Getting adequate sleep is Primal law #6 ( perhaps the most important one of Paleo Living). Beyond setting aside plenty of time for sleep, there are ways you can also improve the quality of sleep. Nutrition plays a big part, and so do things like avoiding caffeine/alcohol before bed, limiting your electronic stimulation, and limiting your exposure to blue light. These are are all topics worthy of separate posts. Today, I’d like to talk about the surface upon which we sleep. Sisson posted a link on his site this weekend that got me to thinking about this topic once more.
The link is an article written by Patrick Clark posted at Zafu.net titled “The Ergonomics of Sleep”. Clark takes a good hard look at multi thousand dollar mattresses vs. free or almost free surfaces, such as the floor or a sandy beach, etc. This is a topic that I delved deeply into about 3 years ago. In a quest to simplify my life and live more like a caveman, I wondered whether sleeping on the floor (or a firm surface) could be beneficial. Much like Clark, I couldn’t find any good information saying that it was, yet, I couldn’t find any good research saying that comfy mattresses were either. The only things I seemed to find were some die hards like me who swore that sleeping on the floor fixed their back problems and cured their ailments and made them studs and so on and so forth. It was all anecdotal, nothing scientifically backed.
I eventually decided to go “au natural” by ditching the mattress and building a raised wooden platform to sleep on. I built a frame of 2×4 lumber and screwed down 1/4″ plywood. I used the the thinner plywood so it would give a little and not be as hard as concrete. I then layered a bedding with a fleece blanket and a sheep’s skin rug that I bought at Ikea. Even though it is a rug, it is extremely comfortable to sleep on (more about this later). From there I just used normal sheets and a comforter in the winter. I really enjoyed this setup for about a year, and then I got married…
My wife wasn’t so keen on my sheepskin bed, and it was kind of small for two people, and being a newlywed I wasn’t not going to sleep next to my bride, so I went back to sleeping on a mattress… After a while, I started to miss my sheepskin. The mattress was alright, but it had a slight depression towards the center that caused me some difficulty getting to sleep some nights. At my core though, I think sleeping on a mattress made me feel like less of a Caveman. So now as a compromise, I go back to the sheepskin every now and then.
I’m still not sure which one is better for quality of sleep. Since I’m not fully committed to a hard surface like I once was, I toss and turn a little more when on the sheepskin. Once I find a good spot, though, it feels like pretty good zzz’s. The mattress still plagues me with the crater effect and some nights it makes it hard to fall asleep too. So while I still debate on which surface I sleep best on, here are the things I feel are good arguing points for a more minimal approach:
- Takes up less space. If all you use is a sheepskin on the floor, you can even fold it up when not in use.
- Less costs. Have you seen the price tags on some of the newer beds? It’s ridiculous. Some up to $3000. Floors are free, or relatively inexpensive. I did pay $100 for my sheepskin, but it is super nice and will last a long time.
- If you go the sheepskin route, wool keeps you cooler in summer and warmer in winter. It is also hypo allergenic and odor resistant. Believe it or not, I have never washed mine, and it smells just about the same as the day I bought it.
- no confusing marketing fodder. No jargon like memory foam, tempurpedic, sleep number, spring count, etc. Just sleep on the floor!
- In terms of Paleo Living, it is closer to what our ancestors were accustomed to. They probably had beds of leaves, hay, and/or animal hides. They averaged more sleep than we did too, so something had to be right with how they slept.
Here are some additional thoughts that Clark touches on in his article.
- your bones support your weight instead of your soft tissues. This allows better blood circulation since bones are designed to be weight bearing and blood vessels are not. He also hypothesizes this might help build bone density.
- I quote directly: “There is no scientific basis for what has become an institution in the developed world: mattresses. If you don’t sleep on one, you have gone out of your way to avoid it.”
- Mattresses mess up our alignment since we “sink in”
- The psychological belief that mattresses are soft and therefore comfortable is not necessarily true
He has several other good points too. Take some time to read his article and share your thoughts, either here or there.
Interested in buying a sheepskin but aren’t sure where to look? I found a few for you on Amazon.
This 2×6 skin will work well for a single person. At $89, it also the most economical sheepskin I was able to find that is big enough to sleep on.
This 4′x6′ sheepskin is plenty big for one person and will probably even work for 2 smaller people. It sells for about $146
Here is a 5′x7′ sheepskin for those couples needing a little more space. At $159, this one is the cheapest/ square foot.
For the absolute greatest in luxury, pamper yourself like a Caveman clan leader and lay your weary bones to rest on this ridiculous sized sheepskin rug. $459