Health

8 Reasons To Swap Your Bed for a Hammock (and 1 Reason Not To)

East German school ship crew sleeping in their hammocks, 1951.

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:

  1. fall asleep faster
  2. deeper sleep (which is thought to be healthier)
  3. as a result, better abilitity to concentrate during the day
  4. better reading
  5. increased learning
  6. alleviate back pain (anecdotal reports only)
  7. no more dust mites infested, dead skin cell stuffed mattresses (what’s true about such claims will be covered soon in another post)
  8. 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

relaxing in a hammock
Hammocks are great for relaxing

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.

Which type of hammock is best suitable for nighttime sleeping?

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,

hammocks are aphrodisiacs
a hammock may provide you with more than just good sleep..

 

 

Do you sleep well?

Did you know that most people think they do but actually they don’t?

Here are 78 ways you could be sabotaging your sleep.

 

Featured image credit: Deutsches Bundesarchiv (Wikimedia Commons). Vintage paperback cover, James Vaughan.

Author: Thijs Harteveld

 

30 Comments

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  • I have switched and I love it, My grand kids love sleeping in the hammock all night as well.
    Note and not mentioned the key to a good night sleep is a well tuned in hammock,
    I have my suspension with rings and straps for easy tuning, I also have a 0ne ring ridge line for the final tuning for a great sleep.
    Smile if you want, I have been hanging around a good many years with many different hammocks,The gathered end (Burrito) sleeps the best if hung correct.

  • I’ve been sleeping in a hammock full time for about 3 years now, + or -. A large Brazilian hung on a metal stand. I decided to try hammock sleeping because of long time back problems. I still have the problems, but the hammock gives me the only relief I get. I would not willingly go back to a bed.

  • !.5 years in my Mayan for me! I get an amazing night’s sleep, the my mouth hanging wide open kind of sleep. All the tension leaves my body when I lay in it, and Once positioned in my “sweet spot” I’m out so fast, you’d think pigs could fly. I like it o much, last summer when I moved I looked for a place that could accommodate my hammock.

    I even traded in my tent for a hammock.

    And a pad is one answer for a chilly night in the middle of winter, but if you want the ultimate comfort, an underquilt is the way to go. It allows all the threads to stretch naturally to your body.

    Highly recommended. Wish I discovered hammocks sooner!

    • Totally agree Gertrude, you’re teleported to dreamland in a jiffy and that’s just one of the benefits.

  • This blog was helpful literally justbbecayse i woke up at 6 oclock, after falling asleep at 1230, and I feel literally like I got half a day of sleep. No padding for it yet but I slept with a blanket and a pillow….I am going to try this out for a little while longer. Thanks again.

    • Not to mention im doing this in a dorm room….hanging underneath a bunkbed with a decent amount of slack.

      • Good to hear Kaleb. Most people who try it value it for the restorative sleep they get. Perhaps, in the future, hammock sleeping will be as common as sleeping in regular beds. Thanks for sharing.

  • I am considering buying a hammock for my 11 year old to sleep in full time. She absolutley hates her bed and will hit the floor in her sleeping bag quite often.
    Any thoughts on kids sleeping in hammocks full time? I welcome any comments or suggestions.

  • What an excellent indepth post on sleeping in a hammock. I am a bit biased as I sell Mayan Mexican hammocks, however I can definitely back up what you are saying. We have had great feedback from customers that use their hammocks for sleeping through the night in. Some of the feedback at times sounded too good to be true with hammocks helping to cure insomnia, bad backs and providing therapeutic relief for special needs children.
    It can take a few nights to get used to them and during the colder times of year you’ll most likely want to have an underblanket to lie in to prevent body heat loss, but the benefits as you’ve mentioned are many and great. Another nice benefit is the space saving aspect. A hammock in a bedroom can be put up and taken down in seconds, giving you all the extra space a bed would take up. Meaning a bedroom, doesn’t need to be just a bedroom anymore.

  • I have been interested in hammocks after looking for alternative beds through Pinterest. A few cute hammocks were posted and I decided to do a Google search. After reading your article I did more research on the double hammock you recommend. There are more than 2,000 reviews for it on Amazon. It has almost five stars and is a good price… So I took the plunge. I bought it. It should arrive tomorrow and I cannot wait to tell you all about it.

  • I’ve been sleeping in a hammock nearly every night for about 6 months now. (Only exception being when I’m on vacation at places where I can’t have a hammock) I sleep in Brazilian hammocks, bought on Amazon. I have one at each of my houses, put bolts in the studs of the walls to hang them. If you hear your house like normal people 65-70 degrees just a blanket with you in the hammock is comfortable. But if you save money and keep the house cooler than you need to either sleep with lots of cloths on, or sleep in a sleeping bag in the hammock. I use a pillow at my head also. Hammock sleeping is so much better…if you have the right hammock and set it up correctly…that is key. My cat also loves the hammock, she will jump in and sleep away, either with me or by herself.

  • Yes, I’ve been sleeping in a hammock for 6 nights so far and no complaints. I use an outdoor camping hammock with a bug net and rainfly. Though this won’t sustain strong winds (but will stay attached at least) but maybe for handling light drizzles instead. I’d recommend throwing a good quality sleeping bag in it for keeping warm outdoors in the middle of the night. In hot climates you can go without the sleeping bag and you’ll get descend ventilation and its cool and breathable if you get hot easily in warm weather like me. I managed to figure out how to sleep on my sides by curling into a featle position since I instinctively sleep on my sides sometimes but rarely had to in the hammock. Overall? A good quality sleep in a hammack is a good quality sleep in a high priced high quality mattress. If you got the money to spend don’t settle for a cheap quality mattress. Get the good stuff and don’t forget a good quality pillow too. So far I’ve been able to get away with doing without both of those by sleeping in a hammock.

  • I slept in a hammock for the last 3 months of high school and went off to college where I slept (or tried to sleep) in a bed. I woke up groggy and had nearly zero motivation. I got back from college and went back to my ENO and I slept like I had never slept before! I’ve been back to hammocks for about a month now and I couldn’t be happier. I sleep in a bed occasionally now, but I never sleep as well as I do in my hammock!

  • My husband came with a hammock 36 years ago and I only ever napped in it until just over 2 years ago when we were having trouble finding a comfortable bed for both of us. One night I was uncomfortably hot and couldn’t sleep, my husband suggested I sleep in the hammock. I did and (long story short) we have been sleeping in our own hammocks since then. Everyone that comes to visit us get to test the hammock out and recently a friend took a nap in it. We now have 6 hammocks and hooks in our bedroom and living room. We get our hammocks from HammocksRada.com and LOVE them. They are incredibly soft and cosy, shipping is quick and easy. In winter we use sleeping bags that I have removed the zipper from and sewed up the bottoms to keep our feet warm. I will never go back to sleeping in a bed. We recently bought (and modified) a hammock stand so that we can take it when we travel.

  • This is a great list of reasons to switch to a hammock for home use. Thanks for sharing! Here is a great list on the benefits of a hammock vs tent for camping. Also check out some hammock supplies here

    After just a few nights in a hammock, you probably wont want to go back to a tent, ever again! Or a bed, for that matter, as your article specifies. Most people report much better sleep in a hammock, even if it requires a little adjustment at first.

  • Me and my wife have switched over to a hammock bed and I love it! I’ve had mine for about 4 years and It’s the best investment we have ever done 🙂

    We also installed a “cozy-bed-ish” -hammock on our backyard and it’s super comfy!
    Ours look like the one from here: beachhammock.org/hammock-bed/
    And it is acutally quite big, too.

    My back is also benefiting from the hammock BIG TIME!
    I really have nothing bad to say about sleeping in a hammock 🙂

    //Daniel

  • I have been sleeping in hammocks for 25 years now and when i began there was no padding for hammock’s so i managed to make my own padding from camping matresses the ones who look like big egg boxes , and cushions also a quilt/duvet was necessary cause i live in a cold country. It takes some time before you know how to balance the hammock but now i most say i’m very good at it, i can sleep in it, turn around in it , just jump out of it, without thinking or risk. It started out with me having severe insomnia and i slept half of the night in my hammock and the other half on my bed.Lately i still sleep on my bed on occasion but i sleep much better in my hammock. I do think that it’s healthier than sleeping on a bed . I suffer from Lyme disease and have quite some problems with aches and pains in the bone-department , sleeping in a hammock eases and soothes the pain. I have two cat’s both also love to sleep in the hammock

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences Anastasia. Sorry to hear about your Lyme. I know from people close to me what a horrible disease it can be. Wish you all the best.

  • I’ve been sleeping in a jumbo Mayan hammock for 11 years now, ever since my divorce. I literally wake up with zero aches or pains, I sleep like a baby, and I love swaying to dreamland. I sleep in a flannel sleeping bag with a cotton sleep sack liner; extra blankets go over the whole unit for colder nights. I use a buckwheat crescent pillow to prop under my cheek; no need for a pillow behind the head. I’m a professional massage therapist of 25 years and I recommend this form of sleeping to everyone who will listen. Like sleeping in a smile!

  • I’m glad that I found your article. I had been struggling with insomnia, and didn’t want to rely on medication. I bought the second hammock on the list and its been awesome for sleeping and relaxing.