I Would Like to Take this Time to Complain about Indian Beds and Pillows

Humor, India


India has the worst pillows and beds in the world. The simple act of sleeping should not result in shooting back pain and the need to visit a chiropractor.
My neck should not be twisted in a knot and aching after resting it on a pillow. Even some of the better places we’ve stayed at had thin, forlorn pillows and rock hard beds.

In Goa, I had a pillow that felt as if it were filled with ball bearings. I could have given someone a concussion with it in a pillow-fight. This pillow could stop a bullet. The pillow could be used as an anchor on a ship.

I dropped the pillow on the bed. It landed with a resounding THUMP, dust flew up all around the room and I heard the desperate, panicked beating of wings as nearby birds hastily took flight.

We’ve taken many sleeper trains in India that feature a wooden plank covered with vinyl for a bed. There is no expectation of comfort for these utilitarian sleeping spaces and yet they have been exponentially more comfortable than our average guesthouse bed. It isn’t supposed to be like that.

In Hampi, Kristi whined and moaned as she tried to fall asleep. Sleeping shouldn’t hurt or cause a person to cry out in pain. I thought she was being overly dramatic until I went to bed and discovered that my boney parts dug into the framework below. There was no comfort to be had; laying on my side caused my shoulder and hip tremendous pain, laying on my back hurt my tailbone and spine. Cadavers in morgues have better sleeping arrangements.

We see Ayurvedic massage and healing centers all over India. I wonder if there are so many because Indians have acute neck and back pain due to the beds? At Goa, there was an Ayurvedic center on site. Were the beds and pillows so horribly uncomfortable on purpose in order to promote the massages, or did the massage clinic come into being as a result of so many tourists suffering chronic pain?

I am not homesick, not at all ready to give up this trip. But my back is ready to go home and it reminds me of this every morning when I wake up in agonizing pain, as if an elephant stepped on me during the night.

Do you enjoy metal-slab beds and pillows stuffed with rocks? 

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Currently living in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I travel, write, take photos, and stalk street cats. ~ planetbell1@gmail.com

13 thoughts on “I Would Like to Take this Time to Complain about Indian Beds and Pillows”

  1. Misaal Shah says:

    Why do the Chinese prefer sleeping on Hard Mattresses or the bamboo beds as they call it?
    Isn’t hard hard beds good for your back? I don’t think the same necessarily applies for Necks though.

    • I think the hardness of the beds I can handle, but the thin, sad pillows are hard on me. I usually end up folding the pillow in two to get it to the right thickness, but then I have a tiny pillow.

  2. kevin meyers says:

    Ouch. A decent bed is one of my requirements for travel. During one of my India trips, Renee & I stayed at an estancia that was amazing in every way, except for the beds. The mattresses probably hadn’t been changed in 40 years. Before you even got in it, the middle of the mattress was 1 foot lower than the sides!

    • The quality of the beds is in part due to the nature of the places we are staying and partly due to the desire of Indians to have hard beds. Luckily, we are staying six nights in Varkala, our last destination in India, and we are at a new hotel with new pillows and mattresses. YEAH!

  3. true (and sad!)
    but that’s the way we Indians generally are. Though it doesn’t take much to switch over to something more comfortable, the pre-historic way of life goes on unquestioned.

    • I think the hard beds were combination of us staying in cheap guest houses and the preference for hard beds in Asia. After I wrote that we had nice mattresses and pillows so my complaining worked!

      • Oh no… don’t take me wrong but being excessively frugal (read miser) is our national obsession. Pillows here range from $4 – $20. That would not be much for any hotel here. I am glad that you got better deals. 🙂

  4. I’ve found you get what you pay for. Cheap hotel means cheap beds. That said, I traveled through Latin America for a year, and that was all luxury by comparison. (Or does time make the beds, er, the memory, go soft?)

  5. Priyan says:

    Hi, I’m from India and slept on one of those Indian mattress you have mentioned. I agree that the traditional Indian mattresses are not as soft as the the ones manufactured in a factory. There are many factors to it.
    The traditional Indian mattress are made of natural cotton which is soft. This being a natural product of nature, helps to dessipate hear from body. India as you might know is a country with hot climate. So usage of cotton makes sense than using soft man made materials.
    But over a period of time, cotton gets harder and mattress gets flatter. This is when you feel that it’s rock solid. Ideally the cotton should be taken out of the mattress, cleaned after drying under hot sun and the mattress remade at least once every 2 years. So it’s not the problem with Indian mattress but how its Maintained.

    I completely agree with you on pillow. I personally don’t cotton pillows.

    • Thank you for the insight! I stayed in mostly very cheap hotels on that trip, and so those places likely had old mattresses that were not maintained as you say. I went back to Kolkata recently and had a great bed. Thanks again for the comments.

  6. Most people in India prefer to sleep on a firm mattress, claiming it is better for their backs. They believe the back remains properly aligned, with no sinkage throughout the night if it is well supported.

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