The Korean Yo: A new/old kind of sleeping arrangement

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So, you might be wondering­—what’s with the blog name? Coffee. Yeah. That’s obvious. Life source. I get it.

But the ‘yo’ part is strictly Korean.

Until about 30 years ago, it was common for most Koreans to sleep on a mat on the floor. This was eventually phased out for a more modern alternative (hello, mattress!), but it’s still not uncommon to sleep on a yo here, especially at motels and guesthouses.

Before we moved to Korea, we had no idea about the size of the apartment we would share. We had heard about the miniscule living spaces. We read blogs about some couples living in separate apartments across the hall or on separate floors from each other. So instead of ordering a bed, we opted for the traditional Korean yo. It looks like this.


That zen-like pallet is from a nice website. Our yo actually looks like a college crash pad.

2015-11-10 00.25.59
Going minimalist with a Korean yo

The idea with a yo is that you can easily fold up your sleeping materials, store them away each day, and pull them out again each night. Plus, most Korean homes have a circulating in-floor heating system (called an ondol 온돌) so you’re comfortable and cozy during the night. So, in the spirit of going native, we decided to get down. All the way to the ground.

Every. Single. Night.

But, surprisingly, it’s not that bad. Comfortable even. It’s so compact, so simple. It makes the memory of our bulky queen size bed, box spring and bed fame back home seem silly.

Photo: Markus Spiske / / CC-BY

But sleeping on a yo is definitely not for everybody. And I will admit, I miss being elevated off the floor. There is something to be said for not lying face to face with the dusty floor boards.

I miss having a bedside stand, a place to store my books, and my glasses. Oh, and a lamp! I freaking love lamps! One friend who lived in Korea for several years even scolded us, telling us to promptly get ourselves to IKEA and pony up for a real bed.

But those small comforts aside, we’re going to stick out our little Korean sleeping experiment. My back feels better than ever, and it seems right to try something new.

However, one thing that will never change for us Minnesotans is our love for coffee.



Especially when you get to drink that coffee in bed. Or yo. See where I’m going here? It feels like the perfect combination of foreign and familiar, and a nice name for a blog. What are your thoughts on this? Would you ever give up your Serta? Your Sleep Number? Are there other foreigners out there who made the same decision?

All for now. Sleep well, whichever way you do it!

P.S. These cozy floor spaces have me considering this as a permanent way of life.

Number 34 seems like the perfect place for a rainy day. 

A fresh, clean take on this little love nest. 

A French fashion designer’s minimalist spin.

3 thoughts on “The Korean Yo: A new/old kind of sleeping arrangement

  1. Oh I’d give up my sleep number, all right! I hate it hate it hate it. I seriously miss my super firm basic metal spring mattress. I’ve been seeing where the Internet would lead me in simple mattress alternatives and here I am at the moment. Where did you get your yo? All of the ones online ( amazon, mainly ) seem to be made of foam and it looks like traditional yos are more like cotton. How’s it going without a heated floor?



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