Most of us have probably been guilty of grabbing a quick afternoon snooze on the couch from time to time. It’s also incredibly easy to fall asleep during the evening while you’re chilling out or watching TV.
No harm, no foul; there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of the comforts available in your own home.
However, there’s a big difference between having an occasional nap on your couch and using it as a bed. Although it’s certainly possible to sleep on a couch it’s not a good place to spend the night.
Couches are made for sitting on. They are big enough to hold two or more people and can be very extremely comfortable.
Comfortable or not, when it comes to sleeping, bed is the best place to go. Sleeping on a couch may be slightly better than sleeping on the floor but that still doesn’t make it a good idea.
What Will I Learn?
- 1 Why Do People Sleep on Couches?
- 2 Why Sleeping on a Couch Is Not as Good as Sleeping in a Bed
- 3 Sleeping on a Couch: The Health Implications
- 4 Broken Sleep and Associated Implications
- 5 How to Sleep on a Couch Like a Pro: 6 Tips and Tricks
- 6 The Bottom Line
Why Do People Sleep on Couches?
There are many reasons people may knowingly decide to sleep on a couch. Some people do it when they return home late and don’t want to disturb their partner. Others do it after an argument, either voluntarily or because their partner refuses to let them into the bed.
When problems like this arise, as they occasionally do, sleeping on a couch may be an acceptable on-the-spot solution. Nevertheless, bed is always best.
If you regularly return home late and have an understanding partner, it should be possible to forget the couch and creep into bed instead. The other alternative is to place a bed in a spare room or buy a blow-up mattress you can place on a suitable area of the floor.
If your relationship has become so bad you are regularly looking for alternative places to sleep, it may be time to seek expert counseling or call it a day.
Staying with a friend can often mean sleeping on a couch as well. When there is no spare bedroom, the couch is often the only option.
Lots of people sleep on a friend’s couch, but it’s generally only for a night or two. Possibly after a night out or some type of celebration. Crashing out on the couch won’t kill you, but you’re unlikely to get a very good night’s sleep as you will be most likely sleeping without a pillow.
Regularly sleeping on couches an also be bad for your health so, if you tend to sleep on friends’ couches a lot you may want to consider buying an airbed to use instead. Think about it as an investment in your future good health.
Why Sleeping on a Couch Is Not as Good as Sleeping in a Bed
When it comes to providing a good night’s rest, there are several reasons why a bed will always be better than a couch. Let’s take a look at a few of them one by one.
Couches are Designed for Sitting, Not Sleeping
Couches are generally narrower than beds and may not be long enough to give you room to stretch out. Those are two of the most obvious differences but there are several other factors you need to consider when evaluating the virtues a couch has to offer when you are using it as a bed.
Another thing you need to consider is the material that covers the couch. Manufacturers choose it with sitting in mind. It may have a coarser weave than a mattress does. This makes it more likely to irritate areas of skin that remain in contact with it for prolonged periods of time.
And it’s not all about the weave. Mattress manufacturers use materials that support restful sleep by absorbing body heat. The material used for constructing couches often does not do this so well.
Couch cushions are generally made from dense polyurethane foams. Similar foams are used for padding on the couch body itself. Although polyurethane foams are comfortable to sit on they do a poor job of dissipating body heat.
If you’ve ever woken up on a couch with a sweaty back and found your clothes sticking to your skin, now you know the reason why. There’s a lot more to mattress design than meets the eye.
Couches also fail to offer your sleeping body the correct level of support. Bed frames are firm. They help keep your back straight.
Remove the cushions from your couch sometime and press your hand down on the thin layer of fabric that lies beneath. Hardly supportive, is it? And certainly no substitute for a bed.
Beds frames are made to support your body. Mattresses are too. The manufacturers that make beds and mattresses would not stay in business very long if the products they provide fail to provide a good night’s sleep.
Couches are not designed for sleeping on.
Things they won’t do include:
- Provide a good sleeping area (the length and width is often inadequate)
- Deliver the correct level of support
- Dissipate body heat
- Help you get a decent night’s sleep
It’s also worth remembering trying to turn it into a bed is not very good for your couch.
Couches are often expensive. Sleeping on them wears them out faster. Nobody want’s to sit on a sagging, uncomfortable couch or to have to replace their couch more often than normal.
Sleeping on a Couch: The Health Implications
As long as you have a sufficient amount of money available, or are deemed a worthy risk when it comes to buying on credit, you will always be able to replace your couch. Your body is a different matter. You only get one of those and it has to last you for life.
A typical accessory for couch sleepers is a fan – especially in the warmer months. Sleeping with a fan on while on the couch could trigger some allergies. Couches can sometimes be magnets for dust mites.
Muscles, Tendons, Bones, and Joints
According to orthopedic physicians and chiropractors, most of us spend a lot of time sleeping on our side. The materials couches are made from are often too coarse and dense to allow us to sleep on our sides comfortably for any length of time.
Sleeping on a couch too often places a strain on your neck muscles and back. It’s not good for your spinal column at all and sleeping in a poor position with inadequate support may also be bad for your bones and joints.
Research shows poor body mechanics and posture are a key factor in most back problems. Using a couch as a bed is a fantastic way to place your spine under an abnormal level of stress.
Over time, too much couch and not enough bed may cause undesirable back problems.
These may include:
- Disc degeneration
- Joint degeneration
- Lengthening or shortening of your ligaments and muscles
- Undue wear and tear of the cartilage
- Chronic back pain
It’s also worth remembering sleeping with your head on the arm of couch can overly elevate your head and may trigger snoring. Depending on how loud it is, your snoring may then keep other members of the household awake.
Broken Sleep and Associated Implications
When you are in discomfort it wakes you up. This breaks your REM sleep pattern, leading to additional problems.
What’s REM Sleep? “REM” stands for rapid eye movement sleep.
It’s an important sleep phase common to mammals and birds. REM sleep is distinguished from other sleep phases by random, rapid eye movements and is accompanied by low muscle tone throughout the body.
You need to reach REM sleep to be able to dream. It’s a deep-sleep phase that’s beneficial for your physical and mental well-being.
Various hormonal and chemical changes occur in the body during REM sleep. Brain-wave activity changes too. There’s a lot going on. Explaining all the various aspects of REM sleep is far beyond the reach of an article like this. Let’s just say REM sleep is good and leave it at that.
It usually takes around 90 minutes to reach REM sleep. If you spend your night tossing and turning on a sofa, that can be pretty hard to do.
On a mental level, waking up feeling grumpy is only the tip of the iceberg. Research suggests a lack of REM sleep may increase the likelihood of chronic depression and anxiety.
Additionally, insufficient REM sleep may increase inflammatory responses, interfere with memory function, and increase the risk of obesity.
There’s a lot to be said for getting a good night’s sleep and couches are a poor place to get it.
How to Sleep on a Couch Like a Pro: 6 Tips and Tricks
Sleeping on a couch is not good. I think I’ve already established that. If you can do so, the best thing to do is avoid it. However, if a normal bed is not available and sleeping on an airbed is out of the question, you may have no other choice but to sleep on the couch. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can try to make the best out of a bad situation.
1. Prepare Your Sleeping Surface
When you sleep on a couch you will normally find yourself sinking into the cushions. The support you need is not there. Placing one or two folded blankets on top of the cushions is a good way to help firm things up.
If the couch you are planning to spend the night on has back cushions, remove them. This will provide you with a little extra width to play with during the night. If you are particularly wide and heavy, it may also make it harder for you to fall
out of Bed off the couch.
If the couch is old and dusty or is frequented by dogs, cats, or other household pets, it’s a good idea to run a vacuum cleaner over the fabric before you retire for the night. This is a particularly important part of the process if you are unfortunate enough to suffer from allergies.
2. Have Adequate Bedding
When possible always try to have adequate bedding to cover yourself with during the night. Travel rugs and the like are fine for covering your knees but are far too short to cover your entire resting body.
A sheet and blanket may work well, but a duvet is probably better. If you have one, you could opt to use a sleeping bag instead.
3. Make the Room as Sleep-Friendly as Possible
Try to make the room you will be sleeping in as comfortable as possible. If the night is warm, open a window and/or switch on the air conditioning.
If the weather is cold, set the heating thermostat to a comfortable temperature—neither too cold nor too hot.
Don’t forget to close the blinds, draw the curtains, or do both. This is especially important if there are powerful lights in the street outside.
Finally, if there are pets present in the house think about confining them to another room. If you don’t they may come and disturb you during the night. Dogs may be particularly bothersome because older ones often have a tendency to snore.
4. Try to Avoid Sleeping in Your Clothes
Belts and buckles can dig into your skin and flesh during the night. Tight-fitting shirts and trousers may restrict your movement and may pull on you too.
Even though you are planning on sleeping on a couch, it’s never wise to try sleeping in your clothes. Wear your pajamas of some other loose-fitting clothes instead. Depending on the circumstances, it may also be possible to strip down to your underwear and sleep in that instead.
Apart from pulling on you while you sleep, your normal day clothes may also restrict your circulation, leading to numb body areas and other undesirable problems.
5. Make Use of Suitable Sleep Accessories
If the room is bright, consider using a sleep mask or cover your eyes with a suitable piece of cloth instead. A clean, folded T-Shirt may work well.
When noise is likely to be a problem, take advantage of earplugs. Many shops have them and they are often very cheap to buy.
6. Turn Off the TV
When you are sleeping in a living room, there’s often a temptation to leave on the TV but it’s not a good idea. Apart from anything else you may become so focused on it you find it difficult to sleep.
There’s also a danger the TV may wake you up in the middle of the night. Especially if the quiet program you were watching is followed by a high-octane action movie.
The Bottom Line
Although sleeping on a couch every once in a while is unlikely to be detrimental for your long-term health and well-being, it’s not something you should be doing very often. It’s not a good way to sleep.
If you have to do it, there are steps you can take to improve your sleep environment, but a couch is never a good substitute for a bed.
Sleep is important. You owe it to yourself to make sure you always get a good night’s rest.