a comfy couch in a calm and dimly lit room welcoming you to it with open arms

Is It OK to Sleep on the Couch? Maybe!

In a previous post, I shared tips for undoing conditioned arousal in the bed and bedroom. I suggested ways to associate the bed with restful sleep in order to improve insomnia.

A great conversation ensued on our Facebook page and readers shared that sometimes it’s easier for them to sleep on the couch or a recliner. Is it a problem that you sleep best outside your bed? Not necessarily.

Why people choose to sleep outside their beds

There are many reasons people may feel more comfortable sleeping somewhere other than their beds. Chronic pain may lead someone to feel more physically comfortable sleeping on a recliner, for example. Maybe trauma has made the bed feel unsafe and the couch feels more secure. Or maybe your bedroom is too noisy or too warm to sleep comfortably.

The principles of conditioning still apply

The main tenets of conditioning apply to wherever you decide to sleep: you want to associate that location with relaxation and sleep, and not with wakefulness. You want to train your body and brain to feel sleepy and prepare for slumber whenever you’re in that spot.

The classic rule for building healthy sleep associations is “the bed is for sleep and sleep is for the bed.” If you prefer to sleep somewhere outside of your bed, you can adapt that rule to your preferred location.

Decide where you want to sleep

Where you choose to sleep is up to you. There’s no law stating that you MUST sleep in your bed. But if you want to sleep well, you’ll want to be consistent. So if you sleep better on your recliner, you should sleep there all the time.

This holds true for naps, too. Don’t attempt to sleep on your recliner sometimes and in your bed at other times. In other words, the second part of the rule becomes “sleep is for the recliner.” If you spread your sleep around multiple locations, you’ll “water down” the association between sleep and your preferred spot.

Don’t do anything else where you sleep

By the same token, the first part of the rule becomes “the recliner is for sleep” in this example. That means that the only thing that should be happening in your recliner is sleep. If you are not asleep, get out of the chair! Your recliner becomes off-limits for other things like watching TV or scrolling social media. Of course, that may be less than ideal. Consider this as you decide where you will sleep.

So I don’t have to sleep in my bed?

If you want to sleep somewhere other than your bed, that’s OK. You’re an adult, after all! But before you commit to a spare bedroom or comfy couch, consider whether you can consistently apply behavioral conditioning techniques.

Is that spare bedroom available to you all the time, or just some nights? If that comfy couch is in your living room, are you really going to be able to avoid watching TV or hanging out with your family there?

Consistency is the insomniac’s most powerful tool, so think carefully about where you have the best chance of success.

Where do you sleep and how does it work for you? Share your story with our insomnia community below.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Insomnia.Sleep-Disorders.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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