The cold, hard embrace of the floor

For the last three weeks or so, I’ve been sleeping at the foot of the bed. Like, on the floor. It’s been amazing!

I keep a wool blanket and a thin duvet underneath me to insulate and, well, soften it up a bit. Apart from that, it’s hard. I’ve learned to love it. It’s a sort of tough love I guess, because I still find a soft mattress really comfortable. It’s more of a support thing.

Allow me to explain.

I’ve long been interested in the paleo movement. At one point I was a total paleo ideologue, as I used to be a fierce vegan, but I’ve since put that behind me because culture and ideology are not my friends. However, even though I consciously abstain from identifying with ideologies, it doesn’t mean I can’t find meaningful concepts within them.

As you may know, the paleo diet (or caveman diet) is all about eating foods that we would theoretically have been eating before the agricultural revolution circa 8000 BCE. That’s what most people think of when the word paleo is mentioned, but the rabbit hole is deeper than that, because paleo can be expanded to include our entire lifestyle.

In the case of my sleeping on the floor, I reckoned that people probably weren’t sleeping on 2000 dollar memory foam mattresses during the last ice-age.

Sure, people probably used leaves and hides to keep themselves warm and comfortable, but the firm embrace of the earth was never far away. The problem with modern western sleeping habits is the lack of support.

After I started to wake up with all kinds of aches in my back and neck about a year ago, I began researching what could be wrong. I tried memory foam pillows, sleeping with a cushion between my legs, and what have you. Nothing helped, at least not much.

I eventually stumbled upon this little article on the way members of modern hunter-gatherer societies (these peoples’ lives are arguably very similar to pre-agricultural life) usually sleep. Strikingly, there doesn’t seem to be a usual way to sleep in these cultures.

In these societies, people often sleep wherever they happen to find themselves. On stacks of firewood, on fallen trees, or just on the ground.

They don’t sleep 8 hours in one bound, instead some will fall asleep very early, just after sun-down, and then wake again in the night for quiet reflection before eventually falling back to sleep. Interesting stuff.

What struck me the most was that it is in fact not only possible to not sleep on a mattress, but people have actually been sleeping on hard surfaces for most of human existence! As with so many other luxuries of materialist society, there’s a fine line between being comfortable and going way over the top.

Sleeping on a nice soft mattress is incredibly comfortable, but what are the consequences of sleeping on such a soft surface every night for thirty or forty years?

From my own, admittedly short, experience with sleeping on a very hard surface, I can say that I’ve been waking up feeling better rested, less stiff, and even less groggy. It’s not fixed all my back and neck pain, but it’s definitely a step up.

Another thing I read somewhere was that by lying on a hard surface, it gets easier for you to breath deeper into your abdomen, whereas on a softer surface your hips will sink down, effectively folding your body up and preventing full breathing. I’ve definitely noticed that, and I think it’s one of the main reasons I’m feeling more rested upon awakening.

This guy has loads of answers as to why sleeping on a soft surface is detrimental and ways to start to transition. You may be pleasantly surprised if you try it out.

Until next time, much love.

5 Replies to “The cold, hard embrace of the floor”

    1. I can certainly believe that, although my apartment is on the third floor so I’m quite far from the earth. I feel very good sleeping in a tent with not much underneath me, very close to the ground. Thanks for your comment!

      1. Our experiences match — I’ve actually been in a tent through much of this winter, and have been homeless in the past. I’m not strong, and you’d think those situations would have made me very ill. Big surprise that the opposite occurs. One finds references to it occasionally — O Henry has a short story in which a rachitic cowboy regains his health that way. The Chinese believe that any space left between a bed and the floor/ground is utilized by demons — gives a whole new slant to Western kids’ monsters under the bed, eh?

        1. That’s amazing info. I’ve been trying to go barefoot when I can for the last few days because I read an article about barefooter Lynne Allbutt where she talks about the healing aspects of being in direct contact with the earth. It feels incredible but I’d like to do a lot more of it. Seems to follow the same line of thought. I’ll have to explore sleeping closer to the ground for myself.

          1. Direct barefoot contact is grounding to electromagnetic buildup in the body which creates the “static” resistance by which many of our efforts are undone. There must be an auric advantage as well, since when we sleep on the ground we insulate ourselves from dampness.

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