There are not many styles of design and architecture quite as simple and elegant as the Japanese. The Japanese sensibilities with respect to balance, simplicity and form are all evident in different aspects of living and working. Partly borrowed from Feng Shui traditions and part through necessity because of space restrictions, Japanese design is decidedly unique. This is as evident with the bedroom as any other room in the home. Part of the tradition that we've borrowed here in the West is the whole concept of the futon mattress. Well, it isn't so much a concept but a way of living.

You see, in a traditional Japanese home, the futon bed is taken out each morning, beaten and then aired out. This accomplishes two things: it allows the bed to get some fresh air and also allows the room where the futon was to be used for other purposes. In small spaces or smaller homes, this is an idea worth thinking about. It could also be used in a child's room when extra space is at a premium. The traditional Japanese futon mattress is really composed of two parts. The bottom part is called the shikibuton and consists of a pad, roughly 2-4" inches in thickness. The top part is called the kakebuton and is a quilted bedcover. Combined, these make up what we know as the futon.

What we have done with the traditional futon in the West is made it thicker and turned it into a convertible sofa. What's wrong with a thicker mattress you ask? This isn't a bad thing, just more of an adaptation. I'm all for improvements and modifications to make life easier. This is definitely one of those cases. However, one distinction is that these types of futon mattresses are more likely to be used occasionally and not for a primary sleeping arrangement.

When the futon is used only for guests or as a couch and extra seating for entertaining or in a guest room, den or home office, you lose out on the convenience and flexibility it can offer you. Not only this, but you may be unaware of how your sleeping environment is affecting your quality of sleep. This is a key issue in many people's sleeping issues. In order for your sleeping environment to be restful, it should be clutter-free and also free of a lot of visual distracting objects. You don't necessarily have to go out today and get a Japanese futon mattress, but you might be able to benefit from some of the design elements. These would include things like clean lines, simple artwork and less objects in the room and on tables. Together with the comfort of your futon, your clutter-free space will allow you to get a better night's sleep.