Why Do Prisoners Sleep on Top of the Bed?

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Why Do Prisoners Sleep on Top of the Bed?

Prisoners often ask themselves, why do prisoners sleep on top of the bed? This question arises because the top bunk requires the prisoner to climb or jump a ladder to get into the bed. The downside of this is that the inmate does not have as much privacy as the prisoners on the lower bunks. Furthermore, the prisoner will be in contact with the light from his cell. This may interfere with falling asleep.

Insomnia is a public health concern in prisons

Insomnia is an overlooked but important public health issue, which is often ignored by prison administrators. Untreated insomnia can negatively affect daytime functioning, work productivity, and even adverse prisoner behaviour. Hence, the role of imprisonment in improving the health of incarcerated populations is critical. The current study sought to understand how insomnia is managed in prisons in England. The study identified four key themes: prisoners’ perceptions of insomnia, the lack of staff knowledge and a wide range of factors affecting sleep quality.

A recent study in Nigeria found that prisoners who regularly consume caffeine were three times more likely to experience poor sleep quality. Researchers speculated that caffeine is an adenosine antagonist, a substance which increases sedation and impairs sleep. Other factors related to poor sleep in prisons include the presence of depressive symptoms, use of marijuana or cigarette products, and current consumption of coffee.


Inmates often end up sleeping on top of one another because of overcrowding in prisons. By the end of 2010, California prisons were 175 percent over capacity and inmates were forced to sleep on top of each other. The prison’s overcrowding situation was contributing to a high suicide rate and a health crisis that led to one unnecessary death each week. The Marshall Project, an investigative nonprofit that documents failures in the criminal justice system, reported that prisons were overcrowded in California corrections facilities.

In the holding cells at the Indianapolis jail, at least 16 prisoners are sleeping on top of one another. The prisons do not have the resources to move inmates from one cell to another, so prisoners often sleep on the floor. A riot in March 2017 forced the jail to suspend its normal policies for inmates to be kept separate, which caused dozens of inmates to sleep on top of one another.

Comfort requests

Many correctional medical facilities allow the inmates to request a second mattress, pillow, or blanket. However, there are some risks of giving the prisoners these items incorrectly. Jails are supposed to be a place of punishment, not comfort. Prisoners who request additional bedding may end up being harmed. Incorrectly given, these items can cause discomfort. Incorrect use of such items can cause the inmates to experience a bad night’s sleep.

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