Juliette Kando is a dancer, choreologist, author on fitness and health, and Fellow of the Benesh Institute at the Royal Academy of Dance.
One of the main drawbacks of Western civilization is that we have lost touch with the ground, mother earth itself. Many cultures still cook, eat, sit and sleep at floor level. Sleeping on the floor may be the one habit those cultures can teach us today. Regaining contact with the floor is more important than you think. In this article we discuss
- Why Are Westerners So Stiff?
- What Is Wrong With Sleeping in a Bed?
- How to Create a Comfortable Floor Bed
- Benefits of Sleeping on the Floor
- Hygiene and Space
Why Are Westerners So Stiff?
Most Westerners and people all over the world who have adopted a Western lifestyle are now so stiff that they cannot get comfortable just sitting on the floor. Such extreme stiffness is caused by sitting too much on chairs, sofas, in cars, and – climbing into conventional beds every night. Think about it - for the majority of the adult population, the only body parts that ever touch the ground are the feet! The rest of the body is permanently perched in mid-air. So no wonder that when such persons are asked to sit on the floor they are in big trouble. The next short video extract featuring Gordon Ramsey going to an ashram in southern India to try out vegetarian food is a perfect illustration of this problem. But that is not the only problem . . .
Mind You Don’t Fall!
Having lost touch with the ground makes you stiff, so what? The real danger for stiff people is the risk of severe injury when they accidentally trip and fall. Why? Upon the rapid high impact of a fall, stiff joints can easily dislocate; short muscles and tendons soon tear or snap when a falling person is very stiff. In contrast, a flexible person, who is used to getting up and down from the floor, possesses sufficient flexibility, muscle strength, coordination, and control to catch a sudden fall unhurt.
What Is Wrong With Sleeping in a Bed?
Beds were useful long ago when sanitary and hygienic conditions were poor. When floors were bare ground, cold slate tiles, or infested floorboards covered in bugs it was a good idea to elevate the sleeping area. But today our floors are clean parquet, some of them even have underfloor heating or plush carpets. So elevating the sleeping place is no longer necessary. Large expensive beds with thick, heavy, sprung mattresses which claim to “shape” themselves around the body for support, and optimum comfort do not really allow the body to fully relax into gravity in a natural way. So how can you get comfortable on a floor bed?
If you are uncomfortable lying on the floor you can use props to support the stiff bits as shown in the above picture. Gradually, over time in a few weeks, you will want to diminish the size of the props until you are comfortable without them. Your new sleeping posture will renew your awareness to lead the way to a much improved upright posture during the day.
How to Create a Comfortable Floor Bed
Sleeping on the floor on a thin mattress allows for anatomically correct alignment of the ankles, knees, pelvis, spine, shoulders and neck. On a floor bed your body can fully relax into gravity while the skeleton re-aligns itself during sleep, especially if you can sleep on your back (see link at the end on how to teach yourself to sleep on your back).
You will need
- A 7cm / 2.5 inches thick foam mattress or lightweight futon
- A small firm cushion if necessary
- A sheet and comforter
- Some supporting props if necessary
8 Benefits of Sleeping on the Floor
1. Improve Posture
By following the instructions on the “Lying on Your Back on the Floor” image the body automatically learns to straighten out during sleep. Re-aligning the skeleton on the floor during the night makes you aware of over-curvature in the spine and neck. This awareness, together with a gradual improvement of the sleeping posture, encourages you to behave taller and straighter during the day.
2. Ease Chronic Pain
Many chronic pains are actually acquired from sleeping wrongly. Backache and neck pain is caused by over-curvature from leaning forwards instead of standing upright and pulled up. Knee and shoulder pain may come as a result of years of poor, twisted, and curled-up sleeping positions, for example, when your cheek is squashed between a large, soft pillow and a forward pushed shoulder as in side-lying. What's the solution? Sleep on the floor on your back for greater, deeper relaxation, and re-align the skeleton while you sleep without any twisting and turning. Sleep better and the chronic aches and pain will soon go away.
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3. No More Sciatic Nerve Pain
Sciatic nerve pain is shooting pain from the side of the lower back all the way down to the ankle. Sciatic pain and most pains for that matter are always worse when you first get up in the morning. This is an indication that sleeping in an undesirable position on a soft mattress has made your body stiff during the night when the sciatic nerve has been pinched by pressure. The good news is that sleeping on the floor for a few days or weeks will soon ease the pain.
4. Improved Mobility and Circulation
Sleeping on the floor improves blood circulation. First of all, the simple act of getting down to the floor and up again to standing every day requires the coordination of many muscles that are otherwise never used. Those who sleep on the floor are better movers. Secondly, lying flat on the floor on your back makes it easier for the heart to pump blood throughout the body because there are fewer gravitational obstacles in the way than when sleeping in a bed.
5. Better Functioning of the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system which is responsible for maintaining fluid levels in body tissues and for the optimal functioning of the immune system works better to rinse out poisons when the body lies flat on the floor in a neutral position.
6. Hygiene and Space
A practical advantage of sleeping on a floor bed is that such a thin floor mattress and comforter can easily be picked up and shaken out regularly to keep the bedding free from damp, dead skin, bacteria, bed bugs, and dust. To gain more space if needed, the floor bed can be folded and put away to make room for friends, doing yoga, or whatever you want.
Watch the next video for a perfect example of how it can be done.
7. Easier to Adopt Sleeping On Your Back Position
Sleeping on the floor on your back is now the new, obvious and permanent choice for millions of young people who report that they previously suffered from insomnia, anxiety, depression, backache, neck pain, and always used to wake up stiff, tired, and bad-tempered. Learning to sleep on your back is much easier on the floor than in a bed.
8. Bonus: No More Sleep Wrinkles
When you sleep on the floor you are far less likely to develop so-called “sleep wrinkles” that are caused by sleeping on your stomach or by side-lying when the face gets all squashed up into large, cumbersome, and unnecessary pillows.
Sleeping on the floor is the easiest and most effective way to regain a connection with the floor to improve flexibility, mobility, develop a better posture, and get rid of many aches and pains. Finally, notice an interesting linguistic difference: You sleep “in” a bed but you sleep “on” the floor. Try It!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.