Ever slept on a hard surface? Think barefoot walking- but for your bedroom. In 2008, I blogged Sweet Dreams on a Hard Surface and thought it was a personal obsession no one would follow. Three years later, the article went viral in the paleosphere and became groundbreaking research on sleep ergonomics with an ancestral point-of-view.
Hard-surface-sleeping improves the body’s alignment and is more relaxing. Why? The lungs and abdomen are opened which promotes deeper breathing and better oxygenates the blood. Relaxation is also promoted through the action of tension and release as the body contacts the surface. If any part of the body holds tension, it will hurt, so each muscle must fully relax. This cycle of tension and release is an instinctual part of primal life that modern society has eliminated through the (flawed) assumption that our bodies need to feel comfortable.
I have always been drawn to the ground. As a teenager, I started sleeping outside my apartment complex in Lawrence, Kansas, dragging sleeping bag and ground-cloth onto the dew or frost-covered grass. At the same time, I started wearing moccasins or going barefoot and was fascinated at things that could bring me closer to the ground and the elements.
I slept on different surfaces like sand on a beach, boulders by a creek, the forest floor, and they all worked far better than a bed. How could I mimic these surfaces in my house? Finally I found the perfect thing– nothing. Or at least practically nothing. I know you’re thinking, “Sleeping on the floor seems so uncomfortable.” But you’d be surprised how comfortable it can be!
Can you go home and start sleeping on the floor tonight?
Probably not. Like with barefoot running, you could go cold turkey and throw away your shoes, but you will likely suffer and may experience injury. Sadly, your body has atrophied because it’s been shaped and entrained to your habitat. Don’t throw away your comfy bed just yet. Here are tips to gradually change your sleeping habitat and eventually rest on a hard surface.
1) Floor Pallet
Make yourself a pallet on the floor, using folded blankets and other mats. Or try products I have designed such as the Tatami Mat, Paleo Pad™and EcoSquare™slatted platform frame units. Start where you are comfortable or on the edge of discomfort. First use a few layers of padding and then decrease layers gradually. Play with everything. Keep exploring your edge.
Try to use non-synthetic materials such as wool, which has a natural resiliency. Synthetic materials short-circuit the body’s natural electrical system (neuro-signaling gets interrupted) and cellular respiration. All of these things disrupt sleep hormones. Hardwood or tile floor is better than carpeted, because carpets off-gas toxins.
3) Back Position
When laying on your back, place a pillow under the knees to create more curve in the lower back and relieve tension. This method can help rebuild alignment so you may eventually reach a point where your spine keeps its natural curve without the pillow. Sometimes I place a rolled up sock or similar sized cushion under the middle of my lower back.
4) Side Position
When lying on the side, push one knee to the front or back of the other knee to reduce pressure on the hips. In other words, do not stack knees directly on top of each other.
5) Creative Positions
Think of sleep as restorative yoga. Sometimes the body knows where and how it needs to be tweaked, so shifting positions can be healing. Look at all the positions babies put themselves into! We will do well to follow their lead.
Learn to relax every cell of your body in equal amounts so you feel like you are floating. Click here for a guided meditation you can listen to while you lay down.
This is a personal process as you change your relationship to sleep, your lifestyle, your culture, and your paradigm. Play with these ideas and make them your own.
8) Transition slowly
Keep your bed nearby just in case you need to bail. Getting quality sleep is more important that getting it perfect. It takes practice and training as you adapt. You are creating new neuro-pathways as you reacquaint yourself with the primal act of laying on the ground or hard surface.
Jeah Kessha is an inventor, wellness coach and author. His passion is teaching people how to break free of the sedentary lifestyle. Find his inventions like Barefoot Office Kits™and Paleo Sleeping products here. Follow him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bodyfriendlyfurniture.