Sleep grounding mats that boost health may be all the rage on social media, but are they more hype than helpful? There’s a lot of back-and-forth on using the mats (or spending time outdoors) to improve health — something called earthing or grounding.
Earthing involves sitting or sleeping on a grounding mat (or spending time on the ground or in water outside). Experts say this helps you absorb the “natural electricity” or electrons from the Earth’s surface—and that can help with a wide range of ailments.
What exactly does earthing do? Connecting to the ground (or the grounding mats) stabilizes your body’s bioelectrical circuits, providing a slew of health benefits — namely reducing inflammation, according to The Earthing Institute.
Earthing: How to Do It
You can practice earthing anywhere—walking or sitting barefoot outside, swimming in a lake, or on a grounding mat on your bed. Some people work at their desks and rest their feet on a grounding pad. There are even skin patches and wearable bands with grounding properties. Notably, sleeping on a grounding mat — grounded sleeping — has become popular because it gives you a few hours to, well, get grounded and get benefits. (Some people put the mat over their sheet, and some place it under the fitted sheet.)
The indoor grounding products plug into an outlet, but they don’t use the electricity for power—they connect to the grounding port in an outlet (that little hole on the bottom of a three-prong plug). That’s what taps into the natural grounding system. It’s also the same thing that protects appliances from electric shocks.
Benefits of Grounding
Mat loyalists say you can get the same health benefits whether you naturally practice earthing, or if you use a product—so long as it connects to the ground port in an outlet, the Institute website states.
Some research shows that grounding lowers inflammation, stress and fatigue. It can help with mood, according to other studies (though being outdoors in general has been linked to the same). Some evidence shows it can lower anxiety (that research was in rats, so we need more to make any definitive claims). Another small study says it helped improve thyroid hormone levels and glucose levels. It can also improve sleep and lower the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, other research finds.
While there is a bit of research on the concept of earthing, a lot of the studies are small, and some of them are based on self-reported data. But some used clinical metrics that have shown physiological improvements. More robust studies may help the practice gain acceptance, though mat loyalists believe in their individual results firsthand.
There are some drawbacks to grounding, says Jillian Kubala, a nutritionist from New York.
“First, it can be uncomfortable for some people. Second, it can be difficult to get a good night’s sleep if the ground is cold or hard. Third, ground sleeping can be difficult for people with mobility issues,” Kubala said.
Gaétan Chevalier, Ph.D., director of The Earthing Institute, said that you may have a “detox reaction,” when you begin spending time connecting more to the ground or a grounding mat. (Think fatigue or headaches.)
How to Start Grounding
If you’re interested in starting to practice earthing, talk to your doctor. To start, just spend time outdoors, preferably barefoot.
“Sneakers, just like most shoes, will not ground you because their soles are made of plastic or rubber,” Kubala said.
Think a night in a tent will cut it? Nope, said Kate Bernhardt, who founded the grounding product company Ultimate Longevity.
“A tent’s floor or an air mattress will block the connection. But you can use a grounded sleeping mat on your air mattress or on your comfy bed at home,” she added.
She said to find ground that’s not exposed to pesticides, fungicides, or other unfavorable chemicals. Wading in a stream, lake, or the ocean works too.
“Being in the ocean is the best place, because it is the most conductive place on Earth,” Bernhardt pointed out.
“Try it out,” she added. “The more time you spend, the better the results you’ll get, but even 10, 20 or 30 minutes is valuable.”
Bernhardt, Kate. Author interview. June 2023.
Chevalier, Gaétan. Author interview. June 2023.
Kubala, Jillian. Author interview. June 2023.
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Karol Sokal and Pawel Sokal. Earthing the Human Body Influences Physiologic Processes.
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