Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Sleeping On the Floor

By Benjamin Skipper

Ever since beginning to sleep on the floor I have enjoyed the most consistent trend of being comfortable in "bed" in my life. Tossing and turning is long a memory, and I wake up without any discomfort in my back or neck. Some people seem to think it's strange I've leaped and adjusted into the practice so quickly, too afraid to try it themselves, but the truth is I haven't always enjoyed sleeping on the floor. There's actually a separate period in my life in which I had to sleep on the floor and found it insufferable night after night, gladly taking to a bed when I finally got one, so it's been confusing as to why I enjoy sleeping on the floor now in contrast to then.

This rather detailed article argues persuasively on why humans are meant sleep on extremely firm, nearly rock-hard surfaces, and also goes a ways in explaining why people may feel discomfort in trying to sleep on a hard surface. Succinctly, depending on the structure of your body as determined by your lifestyle will determine how you respond to a particular surface, and an unhealthy structure may be the cause of discomfort when trying to sleep on a hard surface since the body tries to adjust one way there while one's everyday posture makes it adjust otherwise. People, then, might be only evaluating negatively the transitional phase in adjusting to sleeping on the floor, and give up on the practice before they have adapted or otherwise keep their body in a state of flux by constantly changing posture.

In my own life I think this points out the essential changes I've made to my life that makes sleeping on the floor wonderful whereas it was unacceptable in the past. Nowadays much of my waking life is spent standing up. While trying to conduct my studies one day I was enormously frustrated with how bad my neck felt and how restless my legs were, as I was sitting down, and then spontaneously set up boxes in the laundry room to make a stand-up desk. It took weeks to adjust to -- my feet and legs hurt often in adapting -- but it's been consistently great since then. The posture of my standing up was so comfortable that I rarely sat down from then on and even converted my computer area to a stand-up desk. Combined with standing up my entire shifts at work (I work in a restaurant), I virtually don't sit down anymore except for meals and reading.

Once I began changing my life into that of one primarily standing up I noticed my bed became increasingly uncomfortable. My neck, most of all, felt atrocious, as I wanted it to align with my back, but my heavier torso sunk into the mattress while my head was elevated, so not even ditching pillows helped any. Sleeping on my side made me feel like everything was out of whack too. Given my bad experiences with the floor in the past I was hesitant to try it again, but one aggravating night pushed me to try it once more. I slept wonderfully: Without pillows my body felt in harmony when laying flat down, and on my side I found I only need my arm or hand underneath my head for everything to feel perfect. I've never enjoyed sleeping on anything less than a hard surface since then.

I think that in choosing to stand up I've altered my body into a state that it holds comfortably when laying on a hard surface, which a soft surface disrupts. The floor was probably uncomfortable before because I was sitting down all the time with my reading and studying, so my body had adapted into a certain structure consequently and felt the pain of trying to adjust to another when sleeping on the floor. The bed probably only catered to my bad posture, which is probably why it was comfortable back then, only becoming uncomfortable when I started standing up. Finally, I never adjusted to sleeping on the floor back then probably because I was undoing all the transitional work my body was doing by switching from bad sitting posture to laying on a hard surface, so my body was always experiencing the discomfort of trying to adjust one way and then another.

I theorize that my comfort in sleeping on the floor has to do with daily posture because there was positively no transition period the second time I took to it. I just hopped out of the bed, laid some blankets on the floor, and felt comfortable since then. The transition pain was felt in the form of my standing up, where my feet, hips, and lower back hurt for about two weeks in trying to get used to it, but now have strengthened to the point that I can stand up literally all day without discomfort. Once my body adapted to my standing posture, there was nothing to change in laying on the floor and therefore no pain.

What I do is simple too, involving only one blanket. I take the blanket I sleep with, fold it in half, and then just sleep on the floor on top of it. If I get cold, then I crawl into the folds like filling in a taco. The only reason I need the blanket is to protect my skin from the scruffy carpet, because otherwise I'd need nothing at all. In the future I'd like to get one of those platform beds mentioned in the linked article, the one that slightly elevates you above the floor and has spaces in between the boards for temperature regulation, handy for Texas heat.

If you're having trouble sleeping and are perhaps interested in trying a rock-hard surface, then consider examining your lifestyle. Are you doing a lot of sitting that could result in posture conflicts between your wakeful and sleeping life? If so, then consider either trying to incorporate proper posture into your daily life, doing a whole lot more standing, or both. That should make your body perform the necessary adjustments that would make laying on a hard surface comfortable, rather than as roughing it as some people may view it.

Aside from the benefits noted in the linked article, the primary appeal I see in this practice is the consistency of the comfort. Mattresses can wear out and have notable pressure differences from day to day, which can make finding a comfortable sleeping position a gamble, whereas a hard surface is perpetually the same, making for great sleep, once adjusted, night after night after night. Plus, you'd never have to buy another bed again. What's to lose, except the comfort during a brief adjustment phase? I've been sleeping on the floor for over a year now, and cannot imagine it being comfortable any other way.

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