When it comes to a blissful, calming sleep, most of us imagine a soft, inviting bed. But if you have back pain interrupting your sleep, you may have slept on the floor every now and then for some kind of comfort.
While you may feel better in the short term, you may be wondering if sleeping on the floor is really good for you. According to Ramiz Fargo, MD, sleep disorder center medical director and sleep medic at Loma Linda University Health, there are no studies to show that sleeping on the floor can be beneficial, and anecdotal evidence varies. “Some people say that firm support from the floor will reduce their back pain, but you run the risk of making the pain worse without proper support,” he says.
Why a solid surface can be good
Instead of resorting to a hard floor to relieve your back pain, it may be better to adjust your current bed situation. A 2015 review suggested that medium-firm mattresses are best for relieving spinal pain. (There were no specific criteria for what called a mattress “medium firm” – people in the studies subjectively determined how firm their mattresses were.)
This makes sense because a firmer mattress (as opposed to a soft one) promotes better alignment of the spine and can improve the quality of sleep, says MH consultant Daniel Giordano, DPT, CSCS, co-founder of Bespoke Treatments. Both good alignment and the quality of sleep can help relieve back pain. Some also believe that sleeping on a firmer surface like the floor will help with sciatica or posture problems, although research has not confirmed this.
“One caveat is that it’s hard to tell whether it’s the firmness of the mattress that helps you avoid pain, or whether less pain is due to better sleep,” he says. “It makes sense that when you switch from a soft to a firm mattress, or even sleep on the floor, you will experience less pain because you move more instead of being stuck in one position.” (Check out Giordano’s top here. Exercises to help you avoid back pain.)
Why sleeping on the floor might not be so great
For some people, sleeping on the floor can even make or cause increased back pain. “Also, sleeping on the floor or hard surface can make the pain worse if you have joint pain or arthritis, and it may not be the best idea – it can also put too much pressure on certain areas and cut off blood flow. “Says Giordano.
Not only that, if you suffer from allergies or other breathing problems, lying on the floor will likely increase your exposure to irritants like dust and mold, which could make your symptoms worse. While it may feel good to sleep on a cold floor in the hot summer months, it can quickly lower body heat in the winter, making you feel colder and more prone to disease, especially if you are already suffering from conditions that make you feel colder , such as anemia, hypothyroidism, and diabetes. It is also best not to sleep on the floor with a child or baby for safety reasons.
Optimize the quality of sleep wherever you sleep
Since better sleep is associated with less pain, Giordano recommends doing whatever you can to improve your sleeping environment, whether it be by changing mattresses, turning down the thermostat, lowering the screen time than usual, and keeping your room as dark as possible. But ultimately, if sleeping on the floor improves your sleeping situation, then you should. “Ultimately,” says Giordano, “whatever leads to better, undisturbed sleep will help you feel better in the morning.”
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