If a typical person were asked to describe what makes up a normal bed, they would probably include—at the very least—a mattress and some sort of base, frame, or platform. The idea of putting a mattress on the floor is not too uncommon; but the decision to do so is often due to a lack of budget or space, or is thought of as a temporary solution.
You might have put your mattress directly on the floor of your apartment as a college student struggling to make ends meet; or for a few weeks or months in a new home while waiting for the rest of your furniture to be delivered. During sleepovers and extended vacations, you might have slept in hotels or resorts with a bohemian, dressed down feel; or friends’ and family’s minimalist spare rooms without bed bases. You may even have the same setup in your own guest bedroom. Whatever the case may be, it’s no exaggeration to say that in most North American and European countries, it is very rare to come across mattresses on the floor as an aesthetic, logical and permanent choice.
To answer the question: Of course, you can put a mattress on the floor! Who’s going to stop you, especially if you own it? The real issue is not if you can do it, but if it is a good idea in the first place—and to figure that out, you’ll need to consider many things: the material and make of your mattress, where you live, how you sleep, and even your physical condition.
First Things First: Is the Mattress Floor-Friendly?
Airbeds, folding mattresses, roll-up mattresses, sleeping bags—all of these options are great temporary sleeping solutions that can be laid out directly on the ground. Some even work outdoors, as well. However, in the long run, these aren’t great choices for the bedroom. A possible exception is the roll-up mattress, which is very similar to traditional Japanese futons and other sleeping surfaces more common in Asian countries.
You need to check two things before you even consider putting a mattress on the floor: the warranty the mattress comes with, and the material used to make it. Some mattress companies have warranties that include very specific bed setups in the fine print; and by putting a mattress on the floor, you may render the warranty void and useless. However, the trend nowadays is fast moving beyond that outdated standard. In general, newer mattresses that don’t need a traditional box spring should be fine. Any mattress that just needs a foundation or platform will work perfectly fine on any solid, flat surface; but of course, it’s always best to confirm this with customer support.
The material and make of the mattress is important because of heat and moisture retention. Simply put, denser mattresses—typically of the hybrid foam, memory foam, or poly foam variety—may retain more heat and moisture because of the reduced airflow that comes with not using a bed base to raise the mattress off the floor. You don’t want to trap moisture in between the mattress and the floor; and no one wants to sleep on a bed that traps body heat! This is a problem particularly for people to sleep hot or sweat a lot; or people who live in very humid environments. Worth noting, though, that with the right conditions, foam mattresses can be used; though new innerspring mattresses may be a better choice due to the increased airflow and breathability it naturally encourages.
Now that we know what kind of mattresses are floor-friendly, let’s look at the pros and cons.
Why You Should
You’ll save money. In many cases, going without a bed base or platform does not affect warranty conditions of new mattresses that are designed to work on solid surfaces anyway; and often, sticking to this arrangement has little to no negative effect on your sleeping habits.
Tired of bed frames and bases squeaking and creaking? You won’t ever have to deal with these unwanted sounds when your mattress is on the floor. As an added bonus, motion transfer is also cut down significantly. If you have a partner that is an active sleeper, you may be surprised to find that change in mattress elevation dramatically lessens how much you feel their shifting movements when you’re both on the bed.
Sleeping nearer the ground can be a pleasant experience, too; especially if you live in a warm climate that isn’t too humid. Heat rises naturally, so it’s always cooler at floor level. However, if you live in a cold climate, this can work against you; unless you bundle up before going to bed.
Why You Shouldn’t
Possible heat and moisture retention encourages mold and mildew to develop due to lack of light and proper airflow. This is a huge health issue, and can affect both your hygiene and the lifespan of the mattress. To prevent this, you should raise your mattress and lean it against the wall about once a week to air it out and allow any possible moisture buildup to dissipate. Worth noting that this is less common in colder environments, and that mold and mildew can form even in raised mattresses; all it takes is moisture, warmth and darkness.
Dirt, dust and other allergens settle on the floor and move with the draft that comes in through windows and cracks under doors. If you sleep close to the floor, there’s a higher chance that you will breathe in more of these than if you were to sleep on a normal bed; which can be a problem if you are allergy-prone. However, you can always keep your bedroom clean and well-vacuumed. This not only helps with the air you breathe, but with maintaining the cleanliness of your sheets and bedding.
You also give bugs, spiders and other insects or pests easier access to it—another reason to keep your bedroom spotless and immaculate. While it’s true that many of these creepy crawlies can climbs bed bases and platforms, the risk problems due to potentially sharing the bed with these small living things does increase. In our research for this article, we’ve found that insect bites are a common complaint of people with mattresses on the floor.
Finally, there is the problem of getting in and out of bed. The older and less physically fit you are, the harder it will be to work with a mattress that’s on the floor. It’s easy enough for children and teenagers, but older people may have problems with balance, stability or joint and muscle pain. It can be hard to get into bed easily without straining knees and elbows, and getting up can be similarly difficult.
How Do You Do It the Right Way?
So you’ve weighed your options and limitations—the mattress you use, the climate in your area, the space available in your bedroom, etc.—and decided to go through with putting your mattress on the floor. Congratulations! Now, how do you do it the right way? Well, we’ve got a few tips to start you off.
What kind of flooring is the mattress going to rest on? This is very important. Do avoid natural or unfinished surfaces, like natural fiber carpeting or plywood. Both can retain moisture, and resting directly against the bottom of the mattress, can help encourage mold growth. Finished surfaces like hardwood flooring, tiles or synthetic fiber carpeting are better suited to your purposes.
Clean the section of the room where it will be placed thoroughly. Use a vacuum cleaner and a disinfectant and let the floor dry completely before laying the mattress down. Consider placing a barrier or buffer between the mattress and the floor, especially if this is a long term arrangement; and particularly if the floor is unfinished.
You can use a bunky board or a Japanese tatami mat as a thin, breathable base; even a simple layer of inexpensive poly foam or layers of blankets and sheets—which you can replace periodically—will work. This will not only help preserve the quality and cleanliness of the mattress, but also help manage temperature extremes throughout the year.
After all the preparations are done, all that’s left is maintenance. Remember to clean your bedroom often, air out the mattress once a week, and take care to keep your blankets and pillows off the floor. Sweet dreams!