Should Mattresses Be Placed Directly on the Floor?

When most of us purchase a new mattress, we think of getting a box spring or foundation to go with it. It’s common, too, to raise your mattress off the floor with a bed frame, but that’s not the case for everyone. Many people choose to place their mattresses directly on the floor, either for design reasons, to save money, or for a sleeper who tends to roll out of the bed.

And—especially outside of the United States—some prefer sleeping on the floor without a mattress. Many cultures sleep either directly on the floor or on a mat or bed roll. Some choose to avoid the cost of a mattress, while others appreciate the firm feeling of the floor. Mats are also much more portable than mattresses.

Whether you’re interested in placing your mattress on the floor, have been doing so for years, or are ready to go sans mattress altogether, there are quite a few considerations. It’s technically possible to place any mattress on the floor, but there are pros and cons to doing so. We’ll review these and helpful tips below.

Can Sleeping on the Floor Help with Pain?

In some ways, the floor offers the ultimate support for your mattress. It’s even and firm, and some prefer the feel of having their mattress directly on the floor. There are some issues related to airflow and proximity to pests that we’ll discuss below, but by and large, placing your mattress on the floor shouldn’t greatly impact its feel or ability to support you.

When it comes to sleeping directly on the floor, the story is a little more complicated. Back pain sufferers are sometimes instructed to sleep on the floor to relieve their pain. While there has been little research into the health benefits or risks of sleeping on the floor, some swear by the practice. Our spines naturally curve, and sleeping on the floor is thought to preserve this curvature by keeping our spines neutral. Lying on the floor with knees bent can also provide temporary pain relief by taking pressure off the back.

It’s in the long-term that sleepers may experience more issues. Sleeping on the floor doesn’t provide any cushioning for our joints, leading to soreness and discomfort. Over time, joints can actually become compressed. There are experts who assert that floor sleeping is natural and that the body will adjust over time. The fact of the matter is that more research needs to be done on the subject. Sleepers should decide what feels best to them, in consultation with their doctors.

Floor Sleeping and Mattress Warranties

Before you decide to place your mattress on the floor, it’s important to consult your mattress warranty. Some warranties specify that the mattress be placed on some sort of foundation. Some even lay out what types are permitted, including the number of legs and slat measurements. Placing your mattress on the floor could void your warranty.

It’s also important to note that even if your warranty doesn’t mention anything about specific foundations, other issues can arise from placing your mattress on the floor. If the lack of airflow leads to moisture and/or mold problems, that can also void your warranty.

Pros of Sleeping Directly on the Floor

Benefits of sleeping on a foundation-less mattress include the following:

  • Placing a mattress directly on the floor often helps cold air circulate across the surface of the bed, allowing sleepers to remain cool throughout the night.
  • Many sleepers find that mattresses placed directly on the floor require less effort to get on and off. This can reduce bodily strain over time.
  • Most foundations, bases, and other support systems cost at least $150 to $200. By sleeping directly on the floor, mattress purchasers can cut their up-front costs.

Cons of Sleeping Directly on the Floor

Drawbacks of sleeping on a mattress directly on the floor include the following:

  • Mattresses that lay on the floor are at risk of exposure to dust particles and dust mites, particularly if the floor is not cleaned regularly.
  • Sleeping low to the ground can restrict airflow and cause the mattress to absorb body heat and moisture. As a result, mold and mildew may accumulate. This is especially true in hot or humid climates.
  • Insects — particularly bed bugs — can easily gain access to mattresses that lay on the floor, leading to potential infestations that require thorough cleaning. In some cases, infestations can completely ruin the mattress.
  • As mentioned above, dust, mold, and infestations are three potential disadvantages of sleeping directly on the floor — and all three of these issues can lead to the mattress manufacturer voiding the owner’s warranty.

Tips for Sleeping Directly on the Floor

In order to ensure a healthy, comfortable sleep experience and a long mattress lifespan, mattress owners should take the following precautions before sleeping directly on the floor:

  • Sweep, vacuum, and/or disinfect the floor regularly to prevent dust buildup. Make sure the floow is completely dry before setting down the mattress.
  • Lift up the mattress periodically and allow it to air out. This will reduce mold and mildew accumulation over time.
  • Keep the area around the mattress clean to ensure that bed bugs and other insects don’t infest the bed.
  • Place a thin layer (such as cardboard or foam) beneath the mattress for added insulation when temperatures are low.
  • Utilize a fan during hotter times of the year. This will reduce body heat and cut down on sweat during the night.
  • Double-check the terms of the mattress warranty, since some manufacturers do not permit placing the mattress directly on the floor.

Additional Tuck Resources

For more information related to this topic, check out these other Tuck resources: