Sunday, September 30, 2012

A Paleo Mattress: A Pain In The Tookus?

I came across an article, and thereby a series of them, about the ergonomics of sleeping which I found intriguing. The originating question is, when did we adopt mattresses as we know them today? Mattresses have evolved greatly since sleeping on sacks stuffed with horsehair. But still, who is the regulating body that says that they can improve our quality of life or our health as the manufacturers claim they do?

Today mattresses are bigger, fatter, fluffier and gimmickier than ever. Mattresses move and bend at the touch of a button. They are made of space material, or inflate to your "ideal" firmness, or come with pad covers to improve softness or to improve circulation while you sleep.

So I guess the underlying question is, have these so-called improvements actually improved our health? Or have they harmed us: is that possible? After reading Patrick Clark's article on The Ergonomics Of Sleep, I thought I too might try sleeping on the floor and see what would happen.

Now first off, I have been camping plenty in my lifetime. I have laid on soft forest floors, packed desert sand, soft desert sand, frozen tundra, hard linoleum floors and uneven dirt speckled with roots. But I had never slept on my back on the ground and thought about how I felt in the morning. So I had to redo the experiment :)

So on Friday I decided that I would take my afternoon nap on the floor, pseudo-futon style. I took the fluffiest comforter I have and folded it once and laid it on the floor, it was about 3" thick. I laid down under another comforter and first found it comfortable. But just like Clark points out in his article, I felt not physical discomfort but mental discomfort due to lack of familiarity. I usually crawl into bed and immediately curl up on my side, but the floor is not so forgiving as the mattress, making side sleeping less desirable.

An hour later I woke up still on my back. I was refreshed and completely cozy and comfortable. So much so that I repeated the experiment that night. Even with the extended time I was on the floor this second time I again woke up refreshed and comfortable without so much as a single kink.

The real comparison came LAST night when I went back to sleep again on my mattress. It's a pretty average mattress, more firm than soft without any gimmicks. Even still, I laid down on my back under the covers and immediately noticed how my hips had sunk into the mattress and I could feel a slight muscular tension in my low back as my body absorbed the misalignment. This morning I woke up, not with the immediate *ta-da! that I had when I slept on the floor but with the same slow and bleary wake-up I'm accustomed to.

Okay, so one nap and two nights sleep does not a conclusive scientific study make, but it does make an interesting point wouldn't you say? So what I'm thinking is that sleeping on the floor just may be beneficial for those of us that are front-loaded from sitting all day long and then want to exacerbate the postural problem by curling up at night. Now that I know that sleeping on the floor is not an uncomfortable thing to do, I am certainly going to take advantage of that. Bonus that it may have substantial health benefits including improved spinal alignment and circulation! I don't know about you but I could use a bit more of both!

Everyone's favorite part of a yoga practice is doing Savasana at the end. The favorite part is letting your muscles melting into the floor, the difficult part is staying awake and present and focused. So sleeping on the floor is the ultimate way to get the structural benefits of Savasana (Corpse pose) without needing to stay awake. Just let go and let your muscles melt off your bones into the floor for eight whole hours!

Sounds pretty, pretty sweet to me! Try floor sleeping as a nap first to see what you think, and then email me and let me know how it went!

With Fittest Intentions,


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  1. Interesting thought. I agree that often what we find so restful about sleep is that we find a place of familiarity in which we feel safe.

  2. This is very interesting. I do NOT wake up refreshed most mornings but attributed that to my adrenal fatigue/thyroid disease....however, I am a regular Yoga Nidra/Restorative Yoga fan -- and Savasana feel so refreshing and indeed, I am on my back for 15 minutes and feel very refreshed. I think I will try this experiment too. Thanks for posting such an interestingly provocative idea.

  3. In May 2012 we purchased a Tempur - Pedic Cloud king size bed. It was delivered the middle of June. We were warned about a possible odor, and told how to deal with it by the store employee. Nothing could have prepared us. The odor was so bad it made it hard to breath, even with the window open and a fan blowing on me. The bed is comfortable to sleep on though. I started having swelling and pain in my feet and ankles toward the end of June, but didn't even consider the bed as a culprit. Tempurpedic Mattresses