But ever since I moved out in November 2011, I've had to make do without a bed of my own. I lived at one apartment where a sleeping bag was provided for me to use as padding against the hardwood floor. Then I hit the road for a few months, sleeping on couches and floors. And at another apartment, I slept on an air mattress that would totally deflate by the time I awoke in the morning. This depressing sleep arrangement was the same in which I found myself upon moving to my current digs in Inwood.
Only about a month and a half into my residence at The Cave, I began to experience rather severe pain in my neck and shoulders. I attributed it to one of two things: the ever-deflating air mattress or my milk-crate desk chair. I wondered whether I could cure myself of this pain without throwing down big bucks for a bedframe and mattress or new chair.
I investigated on Google with the question, "Is it healthy to sleep without a mattress?" and I came upon this article, clearly written by a granola hippie. It said:
"Sleeping on a hard surface can reshape the back and realign the body. A firm sleep surface helps the body's relationship with gravity, with the earth. This is a therapeutic practice available to all of us, which works while we sleep."
Can't be too bad, I thought to myself. But I wanted to confirm with a friend who is a chiropractor. He also said that it might help my back pain (and indeed, I've read dozens of anecdotes online, people saying that their doctor recommended for them to sleep on the floor when experiencing back pain). So I finally decided to leave the mattress deflated, adding just a few thin layers of blankets for padding.
The next day, my pain was far worse than before, but I didn't want to give up just yet. I was almost certain that the intense pain was due to a mild case of the flu. Besides, I still could not afford a new bed.
So I kept at it, sleeping on the floor every day for another month and a half. I also began a daily yoga regiment in the mornings. And one night, walking home, I found a rolling desk chair on the street with a broken caster wheel. I removed the rest of the wheels and replaced them instead with the legs of a table. With the new sleeping and sitting arrangements, the pain in my neck and shoulder slowly receded.
Finally, just a couple weeks ago somebody offered to give me their bed and mattress. As it turned out, she was wanting to sleep on the floor instead. I had grown quite accustomed to sleeping on a hard/flat surface, but I accepted her generous offer because I wanted to be able to sit at my bed when I awake in the mornings. Literally crawling out of bed in the mornings was awfully awkward.
I'm certain I will never buy a mattress again - it's most certainly a consumer scam. And now that I know the truth about the links between sleeping and back health, it's shocking to me that mattresses are the norm. Here's hoping I can have some part in turning the tide!