Sleeping on the floor: tatami mats

Sleeping on the floor on tatami mat

Tatami is a traditional Japanese mat used for flooring material in Japanese-style rooms. It is also a great solution for someone looking to transition from sleeping on the bed to sleeping on the floor, but would like a layer if insulation.

Traditional Japanese Tatamis are made of rice straw and covered with woven soft rush (a type of plant), so they are fully natural. (Although contemporary tatami are often filled with wood chips or foam.) A typical tatami mat is about 910mm x 1820 mm, but there are 4 different tatami sizes that are used for flooring. Tatami’s a very hard mat, and Japanese traditionally used a futon (a type of Japanese mattress) placed on top of tatami as their bed.

A lot of people in the floor sleeping community use futons for sleeping on the floor. Sometimes people even say they sleep on tatami when what they really mean is that they sleep on the futon. Futon is very much like a mattress. It’s just harder than a regular mattress and it doesn’t have springs. However, it cannot be considered a hard surface and will pose the same issues that sleeping on the mattress does. Your body will not achieve the ideal alignment, and you won’t have as many benefits (if at all) even sleeping on the floor, if what you really sleep on is a futon. Thus, I would not recommend sleeping on a futon.

I do recommend a tatami, however. It’s a perfect hard surface to sleep on. It will allow your body natural alignment and relaxation. If you sleep on tatami, your muscles will relax and stretch, your hips and shoulders realign, and you will get all the benefits of sleeping on the floor with the added insulation. Made of natural materials, tatamis are beneficial for your sleep in a few ways.

Sleeping on tatami mats – Sound proofing

Tatami mats, created of tightly woven straw, are 5 cm thick and posses unique sound isolation qualities. If you sleep on the floor, and there is any noise in the room below you, you will hear that noise. Tatami will help you in that situation by providing a thick soundproof layer between you and the floor, so you can enjoy your piece and quiet and throw out your earplugs.

Heat isolation

For the same reasons, tatami mats are great for keeping you warm on the floor, even in cold season. You will still need your blanket, but you won’t feel the cold surface of the floor under your body.

Sleeping on tatami mats: moisture and mold

A good natural tatami has unique humidity control qualities. The straw that it’s made of can absorb extra moisture from the air, as well as from your body. Because of that, it is good practice to regularly dry your tatami in the sun, to help get rid of that moisture and prevent mold.  You don’t want to be sleeping in a mouldy environment.

Tatami mats are ecologically sustainable

Do you like making green choices? Well, tatami is just the choice for you! They are absolutely eco-sustainable. As opposed to wooden furniture, that requires destroying a 50-60-year-old tree, tatami mats are made of rice straws, that take only one season to produce. Tatamis are easily biodegradable. In addition to that, in Japan old tatamis are often re-used to create new tatami mats. Tatami mats can last for a few decades without any unnatural chemical treatments, which also reduces impact on environment. Can this get any more eco-friendly?

Sleep in style!

Have you ever dreamt of going to Japan? Maybe it’s time for Japan to come to you! Apart from all the other benefits, a tatami mat will add a bit of Japanese style to your bedroom 😉 Now you just have to get some bonsai and plant a sakura out your window.

Sleeping on the floor: Where can I buy a tatami?

If you were in Japan, you’d probably easily find a tatami mat in a nearby store. However if you live outside of Japan, your best bet is probably Amazon. Here is a quick overview of some of the well-reviewed tatami out there.

Traditional Igusa Tatami Mat (Twin Size). This tatami mat is made of 100% Rush Grass. (Grown in Japan). It measures 39 x 83 x 0.5 in and can be folded in three. (Folding size: 39 x 27.5 x 1.5 in.) It will also fit your twin bed if you desire to keep sleeping on the bed but also create a harder surface for yourself.  4.4 out of 5 stars.

Queen Tatami Mat by Oriental Furniture. This Queen-sized tatami mat measures 60″ wide by 80″ long. It’s produced from Japanese Rush Grass with a double layer top for extra protection, and has a moisture-resistant barrier. It has a nice grassy smell that won’t be overbearing and will diffuse with time. The mat is hard and sturdy as a tatami should be.  It has 3.7 stars out of 5 and boasts good quality, fast shipping and good customer service!

Igusa Mattress Indigenous Tatami mat set. This one comes straight from Japan. A little more pricey than others but if you want authenticity, you’ll have to pay extra for import fees and shipping.

The size of this mat is 32.3″ x 32.3″ x 0.6″ per one square, total size of the set: about 64.6″ x 96.9″ x 0.6″ , total weight is about 21 lb. This mat boasts natural tatami smell, excellent relaxation qualities and perfect hardness for sleeping on the floor. It is also very easy to fold/take apart for storage purposes. If you have a smaller room and want to put your bed away for the day, this would be a pretty good choice. 4.6 out of 5 stars average rating on Amazon.

How to clean your tatami

Now that you’ve got your tatami, how are you going to maintain it? Here is a bit of advice.

You can vacuum your tatami, or wipe it with dry cloth. If you decide to vacuum it, do it along the grain so as not to damage the surface of the mat. To do a deeper cleaning, wipe your tatami with a dry cloth. Never wipe it with wet cloth as tatamis are susceptible to developing mold issues. You can use a small amount of vinegar on the cloth to further sanitize the mat.

How to prevent mold in your room.

Very rarely a tatami can pose an issue of mold, especially in particularly humid climates. To prevent this, try to keep humidity in the room to the minimum. Open air vents or window, or use a fan on especially humid days. Check your window frames regularly, and wipe them with dry cloth. Do the same with your tatami. Use de-humidifiers. Make sure your bathroom is well-ventilated after you take a shower.

6 Facts about tatami mats.

1. It takes an hour for a special machine to weave a tatami mat out of rice straw.

2. In Japan, you can never step on a tatami mat with your shoes on!

3. Tatami mats were first mentioned in the Nara period (710-794), in the oldest Japanese book, “Record of Ancient Matters”, written in 712.

4. Since tatami is used as flooring, room sizes in Japan are often measured in tatami.

5. For a long time, tatami mats were only used by the rich! It was only in the 17th century that tatami became a part of every home, including commoners.

6. Tatami mats have a faint grassy smell which is completely natural and usually not very overbearing. If your new tatami smell disturbs you, you can air it out or just let it be in the open (inside the house) for a few days/weeks. The smell will mostly disappear as time goes by.


Note: I am not a doctor and do not have professional knowledge of medicine/health of various systems of the body. This article is based on online research combined with personal experience of myself and other people. I do not provide medical advice or any type of guarantee. I also care about your health safety. If you know of a reason that prohibits you from sleeping on the floor, please do not do it. If your doctor told you not to sleep on hard surfaces, please do not do it. (Unless you do your own research and understand the risks for your potential condition.)

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