I’ve been sleeping on the floor for two years now. I think it is about time I discuss some of the benefits I have found as well as talk more about my favorite set up for floor sleeping: authentic Japanese futons (or shikibutons). The benefits go far beyond minimalism!
WARMING UP TO FLOOR SLEEPING
A lot of people assume I got into floor sleeping when I moved to Japan. However my experience with floor sleeping dates back much further. During my two-year stint as a Peace Corps Volunteer, I noticed that most Cambodians slept on the floor with nothing but a straw mat and a small pillow. I couldn’t really understand why anyone would choose to sleep on such an uncomfortable surface. Later, when I moved to Korea, it was also a common practice in homes, jjimjilbangs and pension motels. Korean homes are heated through the floor. In the winter, that makes the floor the most warm and cozy place in the house. I tried it myself many times. Of course, in Japan the practice is also common and although they don’t have floor heating, they do have soft tatami floors made from woven straw.
So through my travels I realized that while the idea of sleeping on the floor may sound completely absurd to most westerners, a decent percentage of the world’s population do just that and find it to be completely normal.
QUITTING MATTRESSES COLD TURKEY
It was in Australia when I started sleeping on the floor full-time. We were renting a room and the bed was one of those terrible western-style futon sofas. I slowly started to notice myself waking up with more and more back pain. Out of sheer desperation, I folded an extra blanket in half and started sleeping on the floor. I quit mattresses cold turkey and suffered through about a two-week transition period where I would wake up in discomfort. However, although my newfound “bed” was hardly comfortable, something miraculous was happening. I was waking up with less and less back pain. I learned how to use pillows and blankets to distribute my weight and before long I was sleeping like a baby and my back pain completely went away.
When I moved to Japan later this year, I continued sleeping on the floor. There was one key difference though, instead of thin blankets I had an authentic Japanese futon which allowed me the firm support of the floor with the right amount of cushioning for comfort. Finally, the best of both worlds!
So what are the benefits I have found with floor sleeping?
BENEFIT 1: MORE RESISTANCE, LESS BACK PAIN
Now the floor is obviously a firm surface. That is not something that can be said about all conventional mattresses however. If you don’t have any pressure pushing back, the shere weight of your body (and gravity) will cause you to sag into all sorts of positions. This isn’t good for several reasons.
First, your spine and joints are left unsupported. We really don’t want them to sag or be stretched in the wrong direction during the many hours we spend sleeping every day. Second, normal mattresses can impede our circulation. It is easier to for everything to flow if the weight of our body isn’t crushing down on our blood vessels and soft tissue. Third, sleep is an important time for our body to realign. Our bones were designed to be weight bearing. If we sleep on a firm surface, then our bones can bear the weight of our body and realign while we sleep.
I find that I actually crave the floor now. If my back is sore after a long day, I often come home and just lay down for a few minutes on my hardwood floor and instantly feel relief. I also struggle when I am traveling and have to sleep in beds at hotels or guest bedrooms. I always notice a difference and my body let’s me know very clearly that it would like to get back to floor sleeping ASAP.
BENEFIT 2: MORE HYGENIC
Mattresses come full of toxic chemicals such as flame retardants, foaming agents, and petroleum products from the first day they come into your home. To make matters worse, they also become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi as time goes on. That is because we sweat and shed skin cells during our sleep. This also attracts dust mites. Mattresses get heavier over time because of all this.
A Japanese futon is lightweight. It is recommended that you regularly hang them out over a balcony for a few hours or so of sunlight, which allows the cotton to breathe, fluff out and completely dry. In summer months when humidity is extra high, Japanese will air their futons out weekly. While it is hanging, you can also give it a few whacks with a tennis racket to knock out dust. These sorts of things just aren’t possible with a heavy mattress.
Furthermore, as Japanese futons are relatively inexpensive compared to some mattresses, you can afford to replace them more often if you so wish. Traditionally Japanese futons are made of 100% cotton, which is not only more comfortable than polyester, but also a lot more environmentally friendly! That makes them a great zero waste bedding alternative!
Of course, if you simply sleep on the floor with nothing but your own blankets then keeping your bedding clean is as simple as giving them a wash in the laundry machine!
BENEFIT 3: MORE VERSATILE
Sleeping on the floor is popular with minimalists and for good reason. Whether you are using blankets or a Japanese futon, they are super easy to fold up and put them away. This means that you have a lot more space in the day to do things like yoga, build cardboard box castles, or whatever!
They also work well for guests. Gone are the days when you have to dedicate an entire area of your home as a guest bedroom. Simply keep some futons in the closet and pull them out when company arrives. You will want to consider where to store your futons or blankets when you aren’t using them. Most Japanese families keep them in the closet. Just make sure you don’t make a habit of leaving them out. Futons (and your floor) need to be able to breathe.
FINDING AUTHENTIC JAPANESE FUTONS OUTSIDE OF JAPAN
// This article contains affiliate links and I will earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase.
There are several websites that can help you get a Japanese style futon shipped to your door. However if you are looking for a futon made in Japan and enjoy supporting a small family tradition then there is one company that really stands out to me. Their authentic Japanese futons are made in the traditional way, from 100% cotton. Their futons are affordably priced and ship right to your door with no extra freight charges.
Of course you don’t need a futon to experience the benefits of floor sleeping. Folding a few comforters or blankets is a completely free of costs and an excellent way to experiment and see if floor sleeping is the right choice for you!
Authentic Japanese Futons: https://goo.gl/iOhUf4