Late night at a friend’s house after a few too many shots? Argument with your honey that has you in the doghouse? Obligatory Sunday afternoon nap that lasted too long? Whatever the reason may be, we have all spent a night or two crashing out on the couch (and likely waking up with a serious crick in the neck).
While sleeping on the couch is no new phenomenon,it appears to be an increasingly common habit. Part of the blame for this stems from the growing trend of couch surfing as a means for travel and late nights inspired by binge-worthy Netflix shows. In fact, most people probably view this makeshift sleeping arrangement as fairly harmless and even convenient at times!
After all, the couch is often the centerpiece of any good living room, being the place where ample time is spent hanging out, reading, watching movies, and possibly even eating meals. So, why not add sleeping to that list?
Turns out, while your beloved couch may act as the perfect vehicle for movie marathons or snuggling up with your favorite book, there are several significant reasons that you should make it a priority to tuck yourself into bed when it comes to turning in for the night.
Couches Are FILTHY!
In terms of germs, if you are planning to sleep on the couch, you might as well curl up right next to your porcelain throne. That’s right, a 2013 study found that more germs exist on the average household sofa than on the average toilet seat. 1
And if you think about it, it makes sense. Most people keep their couches for many years, dragging it with them through all of life’s ever-changing stages; from dorms to apartments to homes, from roommates to relationships to families with kids, from one messy era of life to the next.
Kind of endearing, isn’t it? Not really when you consider the fact that a survey from the Hygiene Counsel found that “61% of the population has either never gotten their sofas sanitized or professionally cleaned, or have done so only once or twice in the years that they have owned them.” 2
As I glance over at my beloved 4-year old microfiber couch with my (adorable yet filthy) English Bulldog splayed out on it, drool forming a crusty puddle on the seat near her mouth, I can feel my face flushing red realizing that I am part of the disgusting majority of that statistic.
I have never had my couch professionally cleaned and aside from the throw pillows, I have never washed the cushions due to their fashionable tufting that makes it impossible to remove the covers. (I am internally cursing that fashionable tufting that I loved so much as I imagine all of the germs that are currently festering on my Pinterest-worthy piece of furniture.)
While most adults regularly wash their bed sheets in order to avoid nasty bed bugs and dust mites, it seems that proper upkeep of the couch is too often forgotten when it comes to routine household cleanings.
You might be thinking, but wait, I vacuum my couch, isn’t that good enough?
NO! Disease-causing bacteria can survive on soft surfaces such as couches for up to 24 hours, including the disgusting flu-causing bacteria listeria.
So, what can you do?
While the internet offers a plethora of resources for how to properly sanitize your sofa, the basics involve first identifying the material that your couch is made out of and finding an appropriate detergent for scrubbing those germs off without causing any damage.
The moral of this story: unless you’re comfortable resting your face on your toilet seat, sleep in the bed. And go sanitize your sofa, NOW!
A Soft Couch Makes for a Sore Spine
There is no better feeling than plopping down on your soft, cushiony couch after a long day at work; the way that it practically hugs your body, urging you to forget your responsibilities and snuggle in for the night can be simply magical.
However, don’t be fooled, sleeping on the couch can cause serious strain to your back and neck muscles, and over time, can even lead to serious medical conditions.
But how can something that feels so good actually be bad for my body?
Couches were not designed to promote neutral body alignment or allow for the ample space needed in order to sprawl out and reach levels of deep, restorative sleep. In general, couches focus on short-term comfort and lack the essential structure that a proper mattress provides in order to keep your spine and body efficiently aligned.
While you may be thinking, big deal, I will just head to the chiropractor for a re-alignment after a few nights spent crashing on the couch, think again. Research has proven that chronic back pain generally stems from poor body mechanics and posture, two symptoms of repeated couch sleeping.
While you may be willing to withstand a little back pain in order to fall asleep watching the latest episode of House of Cards, keep in mind that chronic stress on the back can lead to dangerous structural changes in the spine, joint and disk degeneration, and even the lengthening or shortening of crucial muscles and ligaments that support your entire body structure.
Serious damages such as these caused by extended stays on your couch are not easily remedied by a trip to the chiropractor, so, do your back a favor by sprawling out on a proper mattress to avoid serious medical issues.
Poor Sleep Hygiene And Sofa Sleeping Go Hand In Hand
To put it simply, sleep hygiene refers to practices that are necessary to achieve a full and unbroken sleep. If you are sleeping on your sofa, proper sleep hygiene is near impossible to achieve.
Not long ago, I went to see my doctor seeking a prescription for sleeping pills, as I was spending many nights tossing and turning until the wee hours of the morning. Much to my dismay, rather than simply grabbing his prescription pad, he handed me a checklist and asked me to first work on improving my sleep hygiene.
As I glanced over the list, I had to refrain from rolling my eyes…
Is your room kept at a cool 68 degrees?
Yes, and my exorbitant electric bill can prove it.
Is your room completely dark, no nightlights or lamps, with the curtains drawn?
No, pitch black makes me claustrophobic!
Have you removed all technology from the bedroom including cellphones, tablets, and televisions?
Is your room a quiet and peaceful sanctuary, void of extraneous noises, foul smells, or rambunctious pets?
HA! Absolutely not.
While most of us are aware of the fact that in order to achieve deep and restful sleep cycles, we must do away with artificial light that messes with our internal clocks and create a quiet and peaceful sleep environment, this is not always realistic.
Keeping my dogs out of the bedroom is a near impossibility, and my cellphone acts not only as my alarm, but it offers me a feeling of safety by having it nearby in case of an emergency. However, while achieving perfect sleep hygiene in the bedroom may not be fully attainable, sleeping on the couch pretty much goes against all aspects of proper sleep hygiene.
With most couches being positioned in front of a television, in addition to being located in a very noisy and public area of the house, sleep hygiene pretty much goes out the window when you snooze on the sofa.
If you are aiming to improve your sleep hygiene, sleeping on the couch is just about the worst thing that you can do. In my opinion, proper sleep hygiene starts in the bedroom, not on the couch.
If You MUST Sleep on the Couch…
It should be pretty clear by now that sleeping on the couch is not ideal, however, if you find yourself in a situation where the couch is your only option, there are a few steps that you can take in order to improve the quality of sleep that you achieve during your stint on the sofa.
1. Turn the couch into a bed
Turn the couch into a bed. In order to create a structurally better sleeping surface, flip over the bottom cushions and remove the back cushions, if possible, for more space. Cover the bottom cushions with a sheet and use a regulation pillow with a clean pillow case, rather than throw pillows.
2. Plan Ahead
If you know that you will be sleeping on the couch in advance, use proper detergent to clean the couch prior to setting up for the night, or at the very least, vacuum off last night’s cookie crumbs.
3. Create a safe sleep space
Keep the temperature low, noise to a minimum, and keep the room dark. If other house guests make these items difficult, try to round up an eye mask to block out light and some ear plugs to drown out noise while you sleep. This will help simulate a quiet and dark space for you to easily fall asleep in.
4. Maintain your regular sleep routine
If you always have warm milk before bed, then make yourself some warm milk. If you tend to read until you can’t keep your eyes open, grab that book and start reading. Basically, just because you are not catching your nightly zzz’s in your regular sleeping vessel doesn’t mean that you should switch up your entire sleeping routine.
So, will sleeping on the couch cause catastrophic damage to your health?
Well, catastrophic may be too strong a term, though chronic back pain and potentially contracting a listeria-based flu is certainly no joke.
Basically, it is unlikely that crashing on your couch will have fatal consequences, but in order to achieve a quality night’s sleep, which is essential for a healthy mind and body, it should be a top priority to rest your weary bones on a proper mattress at bedtime.
What are your thoughts on couch sleeping? Let me know in the comments below.