Without initially setting out to do it, I’ve just spent over a year sleeping without a bed or mattress.
A year ago, I had just heard of Tim Ferris, and had started reading a lot of his material. One subject that Tim brings up quite often is Stoicism.
As I began to explore Stoicism and topics related to it, one idea that really stuck out to me was the idea of hedonic adaptation. I noticed hedonic adaptation in myself after I earned enough money to buy myself a new Macbook Pro and was happy about it for a few weeks, but quickly came to take it for granted. However, when I used a family member's older laptop, the experience was infuriating. It was so slow!
I also noticed it with my clothes. When I first got new clothes, I felt good and happy, but even after a short while, I was no longer particularly attached to them. And more than that, my older clothes were now especially lacking.
It was scary for me to realize that as I continue my life, I would only acquire more and more things, become dissatisfied with them, and then seek to acquire more things and repeat the cycle endlessly.
So, about a year ago, I decided to try something different. Instead of letting myself fantasize about the next big thing I could have that would make me happier, I wanted to try giving up something I already had.
I had always felt a bit cramped in my room, so I thought the best strategy would be to kill two birds with one stone and remove the large bed and mattress in my room. This also fit well with my other goals I’ve recently set about minimalism. I had to spend some time convincing my parents, but eventually they helped me to move the bed frame and mattress to another room in our house.
I laid down a new bed made from a large blanket as a base, and used a second blanket as, well, a blanket. Basically, I made a blanket sandwich, with me in the middle. I continued to use a pillow – I still haven’t gone as far as removing that.
I remember the feeling of trying it out for the first night. It was surprisingly comfortable. I have carpet in my room, and the combination of carpet and the additional blanket made for a surprisingly comfortable setup. I didn’t have any trouble sleeping or becoming adjusted to sleeping without a mattress.
In fact, it was so comfortable, that I wondered if I was even doing myself any good at fighting hedonic adaptation. The way I think about it is like this: if our ancestors slept on straw, our bodies are probably not totally reliant on the softest memory foam mattresses to rest properly.
One area of tension I discovered with my new setup was completely unexpected: I was somewhat embarrassed of sleeping with a bed. I didn’t want to invite any of my friends over anymore, in case they would start teasing me about my lack of bed.
Another one was that bugs were much more noticeable and seemingly frequent. One thing I realized about beds that I had never considered before was that they are raised. Even though I don’t think my home has more bugs than most others, I had to brush off bugs from my blanket many more times than I ever needed to do from my bed.
Overall, the experience of sleeping on the floor was an extremely positive one. It taught me that basic things that society tells you need, you may not. And, I hope that I’ve dealt at least a small blow to my own hedonic adaptation.
Even though I realized I may not need a bed, I don’t think everyone should sleep without a bed. I can definitely see the benefits it has, and frankly, if hedonic adaptation didn’t exist, I would probably prefer a bed simply for the benefits of it being raised.