Ever thought about swapping your bed for a hammock? Some people swear by sleeping daily in a hammock. And its popularity is growing.
Nowadays it’s not only hippies anymore who enthusiastically shout, “Best Sleep Ever!” No, there’s a whole community out there praising the benefits of the swinging beds.
You might wonder whether or not sleeping in a hammock is really better than sleeping in a bed? I mean, from a scientific point of view.
Questions that rise are;
- Is it true that hammocks alleviate your back because there are no pressure points?
- Because a hammock resembles a womb, will you actualy sleep like a baby?
- And, does hammock sleeping really rebalance your internal organs?
Or are these just clever marketing tales?
Well, the fact is, there’s not much research done on this matter. Little to no scientific literature is available.
Still, a lot can be cleared up. Just bare with me here.
First let’s delve into some history
Why Ancient Peoples Slept in Hammocks..
Anthropologists working in Central America have found that ancient peoples slept in hammocks from at least 700 years ago. However, ‘sleeping in nets between trees’ as Columbus exclaimed when he discovered the Bahamas, goes back much longer.
The first hammock mentioned in writings was around 450 B.C Invented by the Greek Alcibiades, student of Socrates Athenian general.
Through history it was common to see hammocks used in tropical climates and aboard military ships. Even up until the Vietnam war, soldiers were issued hammocks for respite from battle.
However, this practice being a mainstay from ancient times into modernity doesn’t necessarily mean it offers the highest quality of sleep. It could very well be that ancient peoples only looked at the pragmatic benefits, being safe from venomous spiders, stinging ants, snakes and other dangerous creatures on the forest floor.
The saying, The Gift of the Gods, as the Maya call their hammocks suggests otherwise though.
Hailing The Hammock, Who’s Behind The Pro Hammock Claims?
It is regularly mentioned that leading chiropractors, orthopaedists, and doctors recommend this way of sleeping. But if you look closer it’s often the hammock merchants responsible for these ravings.
World travelers too are hailing the hammock. But let’s face it, nobody is going to drag an air mattress through the dense Malaysian jungle if you can suffice with a 10 oz hammock. So if you ask me, these opinions aren’t valid when it comes to determining whether or not a hammock is a worthy replacement of the good old bed.
Yet still, those images in your mind of backpackers tying up a simple hammock between two trees or of navy sailors pitching a hammock on the bow of a ship aren’t just images of respite.
Hammock For A Bed, Hippie-Driven Hype or Healthy Home Hack?
Recent studies have uncovered some intriguing benefits. Hammock sleeping, indeed, seems to be one of the best cures for a good night sleep that man has ever invented.
Let’s take a look at the pros and cons.
Hammock Sleeping Pros
8 reasons why swapping your good old bed for a hammock could be a good idea:
- fall asleep faster
- deeper sleep (which is thought to be healthier)
- as a result, better abilitity to concentrate during the day
- better reading
- increased learning
- alleviate back pain (anecdotal reports only)
- no more dust mites infested, dead skin cell stuffed mattresses (what’s true about such claims will be covered soon in another post)
- say goodbye to soaked mattresses
How A Simple Net Has Unsuspected, High Tech-Like Features
Recent research has shown that the swinging effect of a hammock provides the same kind of brain waves in adults that make babies fall so quickly into a deep sleep.
Not only do they make you fall asleep faster, but you will also doze off into a deeper and longer sleep.
Study Shows Settle in a Hammock, Sleep Like a Baby
In a June 2011 article published in the journal Current Biology, researchers found that the swinging motion provided by a hammock affords a faster route to sleep and the benefit of deeper sleep throughout the night.
This research provides insight into why rocking to sleep is the best method for lulling babies. The brain wave synchronization occurs much easier through a rocking motion and allows the baby to feel more at home (i.e. it feels closer to being in the womb).
The gentle rocking of a hammock will boost brain wave oscillations associated with better sleep and has been shown to provide a very pleasant sleep. More specifically, the rocking fortifies the brain waves that are naturally present during sleep which maintains you in a deeper sleep.
Is Deeper Sleep Better Sleep?
According to the researchers deeper sleep is not necessarily healthier but deeper sleep usually means a better recovery. All stages in the sleep cycle are beneficial but the deeper sleep stage and REM sleep stage are particularly important.
This is when our body repairs itself. Energy is restored, tissues and muscles are repaired, and the immune system is fortified. Different sleep cycles have different effects on the functions of our organ systems and it is hypothesized that during sleep the brain and other organs are recovering. .
This is probably where the claim that a hammock helps you rebalance your internal organs comes from. Although it sounds a bit woolly.
Sleep is not a passive event, but rather an active process involving characteristic physiological changes in the organs of the body. (Source: National Institutes of Health)
The Secret Cure To Insomnia?
Since the mild swinging sensation works on our brainwaves it is thought that sleeping in a hammock may be the cure for people with very severe insomnia.
When faced with challenges to sleep, do you turn to the latest in pharmaceutical technology? Or do you use special smart phone applications that promise to “cycle” your sleeping to maximize your REM and deep sleeping based on timers?
Maybe all you really need to do is change up what you’re sleeping on top of. Sleeping on a mattress couldn’t be further away from the feeling of sleeping in a womb so perhaps it’s time we question why we’re so apt to sleep on a firm surface.
That old trusty mattress may be ruining your chance for a good night of sleep (and be killing your back, more in a bit.) If you’re hesistant to leave your bed, it’s not like having a hammock as another option means you have to permanently forgo bed sleeping.
Answer to the question on a camper forum, What’s your worst investment in your RV?
“I consider a hammock as my worst investment. For one year I had such a thing. I crawled in with a good book, but five minutes later I was sound asleep. After the holiday I realized that I had slept my vacation away. I gave the hammock to my brother who now, already quite some years spends his vacations sleeping.”
How a Hammock Can Make You Smarter… (Really)
Hammock sleeping improves concentration, and as a result reading and learning. Let’s see how this works.
The particular brain waves monitored during the research are directly related to memory. Michel Muhlethaler, professor of neuroscience in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Geneva, Switzerland said it like this;
..the type of waves that you see, which are reinforced here, have also been associated with an increase in memory for recent events. So it’s true that from that point of view, this type of ameliorated sleep could be beneficial also for cognitive purposes. source: NPR.org
The Laziest Way to Get Smarter
Hammocks provide a fantastic way to relax after a hard day’s work. Who doesn’t like to doze off a little before dinner. And when you are reading in your hammock they provide valuable relaxation. Here’s how.
The research on the brain waves indicates that reading actually becomes more pleasant because of increased concentration. It also helps you remember what you have read. Which obviously is a real benefit for studying.
Are You Overlooking a Simple Solution For Your Sore Back?
Everybody knows what plays a role in back aches being so common. We sit in front of computers all day, afterwards we drape ourselves on the couch, and we don’t exercise like we should. But at those aren’t the only reasons.
According to the hammock advocates, the cultural paradigm of sleeping on a mattress is not exactly the best we can do for our bodies. And may in fact be the reason for back aches.
So, do hammocks reduce back aches? Potentially, yes. While there is no definitive literature that absolutely supports this claim, it makes sense that pressure points are alleviated much more effectively than even the best mattresses. What’s more convincing is that abundant anecdotal reports confirm the back soothing claims.
Sleeping Together, Super Romantic or The Ultimate Relationship Test?
A major drawback, and actually the only valid con, of hammock sleeping is that it’s best as a solo venture. Though two person hammocks exist, for most people, sleeping together just doesn’t seem to work that well.
If you are both very cuddly it may be quite nice actually but most people don’t like being smooshed together. Which almost always is the case. Even in big two-person hammocks such as the ENO Doublenest you run the risk of getting bunched up like twisted strands of string.
Another drawback. If one of you has to go to out at night the other, especially light sleepers, will probably notice and wake up too. One way or the other, dual hammock sleeping really is an acquired taste.
The only real drawback you say?
Yes, I know. I hear you thinking, “No way, there are much more downsides to hammock sleeping. What about getting cold for example? Or being folded up like a caterpillar? Not being able to move freely. And feeling claustrophobic or being afraid of falling out?”
Well, you may be surprised. These are either very easily solved or actually not such insurmountable difficulties as you might think.
Are You Ready To Try It?
The benefits of full night hammock sleeping transcend the utilitarian. Improved sleep quality that really should sell a person on trying it out for a few nights.
So, whether you decide to try and hammock sleep for just napping, for a night, or for a few nights a week, whether you sleep on your stomach or your back, if you’re constantly being bothered by back pain or the inability to get a quality night’s sleep, existing knowledge and thousands of years of existence proof it’s worth trying hammock sleeping. And for the price compared to a regular bed, it’s hardly beatable.
Honesty commands me to add that although I’m planning to, I haven’t yet tried it myself.
If you are going to make the switch, make sure to pad the hammock and leave yourself a lot of covers with which to stay warm.
Also keep in mind that not all hammocks are suitable. Nicaraguan, Brazilian and Mayan hammocks are the most appropriate.
- The Rada Yucatan Hammock for example is often used for full time sleeping (see the top reviewer’s comment how it helped alleviate his back problems).
- The Vivere UHSDO9 Double Hammock is another popular model for every night sleeping (check JA-49260’s review to learn how (s)he put an end to a struggle with insomnia).
If you don’t want to abandon sleeping in a bed but do want the (scientifically proven) benefits of a hammock spring bed may be something for you.
What do you think about swapping your bed for a hammock? Weigh in below.
One more benefit I didn’t mention,
Do you sleep well?
Did you know that most people think they do but actually they don’t?
Author: Thijs Harteveld