Sleep on the Floor for Back Pain

If you’re like most people, you’re conditioned to sleeping on a nice, comfortable mattress. While there’s nothing wrong with having something supportive to rest on after a long day, your mattress could be causing back pain. Sleeping on the floor is an option you may not have thought of if you’re living with chronic back pain. However, it’s important to consider whether floor sleeping is good for your back or not. A trusted Santa Monica back surgeon at The Spine Institute can examine how sleeping on the floor could be beneficial for your back.

Why Aren’t Mattresses Good for People with Chronic Back Pain?

Before we get into a discussion on floor sleeping, let’s examine why a mattress might not be good for your back if you have lingering spine-related pain. The average person spends more than 200,000 hours sleeping during a lifetime, and awkward sleeping positions often contribute to aches and pains in or around the back and neck. Muscle strain, the most common cause of back pain, sometimes places enough added pressure on the spine to affect discs and nerves. A plush, comfortable mattress may contribute to back pain by:

  • Affecting the body’s natural movements
  • Placing the spine in unnatural positions
  • Contributing to the muscle stiffness responsible for aches and pains experienced when waking up

How Does Sleeping on the Floor Help Your Spine?

Sleeping on the floor puts the spine in a position that’s beneficial for the stabilizer muscles, which are smaller muscles that support the body’s weight. The perfect flatness of the floor also places light pressure on the back-supporting muscles similar to what you might experience with a massage. Floor sleeping may help your back by:

  • Keeping your spine in a neutral position
  • Minimizing the cushioning that sometimes impedes natural sleep movements
  • Evenly placing pressure on your spine
  • Contributing to a better night’s sleep that promotes the healing of tissues in your spine

How Do You Prepare for Floor Sleeping?

Some people associate floor sleeping with camping and sleeping bags. However, sleeping on the floor doesn’t have to be a rustic experience to be effective. You may find shifting to ground level uncomfortable at first until you get used to it. As you make the transition to floor sleeping, there are some things you can do to maintain your comfort:

  • Place a mat or blanket on the floor to sleep on so you’ll still have some cushioning under you
  • Make an effort to sleep on your back to maintain a neutral position (even if you are normally a side or stomach sleeper)
  • Give your body time to adjust to sleeping on a hard surface that retains your natural spinal alignment*

*You may wake up with stiffness or discomfort at first, but these sensations should go away over time as your spine adjusts.

When your discomfort reaches a point where it’s chronic (lasting 3-4 months or more), consider trying different options like sleeping on the floor. If you’re not keen on the idea of ditching your mattress to gain a more productive night’s sleep, another possibility is to choose a pillow that doesn’t elevate your head as much so your spine will retain its natural alignment. Sleeping with a pillow under your knees or on a body pillow may achieve the same goal.

No matter the source of your chronic back pain, it’s important to meet with a spine specialist to find out if you might need a minimally invasive spinal procedure such as fusion surgery or cervical disc replacement surgery. Santa Monica residents can get in touch with The Spine Institute at 310-828-7757 to schedule an appointment.