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Why do the Japanese sleep on the ground?


Japanese culture has always been fascinating to outsiders, and one of the most intriguing aspects is their sleeping habits. Unlike most Western countries, where beds are a common sight in every household, the Japanese have traditionally slept on the ground. This practice dates back centuries and has its roots in both practical and cultural reasons. In this article, we will explore the history and benefits of sleeping on the ground in Japan.

History of Sleeping on the Ground

Sleeping on the ground has been a long-standing tradition in Japan, dating back to the Jomon Period, which lasted from 14,000 BC to 300 BC. During this time, people slept on tatami mats made from woven straw. Later, during the Edo period (1603-1868), futons were introduced as a way to keep warm during cold winters. Today, many Japanese still prefer to sleep on futons or traditional tatami mats.

Japanese Snack Box

Benefits of Sleeping on the Ground

There are several benefits to sleeping on the ground that have been recognized by the Japanese for centuries. One of the most significant advantages is that it can help improve posture and alleviate back pain. Sleeping on a firm surface can also promote better blood circulation and reduce snoring. Additionally, sleeping on the ground can help regulate body temperature and provide a sense of grounding and stability.

The Role of Futons

Futons are an essential part of traditional Japanese bedding and have been used for centuries. They are thin mattresses made from cotton or other natural materials that can be easily rolled up and stored during the day. Futons are placed directly on top of tatami mats, providing a firm sleeping surface that supports good posture and spinal alignment.

The Importance of Tatami Mats

Tatami mats are another integral component of traditional Japanese bedding. Made from woven straw, they provide a soft yet firm surface that supports the futon mattress. Tatami mats are also believed to have health benefits as they absorb moisture, dust, and other allergens, making them an ideal choice for people with allergies or respiratory problems.

Cultural Significance

Sleeping on the ground has deep cultural significance in Japan and is seen as part of their national identity. It is rooted in the Japanese philosophy of simplicity and minimalism, which values living with less clutter and focusing on essential needs. Additionally, many Japanese believe that sleeping close to the earth connects them to nature and helps them feel more grounded.

Modern Adaptations

While many Japanese still prefer to sleep on futons or traditional tatami mats, modern adaptations have emerged in recent years. Some people now use futon mattresses that can be easily folded up and stored away during the day, while others opt for hybrid beds that combine traditional elements with modern technologies such as memory foam.

Criticism of Sleeping on the Ground

While there are many benefits to sleeping on the ground, some people criticize it for being uncomfortable or impractical. Additionally, some Westerners may find it difficult to adjust to sleeping without a traditional bed frame or mattress.

How to Sleep on the Ground Safely

If you are interested in trying out sleeping on the ground, there are a few things to keep in mind to ensure your safety and comfort. First, make sure you have a firm surface to sleep on such as a tatami mat or hardwood floor. Secondly, consider purchasing a high-quality futon mattress and pillow that will provide adequate support for your spine and neck.


Sleeping on the ground may not be for everyone, but it has proven benefits that have been recognized by the Japanese for centuries. From improved posture to better circulation, sleeping close to nature can have a positive impact on our health and wellbeing. Whether you choose to sleep on a traditional futon or a modern adaptation, exploring different sleep habits can broaden our horizons and deepen our understanding of different cultures around the world.



Why do most Japanese sleep on the floor?

According to Japanese culture, sleeping on a mat on the floor is believed to help relax the muscles and maintain a natural alignment of the hips, shoulders, and spine during rest, as opposed to sleeping on a bed frame as in Western culture.

Is sleeping on the floor normal in Japan?

It’s customary in Japan for most people to sleep on the floor using tatami mats made of rice straw instead of western-style beds. This practice has been prevalent since the 10th century when hemp mats were used for sleeping.

Why do Japanese sleep so low?

The country is suffering from a lack of sleep, and there are several theories as to why, including the demanding work schedules and lengthy commutes. Additionally, traditional Japanese work culture often involves mandatory social events that involve drinking, which could also be a factor in the sleep deprivation.

Why do Koreans and Japanese sleep on floor?

The practice of sleeping on the floor became popular in Korea with the introduction of ondol floor heating. Before HVAC systems, households had to rely on alternative methods to stay warm and cool. Ondol floor heating utilized smoke from fireplaces to heat the entire house from beneath the floor.

Why do Japanese people take shoes off?

Japanese have developed the custom of eating meals sitting on tatami mats, not on chairs. They also roll out the futon on which they sleep on the tatami floor. Therefore, they take their shoes off when entering the house to avoid getting the floor dirty.

How do Japanese sit on the floor without legs falling asleep?

In order to sit seiza-style, a person must first kneel on the floor and then fold their legs underneath their thighs, while resting their buttocks on their heels.

Another benefit of sleeping on the ground is that it can help reduce stress and promote relaxation. According to Japanese tradition, sleeping close to the ground can help calm the mind and body, leading to a more restful sleep. Additionally, the practice of rolling up the futon and storing it during the day can help create a sense of mental clarity and organization.

Sleeping on the ground also has environmental benefits. Traditional Japanese bedding is made from natural materials such as cotton and straw, which are biodegradable and do not contribute to landfill waste. In contrast, modern mattresses and bed frames are often made from synthetic materials that take years to break down and can be harmful to the environment.

In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional Japanese bedding in both Japan and abroad. Many people are attracted to the simplicity and minimalism of sleeping on the ground, as well as the health benefits it provides. Some hotels in Japan even offer rooms with traditional tatami mats and futons for guests to experience authentic Japanese sleeping habits.

Overall, sleeping on the ground may not be for everyone, but it is an important part of Japanese culture that has stood the test of time. Whether you are looking to improve your posture, reduce stress, or connect with nature, exploring different sleep habits can broaden our perspectives and deepen our appreciation for different cultural traditions around the world.

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