Why Sleeping On The Couch Isn't As Bad As You Think

Sleeping on the couch gets a pretty bad reputation. Just watch any sitcom for a couple of episodes and you'll either see someone "banished" to the couch or dozing off only to wake up with a sore back and aching neck. "Exiled to the Couch" is even its own category on Tv Topes.

Unfortunately, the reputation has its roots in at least a little bit of science. A study from Curtin University in Perth, Australia published in 2019 found a strong link between sleep postures and back problems. The study specifies that this is just preliminary information and more research needs to be done, but so far, they've linked good sleep posture to better sleep overall. And it's hard to maintain good sleep posture when you're sitting on the couch, or if you're spending every night on furniture designed for sitting, rather than lying. 

But sleeping on the couch isn't all bad. Sure, you might end up with a crick in your neck if you go about it the wrong way. However, there are healthy ways to grab a nap on the couch without waking up to any issues. In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) is pretty clear that grabbing a nap might actually be a good thing — and napping on your couch might just be the ticket to a better afternoon.

How to take a good nap

According to the AHA, humans process new information when we sleep, allowing us to consolidate new skills and memories. The information comes from a 2003 study by professors at Harvard and the University of California Irvine and a 2016 study from the University of California Riverside, both of which highlight the benefits of sleep — even the sleep we get from naps.

These benefits are compounded by the fact that taking a nap often reduces a person's need for a soda or cup of coffee. Though if you're still going to drink one, you'll want to drink it before you grab a nap (via the AHA). By the time you wake up, the caffeine will be kicking in, giving you a better boost of energy.

And this highlights another important point about a good nap: it shouldn't last too long. The American Sleep Association recommends that naps last between just fifteen and thirty minutes so that you stay in the lighter stages of sleep which means you won't wake up feeling groggy.

This makes couches ideal for napping, provided you can have some peace and quiet on the couch. You can grab a quick power nap without messing up your bed or getting so comfortable that you don't want to get up. Remember, if you are going to nap, remember to keep it short and always lie down on the couch rather than staying upright.