After a long hard day, many of us look forward to curling up on the couch for some well-earned relaxation — reading a book, catching up on our favorite shows, or snuggling with our loved ones or pets.
If that sounds familiar, you might have noticed how easy it can be to find yourself sleeping on the couch. For some people, this might be an occasional occurrence, while for others, it may happen most nights.
Regular couch sleepers may be wondering if this habit is harmful or harmless. Oura members can use their Sleep Score to assess the impact sleeping on the couch may be having on their sleep. This can provide insights into the duration and quality of their sleep and can help them form new habits that support better sleep.
READ MORE: How to Get Better Sleep
Sleeping on the couch for long periods of time can leave you feeling groggy the next day, yet some people find it easier to sleep on the couch than in bed. So why is that? And does it really matter?
To answer these questions, let’s explore some reasons why you might prefer sleeping on the couch, its potential drawbacks, and some ways couch sleepers can get a better night’s sleep.
Why Would You Rather Lie on the Couch than in Bed?
There are lots of reasons why you might fall asleep on the couch, ranging from physical comfort to psychological or environmental factors. Here are some of the most common.
If falling asleep on the couch is a regular habit, it may be that your body has become accustomed to getting drowsy simply from routine. Turning down the lights and associating the couch with relaxation can create associations in your mind between sitting (or lying) on the couch and falling asleep.
Additionally, working from home for many people means having to work in their bedrooms, which can create associations between their sleeping space and stressful or anxiety-inducing activities.
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You may also be one of the growing number of people who practice revenge sleep procrastination. This is the act of delaying bedtime in favor of pleasurable activities you may not have had time for during the day. Although your intention may be to stay awake during these activities, if you’re tired, they may lead to falling asleep on the couch.
People with insomnia may find sleeping on the couch easier than sleeping in bed. Chronic insomnia can cause you to feel stressed when you go to bed, which can prevent you from sleeping.
Having a change of scenery by sleeping on the couch for a few nights can help you recalibrate and get some shuteye. However, this can quickly turn into a habit that’s hard to break.
Some people may have physical reasons for preferring to sleep on the couch. For example, those with chronic neck pain may find the armrest provides additional neck support throughout the night.
There are other advantages to having the head and neck elevated while you sleep. For example, those with sleep apnea may find it helps to keep their airway open, or even if you just have a heavy cold, you might find it easier to breathe in this position. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) symptoms can also be alleviated by keeping the head raised while sleeping.
Oura members can use the Blood Oxygen Sensing (SpO2) feature, as well as the Breathing Regularity chart, in the Oura App to discover if they are experiencing any breathing disturbances during the night.
If the sleep environment in your bedroom is less than optimal, it may lead to a preference for sleeping on the couch. Possible reasons include:
- If your bedroom can get too hot or cold at times, while the living room remains a comfortable temperature, sleeping on the couch may seem more appealing.
- You may have an uncomfortable mattress and be more comfortable on the couch.
- If you share a bed with a person (or animal) who moves, snores, or takes up a lot of space, you may be tempted to sleep on the couch for a more restful sleep.
- If sleeping on the couch allows you to avoid disruptive sounds, light, or temperatures, it could promote more restorative sleep.
Now that you know why you might be sleeping on the couch, let’s investigate some of the possible drawbacks.
The Drawbacks of Sleeping on the Couch
So is sleeping on the couch a bad idea? While there’s no definitive answer, it may not be the greatest. Here’s why.
It’s Not Ideal for Your Back
Couches tend to be smaller and odder-shaped than beds, and the limited space can cause sleepers to curl up in awkward positions or hang off the edge of the couch.
These unfavorable sleeping positions may put strain on your neck muscles or cause or aggravate lower back pain — which, in turn, can lead to poor quality sleep. Continuing to sleep this way over time can even cause more serious medical conditions, such as heart problems.
It’s Not Designed for Sleeping
Mattresses are designed to support your body throughout the night — and couches aren’t.
Not only does a firm mattress support your weight and help maintain correct spinal alignment, but it’s also made from more comfortable and breathable materials that help to regulate your body temperature and prevent excessive sweating during the night.
Screens May Impact Your Sleep Quality
For many people, sleeping on the couch means sleeping with televisions blaring and blue light glaring.
Research indicates that the blue light from screens interferes with sleep by increasing sleep latency and reducing sleep duration and efficiency, leading to increased daytime sleepiness and impaired memory and cognitive functioning.
Oura members can use Oura to monitor sleep contributors like sleep latency, duration, and efficiency to see the impact sleeping on the couch may have on them. In the Oura App, you can also use Tags, like “late screen time” to track how screens impact your sleep quality.
RELATED: Explore Tags
It Could Make You Move Around at Night
Say you wake up in the middle of the night, the lights are out, and your partner has gone to bed. Maybe you’re a little uncomfortable on the couch, so what do you do? Get up and move to the bed, of course.
While you’re more likely to get better sleep in bed, unnecessary nighttime movement may negatively affect your sleep quality. Oura members can consult their Movement Graph in the Oura App to gauge how moving around during the night might impact their sleep.
It Reduces Sleep Pressure
Sleep pressure builds up throughout the day in response to your body’s need for deep sleep. The longer you’re awake, the greater the sleep pressure you’ll feel. Once you start sleeping, your sleep pressure starts to decrease.
Therefore, when you fall asleep on the couch, the sleep pressure you’ve built up during the day decreases — meaning that when you eventually get up and go to bed, you may find it harder to go back to sleep.
What if I Can Only Sleep on the Couch?
While it’s okay to spend a few nights on the couch as a temporary solution to some of the problems mentioned above, it’s generally not a good idea to make it a permanent state of affairs.
However, if sleeping on the couch is an absolute necessity, here are some ways to promote sound sleep while doing it.
- Try to be conscious of your sleeping position, as you may have to switch up your sleep posture to suit the couch. For instance, given how narrow couches are, back sleeping may be the most comfortable sleeping position.
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- Choose the right bedding and pillows. This will increase comfort and help prevent strain on your back and neck. Avoid throw pillows and add a set of sheets to the couch to help you sleep comfortably.
- If you have a couch bed, open it at night so that you have more space.
- Ensure your head and neck are well elevated and supported. This will increase overall support and help with spinal alignment.
- Limit screen time, as the blue light from screens can mess with your circadian rhythm and keep you from getting enough sleep.
- Add self-care into your routine, as this can help you control any psychological issues preventing you from sleeping in bed. Incorporating meditation or guided breathing techniques into your bedtime routine may help.
- Consider seeing a medical professional to help with your sleep issues.
- Practice good sleep hygiene (even when sleeping on the couch).
- Set a sleep schedule and stick to it.
Make Sleeping on the Couch a Thing of the Past
The odd snooze on the couch won’t do you any harm — but make it a habit, and it could cause a long-term deterioration in your sleep quality.
If you struggle to sleep in bed and find yourself turning to the couch as a last resort, you might want to evaluate your sleep hygiene, nighttime routine, and sleeping environment. It could even be worth talking to your doctor about the underlying causes of your sleep problems.
If you’re an Oura member, you can test your theories about what helps and hinders your sleep and receive personalized recommendations to help you get a good night’s sleep. You can also track your sleep quality over time with an accuracy that’s comparable to gold-standard sleep lab testing.
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