Should you put a mattress directly on the floor? We look into the options and the pros and cons

Thinking of ditching your bed frame? We asked sleep experts for their advice

Mattress on floor in attic bedroom
(Image credit: Getty)

A mattress is usually designed to sit atop a bed frame, elevated off the ground even by just a very inches. However, we're seeing new bedroom trends emerging that lean towards a laid-back look with a mattress directly on the floor. 

While you're much closer to the dust and dirt on the ground, many people assume that putting a mattress on the floor can improve back pain. That's saying nothing of the saving in time, money, and hassle. If you don't buy and build a bedframe, you'll save hundreds of dollars. 

However, for many people a mattress on the floor is the sign of a louche, lazy bachelor rather than a well-considered style choice. Even if you carry it off as chic and minimalist, is it actually good for you?

We've asked sleep experts the pros and cons of putting a mattress on the floor. Plus, if you need to consider the type of mattress you choose and if there are any precautions you should take if you do decide to ditch the bed frame.

Can you put a mattress directly on the floor?

‘While this is certainly a viable option, it's generally recommended to use a proper bed frame or foundation for a good night’s sleep,’ says Mary Love, head of product and innovation at Simba. ‘However, if you do decide to go ahead with it due to personal preference or specific circumstances, there are some particular considerations you need to keep in mind.’ Not only for your comfort, but also for the sake of your health.

The first is hygiene. ‘Your mattress is more likely to get dusty and dirty if it’s on the floor,’ notes Love. Then there’s the question of air circulation and temperature regulation. ‘Positioning a mattress in this way can restrict air circulation underneath it, which can lead to moisture build-up and potential mold or mildew growth,’ she continues. ‘It can also affect its temperature regulation - because even though the floor tends to be cooler, without proper airflow, the mattress can retain heat and potentially cause discomfort during sleep.’

Other factors to take into account are support and accessibility. ‘A mattress placed on a non-bed frame surface or on the floor may lack the proper support needed during the night, which can lead to discomfort, poor spinal alignment and potential issues with back or joint pain,’ points out Love. Additionally, it can make getting in and out of bed more challenging, especially for those with mobility issues or physical limitations. 

A headshot of Mary Love
Mary Love

Mary is head of product and sourcing at Simba Sleep, making her an expert in all things mattresses.

Are there any pros to putting a mattress on the floor?

However, there are some positives to snoozing this way. ‘A low-profile sleep set up may be appealing to some, often for aesthetic reasons,’ says Theresa Schnorbach, sleep scientist from Emma. ‘Some research has also shown that sleeping closer to the ground can help regulate body temperature and ultimately result in better sleep, since a key aspect of falling asleep fast is cooling down.’

Mary Love likewise notes that it can be more cost-effective, space-saving, quiet and accessible. ‘Going without a bed frame can, of course, save you money and may also be beneficial in small bedrooms because it eliminates the need for bulky furniture,’ she explains. ‘The floor also provides a stable and solid surface for a mattress and avoids the risk of squeaky bed frames waking you up in the night. Additionally, the lower height means that it can be more accessible for children or individuals with mobility issues.’

Theresa Schnorbach headshot image
Theresa Schnorbach

Theresa Schnorbach is a psychologist and sleep scientist specializing in Clinical Psychology and Cognitive Neuropsychology. She has completed post-graduate training in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) with the German Sleep Society (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Schlafforschung und Schlafmedizin (DGSM)), endorsed by the European Research Society.

And the cons?

There are of course cons to ditching a bed frame that even the best mattresses can't fix. ‘Removing the need for a bed frame by placing your mattress on the floor may initially feel like a cost-effective option, but it can decrease longevity since your mattress is at greater risk of mold or mildew growth due to restricted airflow and moisture build-up, and there’s a higher exposure to pests and dirt,’ warns Schnorbach. ‘Additionally, while placing a mattress directly on the floor may make it easier for some to get in and out, the lower height can pose accessibility challenges for others.’

What’s more, it may impact on your sleep quality. ‘Without proper elevation from a bed frame, a mattress will be more prone to accumulating dust, dirt and allergens from the floor – which isn’t ideal for anyone prone to dust allergies,’ notes Mary Love. ‘Having your mattress on the floor also restricts the air circulation beneath it, potentially leading to moisture build-up and the growth of mold or mildew, and the lack of airflow can also result in heat retention, which can lead to an uncomfortable, sweaty night’s sleep.’ Finally, she adds that depending on your mattress, it might not provide the right support - leading to discomfort, improper spinal alignment, and issues with back or joint pain.

How can you make sleeping on the floor comfortable?

That said, you can still take some steps to alleviate several of the downsides. The first is to invest in other aspects of your sleep environment. ‘Purchase a high-quality mattress to provide good support and a suitable mattress firmness level,’ says Mary Love. ‘Also, consider using a mattress topper to add an extra layer of comfort and cushioning, which can help take the edge off any discomfort from the direct contact with the floor. Additionally, use high-quality bedding materials – including the best pillows, blankets and breathable sheets - and opt for fabrics that promote airflow to regulate temperature and keep you comfortable during the night.’ 

Then there’s the need for frequent, thorough cleaning. ‘If you  place your mattress directly on the floor or another non-bed frame surface, you should ensure proper air circulation and temperature regulation to prevent the build-up of moisture,’ says Theresa Schnorbach. ‘I would also recommend regular vacuuming to minimize the impact of dust, debris, and allergens, and lift up your mattress from time to time.’ She also she points out that there is also the option of simply choosing a lower bed frame - like this low slung bed frame at Target - for a similar feel.

Mattress on floor FAQs

Is it better to have a tall bed?

Tall beds bring the opportunity for more under-bed storage. What's more, some people simply prefer the look of a tall bed, thinking that it's more stately and luxurious. However, if you're future-proofing your home, a tall bed isn't very accessible as you get older. What's more, a tall bed can make smaller rooms look cramped. 

Do I need a box spring?

No. Box springs are old technology - a big wooden box with springs for your mattress to sit on. Most mattress companies no longer recommend them because they can interfere with the springs in a mattress itself and cause back pain. In fact, sleeping with a box spring can actually violate your warranty with most modern mattresses. 

Sleeping on the floor isn't as hygienic as other sleep set-ups. However, it's still incredibly common practice in Japan. Covered with a decent mattress protector, there's no reason why you can't get a good night's sleep from a mattress on the floor - it just won't feel as luxurious. 

Lauren Clark

Lauren Clark is a freelance writer and editor with more than eight years of digital and print journalism experience. She covers all aspects of lifestyle, specialising in health and wellness topics, and her work has previously been published in titles such as Women's Health, The Times, Daily Telegraph, Stylist, Woman & Home, Grazia and Dazed.