Much is uncertain in this life, but one thing is for sure: At some point in your future, you will be forced to sleep on a couch. No matter how old and successful you become, the possibility that you will be required to sleep on a couch like a college kid with bedspins is never zero.
And sleeping on a couch or sofa can be hazardous to your health. The experience often causes back and neck pain because of the restricted space, which leads to non-optimal sleep postures, as well as that numb feeling in your limbs called paresthesia. While these negative side effects aren’t serious if your evening on the couch is a one-and-done experience, sleeping on a couch regularly can lead to chronic pain and poor sleep quality, which can also have a negative impact on your health. If you’re stuck sleeping on a couch for a while, be proactive about your health.
Prep the area
Couches and sofas are simply not conducive to a safe, healthy night of sleep. You can, however, take some steps to improve the physical conditions that cause backaches, nerve pinches, and other problems.
- Use a real pillow, if you can—couch cushions aren’t designed to support your head and neck properly.
- Remove the back cushions to give yourself more room.
- Stabilize the seat cushions by placing cardboard or wood underneath them and wrapping them in a sheet or blanket to stop them from spreading. Alternatively (and preferably), add a couch-sized topper to transform the couch into something like a mattress, or invest in a fancy couch sleep kit.
- Couches are kind of gross and dirty. They’re filled with potential allergens and don’t get cleaned regularly, as a rule. Plus, they’re often filled with dangerous compounds that make them flame retardant but also kind of unhealthy. Adding sheets will help protect you from the grossness. If you don’t have sheets, wrapping the cushions in blankets or even towels will help.
Once you’ve made the couch as comfortable and inviting as possible, you can reduce the chances of injury and other health problems by being smart about how you sleep.
- Sleeping position can have a huge effect on the quality of your sleep and your chances of hurting yourself. On a couch’s soft, sinking cushions, sleeping on your back is going to be best, but this only works if you have the space to stretch out. Avoid having your legs dangle over an armrest, because this will compress nerves and impede circulation.
- Sleeping on your side in a fetal position is best if you can’t stretch out. There may be a benefit to placing a pillow between your knees—it can help maintain the proper alignment of your pelvis and spine, preventing back pain.
- Keep your head slightly elevated. If you don’t have a real pillow, try stacking some cushions so your neck is at a slight upward angle.
- If the couch is simply too small for you to find a comfortable position, consider moving the cushions to the floor. This will give you more space to work with.
Sleeping on a couch is never going to be great, and over a long stretch of time it can be actively harmful. Taking some steps to protect yourself can help—as can finding a real bed as soon as humanly possible.