Sleeping on the Floor

This post was migrated from my Lifeblog.

Our Bed Our unorthodox sleeping space

One of the more unorthodox changes we’ve made recently is sleeping on the floor. Voluntarily.

It’s been an interesting journey that brought us here: Just two years ago, I was nothing less than appalled at the idea of not having a bed. Today, I love our simple little setup on the floor and am hoping we can continue to do this for the rest of our lives. What happened, and how did we get here?

We started out with the usual full sized bed. Even then, it was a simpler setup than most: a used bed frame with a few two-by-fours for support and a decent mattress; no box springs or mattress pads or fancy headboards. We were quite happy with our bed. However, the fact that it was stationary posed a problem from the very beginning. Our apartment back then leaked sound like a seive, and we were always trying to block out footsteps from above or music from below. By the end of our year-and-a-half stay, we were dragging the mattress from one room to another in search for some peace and quiet. At this point, we began to wonder why we had a bed frame. After all, we didn’t use it half the time. So we dismantled it. Then, we wondered why we were using a traditional mattress. It was heavy and quite a chore to move — why not a lighter one? So a few weeks before the move, we swapped it out for an air mattress.

We arrived in L.A. with just the air mattress and no plans to acquire a bed. I was quite proud of our spirit of minimalism. After all, how many people sleep on just an air mattress on the floor? It was light, it was mobile, and it was easily dismantled. I thought this was the culmination of our bedding adventures. I didn’t anticipate life pushing us yet another step ahead: Our air mattress sprung a leak. We examined the thing worriedly. It was a small puncture that could be fixed easily with super glue; but we didn’t have any on hand. Besides, a patch is never as good as the original. In the meantime, there was nothing to do but to spread out a quilt and sleep on the floor for the night.

The next morning, we discussed our experience, which was surprisingly positive. The hardness of the floor was a refreshing change from the extreme softness of the air mattress. Besides, the floor setup was even easier and more mobile. In the daytime, we could just bundle up our quilt like a knapsack and toss it in the corner. I went and bought some superglue and Spencer patched up the air mattress, but we unanimously agreed to keep sleeping on the floor.

Our Pillows Our makeshift pillows

After a few days, we were both sold on the idea, and we haven’t looked back since. There were certainly challenges. Since, the floor has no give, certain points on the body bear most of the weight. With my curvier female figure, those points are my hips (lying on my side) and my tailbone (lying on my back). They were sore for over a week, and during that time it was quite a chore finding a comfortable position. However, everything I had read indicated that bones strengthen to accommodate the burdens placed on them, so I was confident they would adjust shortly — and they did. Another challenge was the pillow situation. Because our air mattress had a built in pillow ledge, we hadn’t brought any pillows with us. I wasn’t fond of the idea of buying more – pillows take up a lot of space and are useless for anything else, so they’re definitely not minimalistic. Spencer suggested sleeping on towels, and though I wasn’t crazy about the idea, I gave it a try. I can’t say I loved it at first, but I’ve adjusted quite thoroughly. We now use a rolled-up thermal blanket as a giant shared pillow, and it works great.

I was immediately curious about my newfound habit and googled it to see what I could find. Healthwise, I’ve heard that sleeping on hard surfaces is better for the bones; makes sense from the perspective that bones adjust to the load they must bear. I found some encouraging anecdotes, but no conclusive evidence. Not unexpectedly, I did find a lot of discussion of the Japanese lifestyle, which is often cited by lifestyle minimalists as a source of inspiration. Now, I’m a bit begrudging to take anything from Japanese culture :D (see * below for explanation), but I like the way they go about their furniture. Everything is very minimalistic and mobile. One day, it may not be practical to sleep right on the floor — for example, if you have hardwood floors, you may have a lot of unsavory dust blowing about — so a slightly raised futon may be the way to go.

(*My grandmother, who raised me, lost half of her family in the Japanese invasion of China. I grew up with a very real dislike of the Japanese, though I’ve since realized it’s an outdated prejudice and treat it with detached humor. Spencer teases me relentlessly about it.)

I sincerely hope we can keep sleeping on the floor for the rest of our life. I have to wonder, though, whether I’ll be able to get up when I’m eight-and-a-half months pregnant. :) It’ll be quite a sight.

So, want to try it? :) I don’t imagine I’ll get many takers, but if you’re at all intrigued, it’s really easy. Just find a spare quilt and spread it out on the carpet; grab your usual bedding, and you’re all set up. I think it’s easier for men than women because of their less curvy proportions — my husband didn’t feel the transition at all. (Then again, my husband is an unusually hardy man.)

If you have any thoughts or insights, I’d love to hear it!