An alternative to sleeping on a sofabed or futon is sleeping on the floor or nearly (on a Japanese-style bed). The Japanese sleep system is minimal and hence, green, consisting of only a futon mattress (shikibuton or shiki futon), sheets, a pillow (soba gara makura) and a comforter (kakebuton). It is also a healthier sleep system as some studies show that the elderly in Japan have fewer hip and back problems than people in Western countries.
During our visit to Tokyo last August, Jay and I stayed at a ryokan – a traditional Japanese-style inn where guests sleep on a tri-fold shikibuton in a tatami-matted room. Few ryokans exist in cities other than Kyoto. The one that we stayed at, Andon Ryokan, is a modernized version that offer Westerners a taste of Japanese culture. In Japan, the bed is not immovable and rooms are not defined by it. Each room can be used for a variety of activities during the day while only becoming a sleeping space at night. We enjoyed the simplicity and comfort of sleeping on the floor and wanted to bring it home with us.
We’ve slept on the floor before with our Western futon mattress placed directly on top of an area rug. It was more comfortable than sleeping on the wooden futon frame but shifting a queen-sized futon mattress on and off its frame is no easy task. We found our sleep solution while browsing a Muji store in London – a foldaway mattress that resembles the tri-fold shikibuton at the ryokan. All we need are two of these and we can sleep on the floor again.