If you want a bed but you’re not a huge fan of spring mattresses, it’s common to start looking for mattress alternatives. Conventional mattresses can provide you with the best comfort levels and enough space to sprawl out, but it can eat up your floor space very quickly. They are also more prone to mites, pests, bedbugs, and molds when you don’t take steps to maintain them regularly.
If you want to do a bedroom makeover for a cramped space or you have a small studio-style apartment, we’re going to list out several viable mattress alternatives that you can consider. We do ask that you note that most of the mattress alternatives aren’t meant for long-term use. However, they’ll give you a temporary sleeping space for your room until you find a mattress that suits your needs.
1. Air Mattress
It’s a good idea to have an air mattress tucked away in your closet or cabinet since they come in handy when your kids have sleepovers. You can inflate them quickly any time you may need them and deflate them when it’s time to get them out of the way. They’re very portable and comfortable to sleep on. You can also control exactly how much air is in them to get the firmness level you need to get a good night’s sleep.
- Cost-effective and portable.
- Easy to maintain
- Full-body cradling capabilities
- Keeps you cool as you sleep
- Noisy if you move around
- Prone to punctures or tears
- Pump can be loud
2. Camping Mat
One cost-effective mattress alternative is a camping mat. They can be just as comfortable and warm as a thinner bed mattress is. What’s even better, they have an insulating capability that is more than enough to keep you warm during colder nights, even if you’re sleeping right on the floor. They’re also quick and easy to roll up and store out of the way during the day, and they come in sizes ranging from a single up to a queen.
- Available in thicker versions for more warmth and cushion
- Easy to roll up and store between uses
- Several sizes available
- Doesn’t give a lot of cushion
- Sizes run on the small side
3. Day Bed
A day bed is one mattress alternative that is shorter than your traditional soft, but they don’t have hand rests or barriers. You usually position them right up against the wall so that you can easily convert it to a larger sleeping space at the end of the day. They’re great to have in home offices or for smaller families. However, due to the shorter stature, they’re not great for very tall people. You’ll have to curl up to fit comfortably. All you have to do is throw some pillows and a blanket on it and you’re ready to sleep.
- Comfortable and portable
- Gives your enough support for your back
- Space-saving design with the dual purpose for sleeping and sitting
- Only enough room for a shorter single person
This is the most conventional mattress alternative, but it can also be one of the most uncomfortable. However, using the floor as your mattress is very common in different cultures, and some people believe that sleeping on the floor is good for your back. However, if you intend to sleep on the floor night after night, it’s a good idea to have a cushion or mat to sleep on to separate you from the cold hardwood flooring. The best mattress alternatives for sleeping directly on the floor are thin mattresses, camp mats, futon mats, air mattresses, or Thai mats.
- Can help relieve back pain
- Doesn’t cost anything extra
- Has a cooling effect as you sleep
- Helps to have better blood flow and circulation
- Much colder to be directly on the floor
- Requires additional padding to be comfortable
- You’ll have exposure to dust and mites
5. Foam Sleeping Mat
High-density foam sleeping mats are a comfortable mattress alternative. It’s very similar to what you’d get with a regular mattress, but it’s much thinner, lighter, and more portable than a traditional one. The biggest difference between the two is that you have to put a regular mattress on a platform of a bed frame while you can put your high-density foam sleeping mat right on your floor without an issue. Also, these types of mattress alternatives don’t come in predefined sizes or shapes like traditional mattresses do. At the core, this sleeping foam mat is a mat that has a memory foam insert to make them more comfortable.
- Available in several thicknesses
- Can get different sizes
- Easy to roll up between uses
- Easy to tear
- Memory foam can eventually go flat
6. Futon Mat
A futon mat is a very thin-layered, lightweight cushion that you can put out at night to sleep on and roll up and store in your bedroom between uses. This is a comfortable alternative as it usually features cotton layers or latex to give you some cushion between your body and the floor. A lot of people claim that this mattress alternative is a viable treatment for back pain as it doesn’t bunch up like a traditional mattress does when you lay on it.
- Doesn’t need a platform or frame
- Doesn’t take up a lot of space
- Lightweight, easy to roll up and store between uses
- Offers good back support
- Can be a hassle to roll up and store each day
- Not enough support for people with joint issues
7. Futon Sofa
This mattress alternative works a lot like a traditional pull-out sofa bed. During the day, you can sit it up to be a comfortable sofa to sit on, and you can fold it out during the night to sleep on. The biggest difference between the sofa and and futon is that pull-out softs have the sleeping space stored under the seat. For futons, you’ll pull down the back support to fold the whole thing out flat. In the morning, you fold it back up and hook your cushions in place to sit.
- Adjustable and lays flat to resemble a bed
- Allows for dual sleeping and seating areas
- Relatively affordable
- Cushion tends to be on the thinner side
- Less durable than the traditional couch
- Sleeping surface is smaller
One of the most unconventional and inexpensive mattress alternatives is a hammock with a hammock stand. They are lightweight, handy, easy to maintain, and fast to install. All you’ll need is space to set up the hammock stand. If you don’t have room for that, you’ll need firm hooks where you can attach each end and unhook it in the morning if you need space cleared out to move around or work. If you don’t want to take it down every morning, you could leave it for a seating area or a decorative piece. You should pick a hammock that is large enough to accommodate your size to ensure that it’ll hold night after night.
- Comes with a huge space-saving capacity
- Not prone to having issues with bedbugs and mites
- Offers a relaxed space to sit or lay
- Provides decent support while offering good airflow
- Falling risks as you sleep
- Limits how you can sleep
- Takes a decent amount of time to get used to using
9. Pull Out Sofa Bed
Better known as a sleeper sofa, this mattress alternative is a comfortable space to sleep. It functions not just as an alternative to your mattress, but it’s a complete bed alternative. You’ll get a thicker mattress that you can pull out of the seating area when it’s time to sleep. It can be as big as a queen sized bed when it’s pulled out. This is considered a viable alternative because it offers a bed with a thick mattress and a couch all in one. If you live in a small space or a loft, you can put the bed away in the morning to open up valuable floor space.
- Depending on the size, it could comfortably accommodate up to three people
- Dual purpose for seating and sleeping.
- Has a space-saving design
- Can develop a musty smell
- Has a much heavier design
- Is seen as harder to clean and maintain
- Prone to wear and tear
10. Japanese Futon
This is a traditional futon that you’ll find in a huge range of Japanese homes. It’s also called the shikibuton mat, and you roll it out to use it. It’s a mattress with a thickness of at least three inches or more. You’ll need two Japanese futons to sleep comfortably by yourself. You can also stack a thinner mattress on top of this mattress alternative or sleep in it as is. You roll them up in the morning and store them in a cabinet to keep them out of your way. The bedroom where you sleep at night is traditionally turned into a receiving room or dining space during the day.
- Can relieve back and neck pain
- Durable, portable, and very breathable
- Inexpensive and easy to clean
- Offers good support for your back
- Can be time-consuming to roll up and put away every day
- Too thin for people with joint issues
11. Mattress Topper
Better known as a feather bed, this mattress alternative is usually meant to go on top of a traditional mattress. It comes filled with feathers and down, and it gives you the softness and cushion you need to sleep comfortably. It’s also relatively easy to take with you or move around. Most of these toppers are between two and four-inches thick, but you can buy them thicker. You also want to make sure that you’re not allergic to the mateiral or buy a hypoallergenic one.
- Comes in a range of thicknesses
- Very soft and cushioned
- Warm during the colder months
- Can release feathers around the house
- Difficult to clean
Mattress toppers come in different thicknesses and sizes, and you can easily sleep more than one person on it at one time if you purchase a larger one. Avocado Mattress Topper by The Sleep Judge / CC BY 2.0
12. Organic Latex Mattresses
If you’re after an eco-friendly mattress alternative, try this option. They usually feature natural plant fibers and they’re completely hypoallergenic. It resists bedbugs, dust, and mites, and they’re easy to clean as they’re mold and mildew-resistant. This is also a very durable option that can easily last more than 30 years with proper maintenance.
- Comfortable to sleep on
- Durable, portable, and allows you to stay cool
- Made out of natural plant fibers
- Relieves back pain
- Has detachable layers but each layer is flimsy by itself
13. Reclining Chair
Some people consider reclining chairs as a temporary sleeping arrangement, but many people like this mattress alternative enough to keep it permanent. You can use it to lounge as you watch TV, recline as you relax, and set it to different angles when you need to take short naps during the day or sleep through the night.
- Can help get rid of back pain
- Control your sleeping angles with a button
- Helps with sleeping conditions sleep apnea or snoring
- Can be more expensive
- Enough room for a single person
- Limits your sleeping positions
14. Sleeping Bag
The go-to choice for a mattress alternative for anyone going camping is the sleeping bag. If you’re a minimalist, this is going to be a great option for you. Some people claim that sleeping bags aren’t a good long-term solution as a mattress alternative, but other people claim that this is a great long-term choice because it keeps you warm, has a small amount of cushion, and it’s easy to pick up while taking up minimal space. As a bonus, you can put cushions below it.
- Can accommodate up to two people per bag
- Can keep you between three and five degrees warmer
- Moisture resistant
- Portable and very easy to clean
- Have to air it out every few weeks
- Needs to have padding under it
15. Straw Mattresses
A straw mattress is an organic mattress alternative that features natural plant fibers from hay. You can find this type of mattress used across a range of cultures as traditional bedding, but you want to use this as a short-term fix as it comes with sagging issues. It can help to keep you cool as you sleep, and it’s portable and lightweight enough to pick up and move from room to room or even outside to nap.
- Easy to roll up and store
- Has a higher insulating capacity
- Lightweight and portable
- Generates dust
- Issues with durability
- Non-absorbent material
16. Wool Mattresses
The final mattress alternative on the list is the wool mattress. It comes with at least three layers of wool packed into the mattress to add softness and comfort when you lay on it. This gives you great spine and back support, and it can help reduce your back or neck pain. It’s also a very breathable material, and it can cool excess heat while wicking away moisture.
- Eco-friendly material
- Enhances air circulation with its air pockets.
- Has a higher insulation capacity
- Issues with sagging over time
Is it Good to Sleep Without a Traditional Mattress?
There are people who believe that the best sleep they can get comes from sleeping on the floor. Claims in favor of this sleeping style include better spinal alignment, back pain reduction, and better sleep quality overall. However, you can’t jump from sleeping in a bed to on the floor in one go, and this is where mattress alternatives come into play.
Also, choosing to not use your mattress for a night or two probably won’t make that huge of a difference. The benefits will come on slowly after a few months of consistently sleeping on the floor. But, if you make the switch to a mattress alternative, you’ll save yourself money. You do want to do your research and make sure that sleeping on one of these mattress alternatives or even straight on the floor is beneficial to you before you try it.
You want to slowly accumulate your body to the floor from a traditional mattress. Trying to go from a mattress straight to the floor can mean that you wake up uncomfortable and sore. Futon by Erik Jaeger / CC BY-NC 2.0
Can Sleeping Without a Pillow Benefit You?
Funnily enough, sleeping without a pillow is better for you than trying to sleep with the wrong pillow. The overall goal of your pillow is to help align your head so you’re in a neutral position. You don’t want your head to be too far below or above your spine. People who sleep on their stomach can get the biggest benefits out of sleeping without a pillow because this position can cause pain in your lower back region.
Ideally, you’ll have a thin pillow that allows your head to stay in a neutral position while you sleep. There are dozens of memory foam pillows made with indentations in them that will cradle your head and align your spine.
Tips for Sleeping Comfortably on the Floor
As we mentioned, sleeping on the floor one of the mattress alternatives we outlined comes with a range of benefits. There is a tradition that dates back centuries of sleeping on the floor in India and Japan. So, if you’re keen to try it out, the following are a few tips to help you sleep as comfortably as possible so you can reap the benefits.
Pillow or No Pillow
If you’re just starting, do yourself a favor and start with a pillow. You don’t want to shock yourself into going all-in straight away. The goal is to make everything happen gradually. So, if you want to get rid of the pillow eventually, start the process by getting a medium-thick one and keeping it for a week. Switch it for a thinner pillow for another week and repeat the process with thinner and thinner pillows until you’re comfortable without one.
You can do this process using a simple throw blanket too. Fold it a few times to create a slightly thicker pillow and unfold it layer by layer as the weeks go by. Eventually, you won’t need it.
Add Extra Support
It’s very common for people who are brand new to sleeping on mattress alternatives to go back to sleeping in their soft beds after a few weeks. This is because they can’t find a comfortable position, and it puts pressure on areas of their body. Adding more pillows or cushions to your mattress alternative is the first step to help you get comfortable with this new sleeping arrangement. Since there are no rules to sleeping on the floor, you can try out several things and see what works for you.
Everyone has pillow preferences, but we recommend going with something soft and lean. You don’t want to use a thick pillow if you can help it because this forces your head to lean forward as you sleep. In turn, you can end up with muscle tension and neck pain when you wake up. So, a thin pillow is the way to go. When it comes to adding more pillows for support, you should try getting something puffier and bigger.
Pick the Correct Spot
Where you decide to try and sleep on your mattress alternative will make a huge amount of difference. Do you plan to sleep on tile or hardwood flooring or shag carpet? If this is your first time trying to transition to the floor with a mattress alternative, we suggest picking out an area with carpet. The change won’t be as drastic, but it gives slightly more cushion for your body to adapt to. If you’ve only slept on a bed thus far, you’re used to how your mattress feels, and you’ve adjusted your sleeping positions to suit this.
But, by using a mattress alternative and transitioning to sleeping on the floor, you’ll start to find new ways to stay comfortable. The additional cushion carpet provides you another layer between you and the floor. This doesn’t mean that you can’t sleep on hard flooring. You’ll just need additional padding and support.
Picking the place for your mattress alternative is very important because it’s more comfortable to sleep on a slightly padded surface like a carpet instead of hard flooring. Futon by Toby Oxborrow / CC BY-SA 2.0
Build a Solid Base
Once you’ve picked out your new sleeping area, you want to set up your mattress alternative. To start, you want to lay a thick quilt, sheet, or comforter down on the floor. If you don’t have any thicker blankets, you can stack a few thin ones. Test the base and see if it’s comfortable. If it’s not, add a few more layers and try it again. Never hesitate to adjust it until you’re comfortable. Just remember that your body will take a week or two to adjust to your new normal.
Perfect Your Pillow Positioning
Now that you know how to start your bed with your mattress alternative and which pillows are desirable, let’s talk about your pillow positioning. There are tips for every sleeping position, but you can divide them up into a few broad categories.
- Back Sleeping – If you’re someone who likes to sleep on their backs, you should feel pressure on your lower tailbone, hips, and shoulder blades. One way to negate this is to get a thin towel or sheet and fold it once or twice before positioning it underneath your pressure points. You don’t need to go all out as this is just a cushion for your joints. Your joints will eventually get denser and tougher as you get used to sleeping on the floor, and they won’t ache anymore. However, it takes a while to get used to it when you first start.
- Side Sleeping You generally have three ways to sleep on your side, including sleeping half on your side and half on your back, sleeping entirely on one of your sides, or sleeping more on your back. We’ve outlined them below.
Sleeping Half on Your Back and Half on Your Side
If you want to sleep half on your back and half on your side, you want to tuck your main pillow between your shoulder and the crook of your neck for support. You can tuck one end of the second pillow under your stomach and chest, and put a third pillow between your legs. Lean all of your weight onto the pillow. This is a very comfortable way to sleep. If you don’t have a long body pillow to help you with this, you can use two additional pillows. Put one between your legs and one under your torso.
Sleeping on Your Side
Sleeping on your side is very popular when it comes to sleeping on mattress alternatives. However, it’s difficult to feel comfortable sleeping on a harder surface on your side without any additional support. Get a pillow and put it between your legs to remove any discomfort from your knees and hips. It’s also a good idea to add a folded sheet under your hip at this pressure point.
This is an area where a lot of people have trouble because there are so many different pressure points. However, if adding additional padding to these spots doesn’t help you get comfortable, you may have to build up your base more to solve the issue.
Sleeping on Your Back More
If you plan to sleep more on your back, follow the steps we outlined for sleeping half on your back. Put your main pillow in the crook of your neck and tuck the second pillow or bottom portion of the longer pillow under your tailbone. Put the top corner of the pillow between your shoulder blades. This will prop up one of your sides while putting most of your weight on the opposite hip.
Finally, we have sleeping on your stomach. It can be challenging when you first start out, but you’ll settle in after a few nights. You’ll need an extra pillow if this is your preferred sleeping position. Try putting the pillow off-center and leaning into it. You can also prop one arm and one knee up and allow your other leg to lay on the ground. Try adding more padding if you have discomfort.
We’ve outlined 16 great mattress alternatives you can try in your own home. We’ve also gone over pillow placement to help make yourself comfortable as you transition from sleeping in a traditional bed to the floor. We encourage you to try them out and see which ones work best for you.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.