The phrase “go to bed” has become synonymous with going to sleep at the end of the day, and with good reason – most folks sleep in beds. The types and sizes of these beds are varied, but they all share the same basic configuration. I used to sleep in a bed, as well.
About two years ago (can’t remember, for sure), I put some long-running ideas into action, and gave up my bed-sleeping ways. I’m a curious fella, and I’m always interested in finding better, more efficient, and cheaper ways of doing things. Healthier is a big part of that “better,” too, so after I started facing some very disconcerting physical issues at the hands of anxiety, I seriously started considering what I could do better. Over the last number of years, I’ve become even more interested in what is “natural” for our bodies than I was before, and after laying in my bed and feeling these horribly frightening sensations in the veins/nerves of my arms and legs (heck, they even prompted me to go see a doctor), I began to consider what might be a better way of sleeping. It started with the basic question of, “How did God design our bodies to sleep?” Obviously, if you don’t believe our bodies were designed on purpose, than you wouldn’t phrase it this way, but even within your world view there is an ideal way to sleep that complements our bodies. As I began my unscientific search-engine research, I obviously got to endure a lot of philosophy on how our bodies have “evolved,” but the common statement was that beds, as we know them, aren’t necessarily the ideal. I wasn’t looking to be swayed, though, but more so interested in reading about the experiences of others… with a dash of historical education, for good measure :).
As far back as we know of, folks have been making make-shift bedding. Depending on their environments, it could have been piles of banana tree leaves or layered animal skins, but many people have found a way to make sleep a bit more comfortable than just plopping onto the ground. Of course, there have been plenty of others who HAVE just plopped onto the ground (certain Asian cultures, especially), so it appears that even throughout the ancient world there has been a variety of choices of bed types. I enjoy reading about things, but the arguments could only take me so far… I had to just go for it.
So, one night, when my arms and legs felt especially wonky, I grabbed my comforter, layered some thick afghan blankets in the middle of it, and then folded it in half (roughly the width of my body). I set it out on the ground, popped my pillow at one end, and covered myself with a sheet and blanket. This “bed” was maybe an inch thick without my laying on it, so it was hardly a cold, brick slab… but, boy, was that first night rough. Sleeping on a mattress affords one the luxury of the mattress conforming to the body – no matter its shape. If your posture is poor, your butt is bony, or you sleep on your side, even the hardest mattress will wrap itself around your shape. The floor isn’t QUITE as forgiving ;). I sleep on my back, so I had no issue with that, but I don’t exactly have much body fat, so I was sleeping on my bones. A fella who wrote a paper about floor-sleeping suggested that such an action was actually good for our bones – that it promoted bone-density, but it was really tricky to get used to. Basically, I just had a hard time getting comfortable enough to fall asleep. I won’t lie and say that all of my anxiety issues immediately melted away (that came with time and other endeavors), but I will say this – once I DID fall asleep, I slept so freaking hard. After that first night, I woke up feeling more refreshed than I had in a very, very long time. Not only that, but it was much EASIER to wake up and go… in part because the floor isn’t as inviting as a cushioned mattress, but also because I’d slept so much better. Folks have different ideas as to why one might sleep deeper without a mattress (the body stays cooler, there is constant support, the body doesn’t naturally move around as much), but I can certainly attest to the fact that I was sleeping so much better on the floor. Heck, I was looking forward to going to sleep each night, because I knew the refreshment that waited for me on the other end.
Eventually my body acclimated to the floor, and it became so that if I lay down on the ground, anywhere and at any time, I almost immediately became drowsy. That never happened with the ~29 years of bed-sleeping that I’d done, and it was really nice to see that my body was being retrained to understand a new way of what “sleep” was supposed to be. I began this endeavor for health reasons, certainly, but also for practicality – if I could sleep on the floor, then I could get rid of my bed, and more space is always nice… especially for me. With this setup, I could just roll my bedding up each morning, and toss it over to one side. It was still fairly big, with all that padding and pillow inside, but it was still nothing compared to a full bed. The first time I was sick revealed even more positives of practicality. Usually, when you’re sick in bed, you need to arrange everything on a table next to you… remotes, laptop, food items, etc., and you can quickly run out of space trying to balance everything. For me, the entire floor was on my level, so it was just really convenient.. to be able to spread out and not worry about knocking something off a table, or having to climb in and out of a raised bed. Sick, or not, getting onto and off of the floor has been a lot nicer than you might imagine. I look forward to laying down each night, and going from laying down to standing up each morning (without the sit-up in bed grog) really starts the day fresh. A few months ago, I had a spill in my room that created a pretty strong smell, so I just picked up and went downstairs to sleep. Heck, I even spilled on my bedding, too, so I made due with another blanket I found and wrapped myself up like a taco. Slept like a baby :).
Since I started, I have refined my bedding. I lost one of the thick blankets pretty soon after I started, and eventually I went down to nothing but the blanket and a sheet. At this point, the blanket is much less about padding than it is about being something to keep my sheet in place and easy to roll up. I’ve foregone my pillow, as well, so beyond a couple of centimeters of padding, I now pretty much just sleep on the floor. Yes, I have carpeting, so that extra padding counts for something, but the pad really isn’t very thick anymore, anyway. When I went to Boston the other week, I was curious as to how it’d be… they have wood floors and I hadn’t slept in a bed in years. The first night there, I took the blankets down to the floor and gave it a whirl, and it worked well enough, but it was too much of a hassle (since the dog slept on the bed during the day, so I didn’t want to leave the bed uncovered). The second night, I figured I’d give the bed a shot, and even though I ended up scooting to the firmer edges of the mattress (slept diagonally, my head on the edge at the hardest part), I was perfectly comfortable. I was darn happy to sleep on my own floor again, when I got home, but sleeping in a bed was far from a horrible experience – even after a couple of years away form that old habit.
You can find a lot of folks talking about a lot of different ideas, when it comes to sleeping on the floor: from the hippie to the wanna-be-caveman, from the scientist who “knows” better to the poor college student who did so out of necessity and never turned back, from the one who believes we evolved from a history of sleeping in the jungles as non-humans to the one who believes our body was designed in a specific way. You can search out this type of info on your own, but for a first-hand experience, I can tell ya this – I never plan on regularly sleeping on a bed, again :). The questions that come up are often the same…
“Doesn’t it hurt?”
(for me, not after the first couple of days)
“What about bugs?”
(bugs can climb beds; probably more likely to find spiders nesting there than in a pad that gets rolled up every day)
(that’s not a question)
“What about when you get married??”
(if a woman is interested in marrying ME, sleeping on the floor is hardly the first, or strangest, ‘new’ thing she’ll be introduced to)
I waited a very long time to write about this, because I wanted to get to a point where I could not only say that I was sleeping on (basically) nothing but the floor, but also that I’d been doing this for a while. If you’re interested, give it a test-run… find a way to work through whatever hesitancy you have, and I think you might be pleasantly surprised :).