Does Making Sleep Uncomfortable Increase Productivity?

Does a Floor Mat to Sleep On Beat a Bed Any Day?

When I was in college I had a girlfriend who found it mystifying that most of the men she knew, whether friends, acquaintances or former boyfriends, chose to sleep on the couch. Even if they had a bed, they would instead choose to use their couch or even sleep on the floor. This didn’t make much sense to her. Why would anyone forgo the comfort of a bed for a hard floor or a couch too short for one’s frame? It’s a difference between how men and women look at the world and their place in it.

It was impossible to truly explain this to her, because I was also one of the couch people. While I had some Asian friends who may have contributed to my non-bed thinking ways, since tradition has often promoted bamboo sleeping mats etc. in the east, the hybrid between the two for extra-white guys seems be to use the couch.

Women however seem to prefer a focus on comfort and the richness of life that centers on a bed that is as comfy as possible, with lots of throw pillows added in. Even when they are young and ambitious and have not chosen what they want to do with their lives, they like their sleeping quarters to be magnificently furnished little cubby holes. This seems to tie into a view that the best life, even when you are a student or have a modest income, is one surrounded by warm luxury whcih can cultivate strong relationships. Such an outlook makes the concept of the bed a sleeping ideal. This is a good thing of course. Its an outlook on living that is probably what makes the stability of civilization itself possible.

Young men however, whether through conditioning or genetic tendencies, tend to see life as simultaneously both an opportunity and a threat. The more alert you are and the more active, the more of an upper hand you can gain on your situation. This is where couch and floor sleeping approaches challenge that of using a relaxing, soft bed. If you sleep on a couch or on the floor, you are likely to be somewhat uncomfortable and more easily awoken when inspiration or danger strikes.

This also makes it much easier to get up in the morning if your day has been truly exhausting, both physically and mentally, and such is often the case for young adults trying to make their way in the world for the first time. At the same time, with modern technology,  your work and contacts through laptops, Ipads or smartphones are immediately accessible and nearby on a couch. The coffee table, for many men in this situation, is really an impromptu desk. Who wants a work desk in their bedroom? But men who sleep on couches don't mind such a hybrid environment.

In the past the counterpart to “couch sleepers” was probably men who slept with their swords, or horses. Sleeping on the couch or floor makes you feel like you are in a constant state of readiness, like a firefighter sleeping in the firehouse, ready at a moment’s notice to jump into action.

Whether this actually translates into higher levels of productivity is a matter for debate. But the idea is that it promotes a mindset of mobility and flexibility to take on unexpected challenges. Men tend to be greater risk takers than women, which is why there are far more men in prison and far more men heading up corporations.

Women can complain about this by alluding to the “glass ceiling” in society, but the reality is that the glass ceiling is often, at least in part, built by women themselves. For every successful man there are probably a hundred men who are miserable failures for long periods of time, couch dwellers going nowhere fast. Men are willing to take what women consider crazy risks (and they often truly are crazy risks). They also were willing to live in discomfort, even when the nice cozy bed was only a room away.

Its takes both approaches to build a society. Couch sleepers are more impermanent residents of any living situation, but they also tend to be the pioneers and innovators that stir up the local environment. Bed sleepers are more stable and probably enjoy life more, good neighbors not afraid to enjoy the comforts of home around them, built up by centuries of development. Whichever one you are, your life tends to revolve around whether you see the world as Eisenhower once described it or not. He was both a famous general in World War II and an effective president of the US, and his view of life was that “There is no security on Earth, only opportunity.” If you think like that, you’re probably a couch sleeper.