Is Sleeping On The Couch Bad For Your Back?

Sleeping on the couch every now and then is inevitable. You may have guests or you may want to escape from your partner’s snoring. While the couch does provide an easy solution, it’s not the best sleeping option out there. This is particularly true when it comes to your back health.

Reasons It's Bad

A general rule of thumb is to avoid sleeping on the couch as much as possible. This piece of furniture is designed for sitting, so it is not designed to support the body, particularly the back, when you sleep on it.

An occasional nap on the couch will not harm you, because a nap usually lasts 30 minutes to an hour or a bit longer. This short time will not cause serious damage or stiffness. Night-long sleep on the couch, however, is something completely different.

The cushions of the sofa are made of a very dense polyurethane foam (needless to say, exceptions do exist). This design prevents the cushion from losing its shape when a person sits on it. Deformations can occur due to the fact that a person is applying more force on the material when sitting than when sleeping.

Sleeping on the Couch

The sofa cushion will be very stiff and incapable of providing sufficient bodily support when you are in a sleeping position.

There’s one more factor that makes the sofa such a bad choice for regular sleeping and that is the size of the furniture piece. A couch is a lot shorter than a bed (same goes for air beds). This means it will prevent you from getting in the right sleeping position. You’ll have to typically get in a fetal position in order to fit. Maintaining the position throughout the night is a certain recipe for stiffness and back pain in the morning.

The Negative Health Consequences

Sleeping on the couch can impact your health in a number of adverse ways.

Back pain is the obvious problem. The toughness of the material and the inability to get in the right sleeping position will lead to stiffness and the resulting pain. In fact, this habit can often contribute to chronic lower back pain. The neck and the shoulders are also vulnerable because of the lack of proper support.

It’s also very important to keep in mind that the average couch harbors lots of germs.


A 2013 study shows that the number of bacterial strains on the sofa exceeds the number of bacteria found on the average toilet seat! It’s easy to figure out why. When you eat snacks on the sofa food particles may fall on it. Children play on the couch and your dog may potentially climb up there too. The food, dirt and dust residue will all create the perfect conditions for the growth of bacterial colonies.

Lying on the cushions with your face will bring your skin in direct contact with these bacteria. Some of them may be disease-causing pathogens. Thus, you should definitely avoid sleeping on the couch as much as possible.

The couch is also a bad idea for allergy and asthma sufferers as the dirt and dust accumulating in the cushions could easily trigger an adverse reaction.

A Few Tips For Couch Sleepers

If you really have to sleep this way (a mattress for back pain is better), there are several things you can do in order to reduce the risk of experiencing back pain.

One of the most important things to do is to strengthen your back muscles. You can accomplish the goal by practicing yoga, pilates or any other muscle building sport. Stronger muscles will give your spine better support and they’ll be less predisposed to stiffness.

practicing yoga

Get in the habit of doing stretches first thing in the morning because it increases your range of motion and loosens up the muscles. The risk of stiffness is diminished this way.

There are a few more things you can do. Consider rearranging the cushions or putting them away for the night to get a longer and wider surface. Get as much bedding as possible to make yourself feel comfortable. Finally, regulate the temperature in the room. You will get a better night’s rest in a room that is not warm and stuffy. A cooler room will be conductive of higher sleep quality.

It’s not a good idea to fall asleep on the couch every single night, especially if you lead a sedentary lifestyle or you’re predisposed to back problems. Seeking an alternative solution (buying a second bed or a futon, for example) is always the best way to go. Still, if you have to sleep this way, do a bit of customization in advance. Otherwise, you risk causing your back some permanent misalignment that can lead to a lot of pain.

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