Floor Sleeping vs. The Modern Mattress

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Don’t want to read? CLICK HERE to watch “Floor Sleeping With Ehlers Danlos / My Personal Experience “

The Modern Mattress

Origin Of The Mattress

According to an article in Smithsonian, the world’s oldest mattress dates back to 77,000 years ago and was made out of grass (1). Between then and 1899, the invention of the spring mattress, the mattresses continued to be constructed from natural fibers such as leaves, animal hair, and cotton. These mattresses  acted more like mild floor cushions than the modern fluffy padding we are used to today.

In the early 1900’s, the sleep industry was born out of James Marshall’s spring mattress invention (2). It’s clear that in the scheme of human evolution, the modern mattress is a very recent additional to societal norms. So how do we know it’s really a necessary piece of furniture???

Medical Advice On Mattresses

Medical advice on mattresses varies greatly. More than anything the studies suggest that everyones body is unique and there is no one mattress or sleep position that’s best for all. The most conclusive study from Sleep Health used the data from over two dozen studies to conclude that, ” a mattress that is subjectively identified as a medium-firm mattress and is custom inflated (self-adjusted) is optimal for promoting sleep comfort, quality, and spinal alignment (3).”

Sleeping On Hard Surfaces

Anthropological Perspective

Surprisingly there’s has barely been any scientific research on the concept of floor sleeping. The main article sited on this topic is from an anthropological perspective. The study collected data on sleeping positions of people around the world and concluded that “forest dwellers, nomads, and tribal people in several different cultures typically sleep on the floor, without pillows, and tend to suffer fewer musculoskeletal problems than their western bed-loving counterparts” and that “low back pain and joint stiffness is markedly reduced by adopting natural sleeping and resting postures (4).”

Spinal Alignment

The anthropological analysis suggests that humans may have over time evolved joint protective mechanisms along with being forced to sleep on a hard surfaces. A firm surface applies pressure evenly throughout the body. It can be thought of as a way for the nervous system to realign itself with gravity by releasing unnecessary muscle tension .

Click here to watch a vide about why sleeping on the floor is better for spinal health and can improve many causes of back pain.

Click here to watch a chiropractic doctors perspective on floor sleeping. There are many  benefits to floor sleeping or sleeping on a firm surface. However, there are several extra precautions to take in order to keep your body properly supported aligned throughout the night.

The Nishi Shiki System

Sleeping on a hard surface is one of the corner stones of the Nishi Shiki health system.  This system is a group of six health exercises designed  to activate  bodily function. It was founded in 1927 by Katsuzō Nishi, who has a quite a fascinating life story of persevering through his own medical issues at a young age (5).  [I’ll have to do a whole new review to investigate this system] For now all I know is that it has no real evidence,  I have no personal experience with the model, but it is fascinating that an entire principles of health would be  dedicated to sleeping on a hard surface.

Is Floor Sleeping For You?

floor sleeping with supportsNot everyone is designed for floor sleeping the following video discusses both the benefits and the potential risks to floor sleeping. Floor sleeping depends on your individual body type and tolerance of the mild discomfort that comes with the beginning stages of becoming a floor sleeper. The most important thing that everyone should consider, is keeping your body in a supported position that’s  as close to a neutral joint alignment. Or, if not neutral at least having as much pressure as possible  removed from the joints under stress. Common suggestions includes elevating the knees, adding a slight cushion under the lumbar spine, and using a neck roll as opposed to a pillow.

Should You Sleep On The Floor Instead Of A Bed? 

veiw from bedExperience From A Passionate Floor Sleeper

Click here to watch “Floor Sleeping With Ehlers Danlos / My Personal Experience “




1) Smithsonian Magazine


2) Wikipedia “Mattress”


3) Sleep Health Journal

Radwan A1, Fess P2, James D2, Murphy J2, Myers J2, Rooney M2, Taylor J2, Torii A2.2015 Dec;1(4):257-267. doi: 10.1016/j.sleh.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Oct 19.


4) US National Library of Medicine

Michael Tetley, “Instinctive sleeping and resting postures: an anthropological and zoological approach to treatment of low back and joint pain.”  US National Library of Medicine. National Institutes of Health


5) Wikipedia “Nishi Shiki”


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