For a while, my sleep has really sucked.
I’ve been waking up groggy and in pain. Ask my why, and I’ll tell you I’m not sleeping well. Obviously, you say. But rather than dish out a small fortune for the latest “smart” mattress or set of pillows, I wanted to see if there was a road less traveled in the world of sleep.
In my quest for a solution to my insomnia and aches and pains, I searched online to find numerous results on the topic of floor sleeping. While there’s little to no scientific evidence that points to improved sleep from sleeping on the floor, there are some cultures that prefer the hard ground over the plush mattresses of the West.
Do they know something we don’t? Desperate for a solution, I wanted to find out. So, I decided to try crashing on the floor for two weeks and journal my slumber results — without my husband, unfortunately. But, hey, a girl’s gotta sleep.
Mentally, my first night felt closer to a slumber party than a school night. Following a technique that I found online, I positioned myself flat on my back with my knees slightly bent. I normally sleep in the fetal position, so it was a challenge.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: My first night of sleep was horrible. But, what struck me as odd was in spite of a sore shoulder, I did get some solid REM sleep. This tells me that while my body might’ve physically taken a hit, my mind didn’t.
Emotionally, I was off to a good start. Physically, there was (a lot) of room for improvement.
It’s worth noting that I had a dream so vivid that it haunted me the entire next morning. I dreamed that I bought a used van from a carpeted outdoor dealership. Maybe my subconscious was begging for a return to my cushiony mattress?
I shared my sleep experiment with my co-workers the next morning, capturing the interest of a fellow back-sleeper and sleep-sufferer. They offered a very helpful tip (outside of abandoning my experiment altogether): Try using a foam roller or stick to help loosen any muscles in my lower and upper shoulder muscles.
Before I crawled into my makeshift bed, I took a foam roller up and down my lower back over and over again for about five minutes. Like a good massage or chiropractic adjustment, my body and mind felt relaxed and in sync enough to go to sleep. I followed the same nightly routine the next night, hoping I might be able to finally realize the benefits of sleeping on your back.
However, the rest of my body refused to cooperate. I woke up with horrendous shoulder pain and what can be best described as purgatory for people caught between fetal and back-sleeping positions. To date, it was the worst night of sleep so far.
The plan was to sleep in past 6 a.m., so I didn’t stress too much about an earlier bedtime. My shoulder pain was a bit better after going to town with a foam roller earlier in the day.
I also was able to stay on my back throughout the night, but my knees were still not bent long enough for the support needed. On the plus side, my dream cycle didn’t disappoint, and I experienced more vivid dreams.
Zero trouble falling asleep on night five, but staying asleep was a bit harder. I did have a few glasses of vino at my husband’s birthday party, so that might’ve been the culprit. Still, I did wake feeling rested. My neck and back were slightly less stiff, but not enough to rave about.
The next night was more disappointing. I couldn’t get into a comfortable position. I used my trusty roller to loosen up my lower lumbar region of my back, and that did the trick. I slept through the night and woke up with minimal issues, although my REM sleep did taper off a bit.
I was out like a light until 2 a.m. when a series of very vivid nightmares played out. I guess my lucid dreams are a double-edged sword. All the tossing and turning took a bit of toll on my body. One week in, and I’m still adjusting. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?
Make no mistake: No amount of sleeping on the floor is going to curb your anxiety. I had a big presentation at work the following morning, and in spite of having a back that felt great and nearly accustomed to floor sleeping, I could not fall asleep.
My anxiety also messed up the great REM sleep that I’d been experiencing. The next night, I was so exhausted from the prior night from hell, that I had no trouble rolling onto my back and drifting to slumber land. I slept so hard that I didn’t hear my alarm clock for the first few minutes it’d been going off.
For the first time, I actually trust that I’ll get a good night’s sleep on the floor. After getting some much-needed rest after a whirlwind weekend, I woke from my floor palette feeling amazing with no shoulder or back pain. Should I start redecorating my bedroom for a sans-mattress look?
I twisted my back while lifting weights earlier in the day. Before I could even think about sleeping, I had to spend some time using my foam roller on my back. I did wake feeling rested, and while my back was sore, it wasn’t painful. Victory!
I did the same the next day, feeling doubly sure I wouldn’t have any issues. As planned, I got plenty of rest and was ready to take on the day.
As night 13 rolls around, I can honestly say I’m enjoying my new routine. As I enjoy another night of solid slumber, I don’t even miss my mattress.
My last night of sleep was one for the books. I slept soundly and awoke feeling refreshed. Despite the first rocky week, I don’t think I can sleep anywhere else but the floor at this point. I might be a changed woman.
I have to admit that my initial approach to floor sleeping was entered with trepidation and skepticism, but after two weeks I’m a believer.
Surprisingly, my biggest takeaway was the deep sleep I experienced coupled with lucid dreams that lingered past breakfast into lunch. Whether it’s the floor, new sleeping position, or both, this new routine helped me get better, deeper sleep and wake up more rested.
With the experiment over and being less than thrilled about ditching the mattress for the floor, my husband asked me to back to bed. So, I went back to my old routine for a week… And then the back and neck pain hit. It was so bad that the only place I found relief was on the floor. Sorry, husband, I’m back to full-time floor sleeping. Remember: Happy wife, happy life.
Before starting any new health routine, please consult your physician first.
Angela Cavallari Walker is a writer, mom, runner, and wannabe foodie who hates onions. When she’s not running with scissors, you can find her in the mountains of Colorado hanging out with her family. Find out what else she’s up to by following her on Instagram or Twitter.