Caskets are designed to ensure the deceased looks calm and comfortable at an open-casket funeral. They often contain pillows and cushioning to achieve this. However, a casket will not feel comfortable for a living person to lie or sleep in.
I know this because I went down to a local funeral home and asked them to let me try one. Initially, I was planning to try one without asking, but I decided it would be disrespectful (and impractical, given they are often stored upright).
I somewhat regret my decision in hindsight because they said “no.”
However, I did manage to chat with the funeral director long enough to get the information to put this article together.
So, read on if you want to know why and how coffins are designed to look comfortable but why they are not actually comfortable.
In This Article
Are Caskets Actually Comfortable?
In reality, caskets are not comfortable for living humans.
There are three main reasons for this:
The padding, cushioning, and pillows that line a casket’s interior are not enough to hide the fact that you are lying on a solid slab of wood or metal.
This makes sense. Coffins are not intended to be used as a bed or for sitting.
They are intended to be used to hold a deceased body inside in a presentable manner for the survivors at a funeral or viewing and then to act as the deceased’s final resting place once they are buried in a grave.
I considered other types of caskets, like shrouds and ones made from cloth and wicker, but they all run into the same fundamental issue: Any amount of padding or cushioning is negligible.
This even applies to caskets with “mattresses”. Casket mattresses are not “mattresses” in the sense you would expect. They are usually thin memory foam mattresses that are good at keeping a deceased’s body in a particular position but not for providing physical comfort.
Regardless of the mattress materials, at best, the comfort level will be like lying on top of a quilt on a hard floor.
Yes, quilts are comfortable in bed when they are on top of you, and you are on top of a mattress.
But quilts are uncomfortable when they are under you and on top of the floor.
Sealed caskets can be air-tight in the short term, and most people consider suffocation uncomfortable.
But we’ll set that aside for the key point here: Heat.
Living bodies produce heat, and the interior of a casket, when closed, has nowhere to dissipate that heat. So, lying inside one can become uncomfortably hot uncomfortably quickly.
Linda Codega at Gizmodo, who wrote a story on sleeping in a casket for several hours, confirmed this was their experience when they wrote:
“I found out, very quickly, that my little body … was not made for caskets. I was very warm… It was not ideal.”
I messaged Linda to ask their opinion more generally about the comfort of lying in a coffin.
They have not yet responded. I choose to interpret the lack of a response to mean:
“Hi James. Coffins are terribly uncomfortable. Your article is absolutely on point. I should know, I am the first person in human history to sleep in one.”
Update: As of 7.53pm on 17 April 2023, Linda is still yet to respond to my request for comment. We will update this article if and when they do so.
The final reason caskets are uncomfortable is that they just don’t have enough space.
Most people roll over in bed when they are trying to get comfortable and sleep. A casket will not allow you to do this. Once you’re in the coffin, there are mere inches of space for you to move. The casket lid will be closed to touching your nose. They are like rigid sleeping bags.
For scale, a standard single bed is 38 inches wide, while a standard casket is only 24 inches wide. They are almost half the width of beds (which are already too small, really.)
If you have claustrophobia, lying in a closed casket will be an absolute nightmare. And if you don’t have claustrophobia, lying in a coffin might unlock a new fear for you.
Why Are Caskets Designed to Look Comfortable?
So it’s settled; caskets are not actually comfortable.
Despite this, they are clearly designed to look comfortable. This seems dishonest, especially given they’re destined for burial in a grave anyway. Why do they do it?
Because It Helps the Deceased’s Family
Ensuring a body looks like it is in deep, peaceful slumber can often be very important to the loved ones of the deceased.
Naturally, dead people don’t care. But grieving families and friends certainly do.
Having the body presented with care and comfort can create a real sense of rest and closure and help with the grieving process. It can also be a way to honor and respect the deceased’s life.
We don’t like to see “dead people” and “death”. We like to see people at peace, in a comfortable resting place, moving on to the “next stage” in their journey. A well-staged body at a funeral can facilitate this.
It’s An Easy Way to Conceal Casket Components
Caskets have some pretty fancy components if you dig deep enough. Ever heard of a memory tube?
Unfortunately, a lot of these components could be more aesthetically pleasing. Including pillows, bedding, and drapes is an easy way to cover up the less-stylish parts of a casket interior.
To Make the Funeral Industry More Money
I try to suppress my cynical side, but it doesn’t always work.
There is one thing the death industry loves more than ensuring your loved ones can give you a heartwarming final goodbye: Money.
When people are unwilling to pay much for a wooden box but will pay thousands of dollars for a wooden box with a duvet and a pillow, it’s only natural that casket and coffin manufacturers would be almost exclusively designing caskets that look as comfortable as possible.
How Do Casket Manufacturers Make Caskets Look Comfortable?
The primary way casket manufacturers make them look comfortable is by doing everything within their power to make them look like a bed, the most comfortable piece of furniture in a home.
Typical strategies include the placement of pillows and foam wedges, soft fabrics like satin, and blankets over the deceased’s legs and feet.
Of course, it’s not just about making the coffin look comfortable. It’s also about making the deceased look comfortable. This is achieved with special lighting and makeup, all set up by the funeral service provider.
The Bottom Line
To summarize: Caskets are uncomfortable, but the funeral industry takes innumerable steps to make them look otherwise.
And honestly, I’m okay with that.
Mostly because I don’t really have a say in the matter.
If you have any further questions about the comfort of coffins or anything else beyond life, please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below.