If you’ve ever woken up with a crick in your neck after spending the night on a friend’s couch, then you might have a sneaking suspicion that couches don’t make the best sleeping surfaces. While catching a nap on the couch here and there as a supplement to your nighttime sleep isn’t the end of the world, it’s best to cover your basic sleep needs in a bed.
Just like you can sleep poorly on the wrong mattress, consider how your couch supports your body while you sleep. The ideal sleeping surface gives you room to move and supports your body—in whatever position that you like to sleep in. That means letting your body rest in healthy neutral alignment from your head to your heels. If the surface is too soft or too hard, it will throw your spine out of alignment, so you’re more likely to wake up with aches and pains.
Many couches are much softer than mattresses, making you likely to sink into sloppy alignment. Plus, depending on where you decide to place your head and legs—on the couch cushions, on an armrest, or on a throw pillow—those choices can also potentially throw your spine out of proper alignment. And if you doze off while watching TV or reading, then you’re probably not wearing comfortable, loose pajamas, so that might also cause you to toss and turn.
Another thing to consider: the material of your couch. Different materials conduct heat differently, so, depending on the material of the couch, you may find that you feel too warm or cool while sleeping. You may especially get chilly if you don’t fall asleep with a blanket draped over you. In a 2012 Sleep in America Poll, 86 percent of respondents said that comfortable sheets and bedding were important to sleeping well, so if you are resigned to a night on the couch, taking the time to tuck in some sheets may help.
While it isn’t the couch’s fault, there are other reasons that it may not be the best place to catch your zzz’s. Not only are you less likely to find sleep-inducing blackout curtains outside the bedroom, but if you live with other people, a living room couch could mean being disturbed or even woken up mid-sleep.
One more strike against the couch: television. It’s best to keep your bedroom free from screens, including TVs. Not only can binge-watching tempt you to bypass your bedtime, but the blue light that screens emit can keep you up if you watch too close to turning in.