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By Becky Sedmak, OHAAT’s Executive Director.

Tonight is the 2016 Sleep Out for Bedlessness, an event created and sponsored by OHAAT in order to raise awareness about the problem of bedlessness. If you haven’t heard of the Sleep Out, the concept is simple. When you go to sleep, don’t sleep in bed. Sleep out of bed, and then share your experience.

Most of us take our bed for granted. I certainly do. I’ve always had a bed, so it’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like not having one. And that’s precisely why the Sleep Out for Bedlessness is so powerful. It’s a literal reminder of what it feels like to sleep on the floor.

The first time I slept out, I was on my bedroom rug with my usual pillow and comforter. I originally planned to make the experience more realistic and considered sleeping on the bare wooden floor with just my winter coat, or down in the basement with some of our unwanted house guests (i.e. spiders and mice). Children endure these conditions night after night, so I could for just one, right? No. I couldn’t. I’m not brave enough, and on that particular night, I really needed a good night’s sleep (ironic, I know).

I’d like to encourage you to sleep out tonight, but I can’t lie. Sleeping out is rough. Even on a rug with a pillow and comforter, you probably won’t sleep well. The floor will feel cold. If you’re a side-sleeper like me, your shoulder and hip will ache. And getting up in the morning will be significantly more difficult than usual. But remember that these are the very reasons why sleeping out is so valuable. They should inspire you to take action and help us end child bedlessness though advocacy, volunteering, and donations.

If you don’t sleep on the floor tonight, I encourage you to at least lay on the floor for a few minutes before getting into bed. And when you get up, remember the thousands of people for whom this isn’t an exercise but a reality.