. In time, sleeping on the floor is a decision that people should take after having consulted with their doctors.