Sleeping on the floor: pain relief, better sleep, better mood – interview with Chad Stewart

I am very excited about today’s post because I am interviewing someone very special about the art and benefits of sleeping on the floor. This someone special is Chad Stewart, the author of the awesome blog FITE4, where he writes about fitness, nutrition, lifestyle, health, finance, hypothyroidism, entrepreneurship and other interesting topics. I discovered Chad when I found his own article on sleeping on the floor (check it out!) and now I am a constant reader.

After discovering that Chad is a fellow floor sleeper, I reached out to see if he would be willing to share his experience with you, my readers. He was very kind to reach back, and today I am happy to present some of his insights on hard surface sleeping and how it can benefit your health and well-being!

Without further ado, here is the interview:

Hi Chad! Great to have you on the blog! Can you tell us a little about yourself? :) 

chad's photoMy name is Chad Stewart. I’m a fitness buff, and advocate for people with hypothyroidism, and those looking to reverse type II diabetes naturally through dietary changes. I’m from Ontario, Canada near Toronto, and work as a busy independent online content writer. This has made growing my blog at difficult, but I’m trying to change this. My ultimate goal is to evolve from writing for others, to creating exclusive content of my own that helps motivate people to make improvements in their own life.

I’ve lived and learned lots, and am still a work in progress. The nature of what I do for a living is actually what got me sleeping on the floor, and I’ll be happy to describe this in a moment. People can also hit me up on Instagram @fite4health. I just started using it recently, but plan on posting lots in the future, answering questions, and doing my best to help people improve their lifestyle.

How old are you? (You don’t have to answer that one if you don’t like this question :)

I’m 40 years old and will be turning 41 in December.

How long have you been sleeping on the floor(/or other hard surfaces)?

I’ve been sleeping on the floor for over a year now, I believe. I’m single, so this lifestyle has been easy to implement, even though I’m still “forced” to sleep on a bed occasionally.

What made you first try sleeping on the floor/hard surface? Did you have any health issues/ pain related to back/neck prior to sleeping on the floor?

There were a couple of factors that led me down this path:

My mattress at the time, which hilariously had “chiropractic” in the name, made me sink down into it unnaturally in all the wrong places. I think most beds do this, which puts the neck and back out of alignment for however long you sleep. Basically, my entire torso sank into the bed, and caused a lot of neck, lower back, and even hip pain. I also found I was spending ten or more hours in bed due to constantly waking and having to stretch out those areas and then wait to fall back asleep — I was basically in pain and exhausted 24/7.

I do work online, so you can imagine the time I spend sitting at a desk. I never really had much pain working in the labor job I had leading up to 2009 when I started freelance writing. So, other people’s mileage may vary if they sleep on a mattress and don’t experience any pain. I actually got a standing desk, and stand for several hours while working, but this didn’t help much at all.

I’d tried rigorous stretching, and work out religiously. Neither of those factors helped relieve the constant pain. My neck was always stiff and my lower back often slipped a disk or two in a specific area if I bent or turned the wrong way. This made life debilitating for several weeks out of each year for about 7 years leading up to converting to floor sleeping.

What was your experience when you first started sleeping on the floor? Was it easy to adjust? Did you use a mat / blanket / anything for cushioning? Did you use a pillow?

I started out by chucking my mattress in the trash. This solidified my commitment — I’m an all-or-nothing kind of guy! Honestly, it (floor sleeping) wasn’t great at first. Which I’ve read from others, and firmly believe is the reason most people seeking to rid themselves of pain and sleep more efficiently tend to give up too early. I started with a simple blanket and a pillow. Honestly, I barely slept at all for three nights in a row, and managed a few hours the fourth night. This was due to sheer exhaustion, lol!

Sleeping right on the floor, with zero cushion was actually causing me a lot of hip pain, as I’m a side sleeper. I’m sure back sleepers wouldn’t have my issue. This was like a surface/flesh kind of pain, not joint related. I think because the majority of a side sleeper’s weight is concentrated on the hips and shoulders. My shoulder blade area was also sore.

I decided sleeping on a really hard surface wasn’t for me. Actually, when you consider it, our bodies aren’t conditioned to sleep on concrete, right? We’ve evolved sleeping on the ground for most of our existence. So, I bought a single 1/2 inch yoga mat that was on sale and put a blanket on it. This really helped a lot and my back and hip pain started to disappear, but my neck and shoulder blades were still out of whack. I bought another 1/2 yoga mat and placed in on top of the other. This didn’t improve my comfort any further, but I was definitely doing less tossing and turning, and also started quickly waking up more refreshed.

I also started sleeping for seven hours or less a night, as even though floor sleeping is perfectly comfortable, I personally don’t feel like lounging around in the morning. In fact, prior the last few years, I was always a guy that woke before the alarm and jumped out of bed ready to get after the day. Getting back to my neck and shoulder pain, I realised it was my trusty old big and puffy pillow (a type many of you will note is labelled for side sleepers in the store).

The pillow was cranking up my head to the point where it was touching my shoulder. I bought a rather pricey bamboo pillow I found in store, which had a much smaller profile, but enough cushion to keep my head from crushing on my shoulder all night long. All in all, it took me two weeks to adjust and get everything dialled in and comfy. The lower profile pillow was the last piece of the puzzle.

If you still sleep on the floor, what did it feel like after you have adjusted? Did you notice positive changes in how easy/hard it was to sleep on the floor?

I rarely get any pain anymore, other than occasional neck strain when I have to work more than ten hours, and get sloppy with my posture. I have a standing desk for working and spend about seven hours standing, three hours sitting, and three hours working out and walking my dog during the day. To me, I get the need for a little foam or other form of padding for comfort and warmth, but the idea of a mattress bed is silly to me now.

Perhaps if I could find a mattress that mimics how sleeping on my thin foam yoga mats feel, I’d consider trying it. However, there are other things that bother me about beds now after converting, such as how they collect dead skin and bodily fluids. I change my sheets and sanitise the yoga mats regularly, and they also don’t hold onto heat like a mattress does. This isn’t an issue for everyone, but I was often awoken by the need to vent some of the heat from my body, which I now know was largely due to the mattress.

What positive changes have you noticed after you started sleeping on the floor? Did you see any changes in your back/neck health / posture / quality of sleep / lessening of pain / better mood ?

Everything improved. I already answered most of this question, but I’ll add the fact that I was really bummed out about all the pain, and time I was losing from my ten-plus hour stint in bed every night. Now, I’m getting more work done, making more money, and getting closer to success. Probably sounds over-the-top, but it’s true in my case.

Definitely better mood in all aspects because I’m not in pain, and don’t feel like a lazy bum sleeping all the time. Back is never sore, nor are my hips. Only occasional neck pain, which is just minor and might just be because I’m getting old! Who knows?

What do you think about sleeping with or without a pillow? Do you yourself use a pillow?

This is another question I answered, but I’ll add that I think it’s highly personal. My advice would be to try without for a few nights if you’re a back sleeper, as a pillow might strain the neck. I cannot sleep on my back unless I pass out from exhaustion, and haven’t done so in years. Unfortunately, I can’t offer tried and true advice for this group.

For a side sleeper, I believe some cushion between your head and shoulder is probably smart because a lack of anything does the same thing my big puffy pillow did: creates unnatural strain on the neck. Rather than making the head sit too high, it makes my head sink down too low. I know this might not make sense to those who’ve never or rarely slept on the floor, but give it a try and you’ll notice a thin pillow or throw cushion keeps your neck more straight. Be prepared to do as Goldilocks did and try a few until you find one that’s just right for you!

How does your family / partner feel about you sleeping on the floor? (if applicable).

As mentioned, I’m single. I could see my sleeping preferences being a problem when/if I find a long time partner. My family and friends don’t get it. When I tell new friends or strangers I sleep on the floor, they look at me like I’m a psychopath. You know, like when someone tells you they only take ice cold showers?

Times when I’ve slept at a friend or family member’s home, they naturally figure I’m trying to be polite or something requesting the floor, and I’ve had some light-hearted arguments with people over this. The concept of floor sleeping is just so unconventional to the majority of people.

Why do you think sleeping on the floor works so well?

I think it’s more natural than a bed, unless that bed is only only slightly cushioned — Ie., doesn’t have much give. A bed will always sink down too much in the areas where most of our body weight is located (the torso), forcing the spine and hips out of alignment. Remember, we sleep for (at least) a third of our lives. Again, we mostly evolved sleeping on the ground.

I don’t know when the first mattress was developed, but I doubt more than a few hundred years ago, and we’ve been evolving for millions of years. Even considering how the spine is put together, sleeping in that way just doesn’t make anymore sense than slouching in a chair, or while we walk — which everyone knows is bad for our health.

Do you ever sleep on soft surfaces (in bed) and how do you feel after?

I’ve spent a few nights since I began this little journey sleeping on conventional mattresses, and always missed my floor bed. To be honest, going back to a mattress would be very difficult long term. I actually feel the same way after sleeping in a bed as I did the first couple of weeks sleeping on the floor!

Do you think you will continue sleeping on the floor forever?

If I have any say in it, definitely. I will say that sex on the floor long term isn’t comfortable, so, a bed or couch does have a useful purpose. If it were to become a necessity, the mattress would have to be extremely firm.

Even then, I couldn’t make any promises. I truly love sleeping on the floor and considering that: why would I spend the (likely) thousands needed to get a bed that could meet my needs?

What are the best things in your experience that sleeping on the floor can do for your health? Would you recommend other people to try sleeping on the floor?

There isn’t a big list of benefits I can offer, but the few I can mention offer such positive impacts on health and well-being:

It can, and in my case did relieve all my back, neck, and hip pain. My pain was largely due to lifestyle and my bed. Since the pain disappeared and I’m working more than ever, I can confidently say a desk job wasn’t the source of my problems. Likelihood is that I started working at a desk at 31, and time likely just caught up with me, exposing the fact that my back was fighting a battle every night. People reading this need to understand that just because you’ve been conditioned to associate sleeping with a mattress, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you.

It’s easy to lounge in a warm mattress in the morning, or spend too much time sleeping due to the pain and tossing and turning it can cause. When you wake up on the floor, at least in my case, you’re awake. It’s also cool, though more blankets could solve this. I like the cool aspect, personally. Sleep should be treated like we’re all supposed to treat food: It’s supposed to be restorative and promote healing. In my opinion, you shouldn’t waste a single second more than you have to sleeping or lounging in bed. Life’s too short.

I definitely recommend sleeping on the floor. If you truly want the benefits, prepare to do battle with that floor for a week or two! Floor sleeping might not be for everyone reading this, but you can’t just expect results overnight, or for it to be supremely comfortable the first time you try it. Give it a month at least, then reassess.

Well, this is it. Thank you so much for the interview, Chad! It was fantastic to have you on the blog. Happy floor sleeping :)