When it comes to unnatural positions that cause bad posture and back pain, one of the biggest things to look for is the amount of time spent in different positions throughout your day.
Everyone knows that hunching over a computer will lead to bad posture and a hunched back, but 5 minutes per day spent hunched over a computer obviously won’t have have nearly as many bad effects as 5 hours per day.
And there is a particular apparatus that you use every single day – probably more than any other apparatus in your life: your bed.
In this post you are going to learn why our modern beds are so damaging to our bodies, and what you can do about it.
The Bed – 8 Hours Per Day
This is the kind of thing that we don’t stop to give any thought to. For 8 hours per day (give or take), we lay unconsciously in this thing called a bed. Worse, we don’t give any consideration to what type of bed we should choose other than based on comfort – what feels good.
We all know that we shouldn’t take this approach to things like food. If I chose my food based solely on what tastes good, I would be eating Honey Buns and Big Macs drenched in ketchup every day. And If I was to choose a bed based on this criteria, I would undoubtedly choose one of those memory foam mattresses or maybe a waterbed.
But making lifestyle choices based solely on what feels good in the moment nearly always come at a great cost down the road, as the cumulative effects of our bad choices catch up to us.
When we lay in a soft bed, our back, hips, and shoulders curve and sink into it. Just like hunching over a computer all day, this causes a tremendous amount of strain on our bodies.
So What is a Proper Bed?
When thinking about the optimal or proper sleeping surface, it is always a good idea to check with Mother Nature to see what she has prescribed for her children. In nature, most animals sleep on the ground. Of course, some sleep underground in burrows, some sleep on tree branches, and some sleep while hanging from something. Birds build nests to sleep in. Apes will make “beds” of leaves.
However, none of them sleep on a 6-inch cotton mattress, or on top of a bunch of springs, or on anything that contours to the body. They all sleep on something firm. Even a bed of leaves is pretty firm. Try building one for yourself.
And none of them use “pillows”.
What Our Body Wants
Our body is designed to “expect” to sleep on a firm surface like this. When our body lays on a firm surface, our spine is aligned completely straight and parallel to the ground. This completely straight and horizontal position for the spine is the only chance for the spinal muscles to get any rest. In any other position – sitting, standing, walking – the spinals muscles must contract to a certain degree in order to maintain that particular posture.
Take a look at your dog or cat when they are laying on the ground. In every case, you will notice that the spine lays completely straight and parallel to the ground.
Why Nobody Wants to Sleep on the Floor
Most people – if they must sleep on the floor for one reason or another – wake up and complain that they are sore. Their shoulders and their hips will be sore as hell, and it is likely that they will have woken up several times during the night because of hip or shoulder pain. They conclude from this that “sleeping on the floor sucks”, or “I just don’t do too well sleeping on the floor”.
Well, here’s the thing about the shoulder and hip soreness.
Part of the function of our hip girdle and our shoulder girdle is to be able to support the body all night while it lays down to sleep. Our shoulders and hips evolved to have this function. It is no problem whatsoever. They “expect” to have to do this.
However, when we sleep in a bed, our shoulders and hips are relieved of this function. Like any muscle that isn’t used, they become atrophied and weak. Not only that, but the beautiful human body, which is supposed to have strong hips and shoulders, becomes deformed and ugly because these parts of our body aren’t getting the exercise that they need.
So when someone tries to sleep on the floor, of course they are sore. They are finally exercising their weak hip and shoulder muscles. Just as if you were to do any muscular exercise for the first time in a while, it won’t be pleasant and you will experience some soreness until the body adapts. In my experience, this adaptation process takes about 2 weeks.
Once you have crossed this adaptation period, you will no longer get sore from sleeping on the floor. Your hips and shoulders will be stronger and more robust. Perhaps best of all, your spine will finally get to lay perfectly flat and rest during the night. Your posture will improve. You can always spot someone with a strong spine because their posture will be perfectly straight, including their head.
Why Everyone’s Posture is Terrible
Most people’s heads jut out from the top of their spine at a 45 degree angle. This looks absolutely terrible, and I am always amazed that people don’t realize that they walk around like this. Compare this to what someone looks like who carries their head erect. Check out yourself in the mirror.
Apart from having better posture , being stronger, and looking better – there are numerous other benefits to sleeping on the floor or a firm surface.
Benefits of Sleeping on a Firm Surface
First, your sleep will be more restorative. You will be sleeping the way that your body has always wanted. It will be resting in the way that it was meant to. You may very well find that you need less sleep than you needed before.
You may find that many aches and pains that you have had for years begin to go away. A large amount of our back pain, neck pain, and headaches stem from our bad posture, and, as mentioned above, sleeping on a firm surface goes a long way towards correcting many of those problems.
You will have more energy and vitality. The Chinese have an old saying, which roughly translates to: “If a man is lazy, he must sleep on a board.” For thousands of years the Chinese have known that sleeping on a board was the cure for laziness and a lack of energy.
Speaking of boards, what do you suppose is meant by the phrase “Room and Board”? In the old days, a board is what was considered a proper sleeping apparatus. It was certainly much better than sleeping on a dirt floor. For a good night’s sleep, all you needed was a room and a board.
Just Give it a Trial
You can start strengthening and fixing your back tonight.
The simplest way to give it a go would be to try to sleep on the floor of your room. If your room is carpeted, that is no problem – perhaps even ideal, especially if it is about the same softness as grass.
The way I usually sleep is with my comforter on the floor. I just make a taco out of the comforter and crawl inside. A sleeping bag would work just perfectly.
You may want to start out with a pillow if it helps you sleep and gives you comfort, but eventually the goal should be to ditch the pillow as well.
If you wake up sore, or several times throughout the night, don’t give up! This is just as if you exercised a weak muscle for the first time. Of course you are going to be sore.
But eventually, your body will adapt, and you will no longer experience any muscle soreness in your hips and shoulders.
If you sleep on the floor or plan on trying it, leave a comment below.