A great night’s sleep is often seen as the key to success and with Christmas sales coming up, you might be looking to upgrade your sleeping solution with a new mattress. If so, why not consider a futon? This kind of mattress has been used for centuries in Japan and is known to have many health benefits. Here is sleeping on a futon guide and our overview of futon mattresses and why they might be the right pick for you.

Sleeping on a futon

Firstly, opting for a futon may be the key to unlocking your bedroom space, especially if it is tiny. With a big bed and a big bed frame, there are really only so many ways you can rearrange furniture to get a change of scenery in your bedroom. This struggle ends with a futon that you can simply fold away at will, set up as a sofa, or any other way you want.

As previously mentioned, this is especially true if you are short on space. During the day, folding and storing your futon away may also allow you to use your bedroom for a completely different purpose, such as an office for working from home, a yoga room, or anything else that you may need.

Additionally, sleeping on a futon actually has a number of health benefits. For instance, a relatively hard sleeping surface and a firmer mattress can help those with back problemsand provide better spine support than a traditional bed (you may take a look at our article on sleeping on the floor on this topic).

This is also true for futons that are laid down directly on the ground. While they are definitely more comfortable than the hard floor, they are still harder than most traditional beds and can be a good compromise. This means that you will get better spinal support throughout the night and also engage and strengthen the muscles in your lower back without actually having to sleep on the cold, hard grounds.

Futons can also be recommendable for children. As they are set directly on the floor, they obviously greatly reduce the dangers of a young child falling off the bed in the middle of the night. They can be moved around quite easily, including into the parents’ bedroom when necessary (if a child is sick, for instance).

Plus, think about it: kids love being closer to the floor. It’s exotic, allows them to build forts or to set up their own little area where they feel safe and secluded from the rest of the world. It’s a great solution to organize their bedroom, especially because they can also fold up the futon and use the space to play during the day.

Lastly, while this may be a bit counterintuitive, futons actually get less dirty than traditional mattresses. Of course, as they are on the floor, you may have to make sure you clean out your floor thoroughly before you install them but they are also much easier to clean regularly.

You may try to vacuum a traditional mattress every once in a while, but as we all know, this is less than ideal as it only really gets rids of dirt and hair on the surface. With futons, you can move them easily, beat them up and air them out in the sun to make sure that all built up dirt is gone, as often as you want.

What is a futon? 

In the US, the word “futon” is actually used to refer both to the Japanese-style mattress that you set up on the floor, but also to what is more traditionally known as sofa-bed or a fold-out bed, often used in a spare bedroom. Here, we will be concentrating on a review of the advantages and disadvantages of the former, the traditional Japanese-style futons.

This being said, it’s interesting to note that these futon mattresses can actually make for great, foldable and easily storable spare beds, which can also fit the bill if you are having guests over in a spare bedroom. If you get a Japanese-style futon, you may not even need to invest in a sofa-bed.

Traditionally, futons are primarily used as sleeping solutions in Japan but they have now become more and more popular throughout the world. They are typically quite thin, a bit harder than traditional, western mattresses and are designed to be set up directly on the floor.

However, in recent years, you may also have seen futon mattresses set up on shorter bed frames (sometimes to be stored under a bed and rolled out as a spare bed when needed) or even plopped up on a traditional bed frame. Futons are usually made of cotton, although westernized futons have also recently been made out of foam or polyester.

Unlike traditional mattresses, futons are generally flexible and less bulky than the kind of mattress you would typically find in the US or in Europe. This type of mattress is particularly appreciated in Japan by those in need of space (and, we’ve all seen how small these Japanese apartments can be). This is because a futon is easily foldable or rolled up, which means that you may very quickly store it away during the day, or also convert it into a sofa.

How to choose a futon?

 Just like with everything else, quality of the futon is key. Futons are generally cheaper than traditional mattresses so it may be a good excuse to splurge a bit. For years, they have had an undeserved bad reputation in the US and in Europe because poor quality ones were traditionally used as spare beds in our homes. Don’t let this phase you. If correctly picked and of good quality, a futon may be the key to a great night’s sleep.

While choosing a futon, remember that different types of futons exist and that the best for you may also depend on where/how you set it up. If you’re looking to use it as a spare bed, you might put an emphasis on storability and foldability. If you are using it as your main bed, prefer thinner futons if you sleep on your back and they will provide better spine and back support. If you tend to sleep on your side, prefer a thicker kind of futon that will better cushion your limbs.

Lastly, if you’re serious about getting a futon, it seems that the consensus is to go with a Japanese brand. For many futon users, western futons tend to actually be quite uncomfortable and too bulky to fold, meaning that you may be getting the disadvantages of a futon, without its advantages. Again, do your research before choosing one, and do try to prioritize quality futons as much as you can.

Things to think about before getting a futon

 While a futon may be an incredible choice when it comes to a good night’s sleep, do keep in mind that they are not for everybody.

First, because they take some getting used to. Indeed, sleeping at floor level can be a bit disconcerting at the beginning, and you may need a few nights to actually feel comfortable. Moreover, as previously explained, futons can be a bit harder on your back, especially because they engage muscles in your lower back that you are not used to exercising much during the night.

This means that, just like this blogger, you may experience a bit of back pain at the start of your futon adventure, with your muscles reshaping themselves during the night. If you are getting a futon, do keep in mind that while you may feel better in the long run, the first few days can be a bit of a struggle.

Additionally, futons do require a bit more maintenance than traditional mattresses. If you’re going to set them down directly on the floor, it is highly advisable that you roll them up and put them away each day. This is because as they are may of cotton, they tend to absorb moisture while you sleep and if you do not move them every day, that moisture may get trapped under your futon and build up into mold or mildew. Obviously, this can be remedied by choosing a futon made of a different material or setting it on a small bed frame slightly above ground but it is something that you should keep in mind if you decide to go the futon route.

Lastly, if you are going to go with a combination of futon and wooden/tiled flooring, you may also want to invest in a rug or a system to keep it in place and make sure it doesn’t slip if you move while you sleep. This will also help insulate your futon from the cold floor during the winter season.

To wrap things up

 While futons may not be perfect for everybody, they are an excellent sleeping solution to consider if you either need the extra space in your house or have back issues. I actually slept on one myself for years when I was a teenager and would highly recommend the experience to anyone in need of an unusual sleeping solution.


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