Can’t Sleep? Find Out if it’s Time for You to Sleep in a Hammock
Sleeping in a hammock isn’t necessarily only for a relaxing day at the beach or chilling out at home. More and more people find sleeping in a hammock extremely comfortable. The lack of pressure points and the gentle rocking motion of a hammock make them an attractive option to use it as a permanent bed replacement.
Using a hammock for sleeping is not a new trend, in fact, it is looking at a long history. For long periods, many people in several cultures have used only hammocks for relaxation and rest and never slept in a traditional bed. Also, hammocks were used by sailors on ships when crossing the ocean.
Even today many people in South America and India still sleep in hammocks all their lives. In El Salvador, hammocks were used as a way to protect the people from earthquakes during sleep and are still widely used, not limited to any single social class. And neither younger nor older people in these countries are complaining increasingly about back pain.
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So hammocks have already been tested over millions of times. Read on if you want to find out if it’s also time for you to get rid of your bulky box spring bed and switch to hammock sleeping instead.
7 advantages of a hammock over a bed
1. Helps to fall asleep faster and improves deep sleep
Once you get used to napping in a hammock, you will find that a gentle, pleasant sway will make you snooze away in no time. Furthermore, many people are claiming that they wake up in the morning more relaxed after a night in a hammock, which is a sign for sufficient deep sleep.
This experience is backed by Swiss researchers. In a study with a dozen adult research subjects, they found out that the gentle rocking movements of a hammock made the participants fall asleep faster and had a positive effect on their quality of sleep. It is anticipated that a faster sleep onset is caused by the pleasant, relaxing feeling which is associated with the rocking condition. Also, the rocking motion apparently influences positively the amygdala, that part of your brain which is responsible for our sleep-wake regulation.
But even more surprising was that the rocking made a difference in brain activity which leads to an increased length of slow sleep, better known as deep sleep. Therefore, gentle rocking might not only be a cure for insomnia but would possibly help to recover from strokes or other brain injuries.
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However, acclimating to your swinging sleep set up will most likely take some time. In the beginning, you might find yourself waking up at night more often caused by the rocking movements when turning around.
Also, it is necessary to watch your drinking: sleeping drunk in a hammock is not a good idea. The swings in combination with the internal rotation can make you feel even more uncomfortable.
On the other side, there is nothing to worry about in case you are suffering from seasickness. Although the smooth rolling motion while napping in a hammock might feel like spending time on a boat, you generally won’t experience the same unpleasant symptoms such as nausea or vomiting.
2. Can cure body aches and pains
If you suffer from aches and pains, you might find that sleeping on a traditional mattress to be uncomfortable, especially on a mattress with coils. The coils can press into your back and hips and cause pain and discomfort over time.
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A good hammock adapts to the back shape and may be an excellent option for those with body discomfort. Also, the back remains in motion, and the muscles are strengthened.
Pictures of people lying in a hammock watching the sunset in the sea always get tons of likes and shares on Pinterest and Instagram. There must be a reason for that. Well, it doesn’t get much more relaxing than resting in your hammock and looking up at the beautiful sky. The natural swaying motion of a hammock can help you to relax and to reduce stress which in turn helps to lower blood pressure.
In summer, especially hammocks with mesh or made of cotton provide natural ventilation, which is not the case with a thick mattress. However, hammocks have open air underneath them and can get cold when the temperature drops. In colder temperatures, you will benefit from using an insulating blanket or a sleeping bag with adequate temperature rating, so as not to wake up freezing at night.
5. Alternative for Allergists
You can wash your hammock; depending on the material some might require hand-washing, bit many are machine washable. That makes it is easy to get rid of mites. I remember one of our neighbors who suffered from severe allergic reactions such as terrible skin inflammations and breathing problems due to mite dust in his house.
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He switched to sleeping in a hammock on his balcony. He just wanted to do so until the carpets in his home were replaced by wooden floorboards, but he had become so used to the new sleeping arrangement that he continued to spend the night outside under the stars.
There are many options where you can hang your hammock: outdoors between a tree and a solid wall, between two trees or buildings, or even between a vehicle and a tree. Indoors the most common set up is between two walls, or if available, between wooden beams. Alternatively, you can use a hammock stand.
Whichever system you are choosing they are all quite easy to set up and once done, you can quickly hang your hammock or remove it any time when not in use. This is why hammocks are not only a popular camping accessory but also an ideal solution for those who live in small spaces. Hammocks can be an extremely efficient replacement for a traditional mattress and bed, taking up virtually no space when not in use. When bedtime arrives, you can get the hammock set up and get ready for bed in only a few seconds.
You can, of course, spend a couple of hundred dollars for a hammock, depending on the type you are choosing. But you will find already some really comfortable, good quality hammocks for around 40 Dollars which can be used indoors and outdoors.
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So in case you find yourself in a situation where you quickly need to find a new sleeping arrangement (e.g., you separated from your partner who took the shared bed with him or her), a hammock could be an affordable solution.
Can sleeping in a hammock hurt your back?
This is the most frequently asked question when it comes to sleeping in a hammock. Often you hear sentences like “… but you are totally crooked!” Or “… that can not be healthy!”.
If you are worried about back problems but want to sleep in a hammock, here are some simple, reassuring facts: In South America, especially in Mexico and Brazil, many people still sleep in hammocks today – without any back problems. Studies show that in populations where most people spend the night in hammocks, back problems do not occur more often than in cultures where they tend to sleep in a bed.
Also in the US, it is an increasing trend that people sleep in hammocks on a regular basis. Hammock camping has become a popular alternative to tent camping, and you rarely find people complaining that their back hurt when sleeping in a hammock. On the contrary. Many people who suffered from back pain before they swapped their sleeping pad or stationary bed with a hammock, are saying that they fully recovered after spending their nights in a hammock. They wake up more relaxed in the morning without the feeling as if they had been dragging rocks all night.
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But: Back problems are always a very individual matter. Not every back is the same, not every pain arises in the same place. So you should always try yourself in peace and in case of doubt listen to your body. But take some time to get used to the somewhat unfamiliar sleeping place.
In order to prevent back problems, however, there are two crucial aspects: the correct hanging of the hammock and the right sleeping position.
How to hang a hammock?
Hanging your hammock in the right or wrong way can have a dramatic effect on how you feel when waking up the next morning. The correct way to hang a hammock boils down to one key issue: ensure you have sufficient height and hanging distance.
These are the steps how to hang a hammock:
- Choose a hammock suitable for your height and weight. Generally, a long, wide hammock is more comfortable lowers the risk of overloading and ripping.
- Depending on the size and style of the hammock, hammocks usually need anywhere from 10 to 15 feet (3.5 to 4.5 m) of space to stretch out. The ideal hanging distance typically averages out to about 2 feet greater than the total length of a hammock, which is measured from ring to ring. In case you hang your hammock between tree poles, make sure they are sturdy.
- Make sure that there is a 30-45 degree angle between the hammock line and the tree or pole. This will ensure the hammock has enough give, but not too much sag that your back bows uncomfortably. As a rule of thumb the larger the angle, the firmer the fabric is stretched and the more difficult it is for you to nestle in.
How to position yourself in a hammock?
The right position in a hammock is critical to have a relaxing rest and uninterrupted sleep. But first things first: you have to get into your hammock; and although you might feel terribly comfortable in your new cocoon-style sleep set up, there will come a time, when you need to get out.
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These are the steps for how to get in and out and for how to position yourself in a hammock:
- Getting in: Getting into your hammock can be done easily by sitting down in it first. This way your weight is distributed evenly in the center. Then, slide your legs and upper body into the hammock. Never try lying down in a hammock first, you could quickly get out of balance and fall down.
- Positioning: Lay down on your back and position yourself at an angle, so your body makes a diagonal line of about 10-15 degrees away from the centreline of the hammock. This will ensure your weight is well supported in the hammock and prevent you from sinking too deeply into the material. Take some time to find a spot offline that is comfortable also for your head and neck.
- Protection: Because hammocks have open air underneath them, they can get cold when the temperature drops (even indoors). Place a cozy blanket or a pad in the hammock to insulate from the bottom. You might also benefit from sleeping in a sleeping bag with an adequate temperature rating. In addition, use an extra pillow to elevate your knees if you want lower back support.
- Getting out: at the beginning, some people will struggle to get out of a hammock while pushing fabric out of the way. Here is a simple way to exit: First you have to remove everything that you’ve got with you (book, cell phone, etc.) or what might be in your way (e.g., blanket, cushion). Then slowly lift your feet and put them down on the ground while you straighten yourself up so that you are sitting. Then spread your arms and grip on the edge of the hammock. Now you just need to straighten your legs up while still leaning onto the fabric. You might need to take a step backward to be able to get into a fully upright position and walk away from your hammock.
Can two people sleep in a hammock?
Cuddling up to your partner and benefiting from extra body heat when it cools down at night seems like a perfect sleeping arrangement. And there are many double hammocks available that can support up to 500 or 600 pounds, some that will even support well over 1000 pounds. However, double sleeping in a hammock works for a short nap or just relaxing, for overnight and/or multiple nights it is not really practical.
Most likely you and your partner end up rolling into each other and won’t actually be able to fall asleep, not to mention staying asleep for very long. One possible way to overcome this is to sleep side by side but with your heads on opposite ends, with each person slanted, forming a tight X. The question is if the romance factor won’t have quickly lost its momentum when sleeping in this position.
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One other problem with sharing a hammock is that it’s unavoidable to disturb the other person if one of you has to get up in the night. When either of your gets out of the hammock, the heavy rocking and shifting of weight will put the other person off balance, the best prerequisites for letting him or her waking up in panic.
When using an indoor hammock you also don’t want to put too much weight on the walls and ceilings. Typically the anchor itself will not fail; rather the wall stud will. The metal anchor can support several thousand pounds of weight but the wall stud is much weaker, and you really don’t want wall studs cracking.
If you plan on using a hammock not only for some relaxing hours, it’s better to get one unit per person. As soon as you want to tuck in for the night though, it’s time to kick everyone else out – except maybe for your dog. Some find there is no better sleep in a hammock than having a dog warm you at night. Just don’t forget to trim his nails and use a quilt under for extra protection. Sharp nails can rip the fabric of the hammock. If it happens, that’s going to be a disaster.
Which are the different types of hammocks?
Hammocks come in many types and styles with different materials. The two most important distinctions between different hammock types are the material and if the hammock contains a spreader bar or not.
Spreader-bar Hammocks vs. cocoon style hammocks
Most common spreader-bar hammocks are rod hammocks, which feature wooden bars on each end of the hammock. It gives the hammock a flatter profile, in which the back is well-relieved and not strongly curved.
At first glance, you might prefer these for sleeping as they form an almost bed-like structure. The problem with these hammocks is that they are prone to tipping over! With the spreader bars, it is easy to go off balance and to lose position.
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Non-spreader-bar hammocks do not have a wooden bar but more fabric which gives them the cocoon-style look and feel. You will also find the names Brazilian, Mayan, Nicaraguan, etc. These all describe a similar style hammock that does not have spreader bars.
If you intend to sleep in your hammock, I strongly recommend a non-spreader-bar hammock. These are much more stable and usually a lot easier to get in and out of too. Also, the additional fabric allows you to move around more freely and to rest in a diagonal position.
Hammocks are usually made either from cotton or polyester or from a mix of these two materials. Cotton is considered more comfortable, but polyester is more durable. Polyester isn’t going to grow mold or mildew, whereas cotton can absorb the water, holding it in until it begins to cause problems.
Some hammocks are made using parachute nylon. It is extremely tear-proof, breathable and super lightweight and makes it perfect for anyone traveling around with a hammock.
Which hammock is the most comfortable for sleeping?
The perfect hammock for sleeping is not the same for everyone. The choice of hammock depends on three main factors: your height, the purpose (e.g., outdoor camping or indoor bed replacement) and the ambient temperature. In addition, of course, there are personal preferences.
Size matters: As a rule of thumb, the bigger the hammock, the better. When it comes to hammocks there are no such things as “too big”, provided you have enough space.
Concerning type, as explained above you can rule out a rod hammock with spreader-bars right away. They look nice and might give you the typical Caribbean-like feeling, but due to lack of stability, they are not suitable for more than a bit of napping or lounging in the backyard.
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Regarding the material, if used outdoors in various weather conditions, a polyester hammock is more suitable. In case you use your hammock only in a dry environment or indoors, you can choose a cozy cotton hammock which is often more stylish and comes in varying designs, colors, and patterns.
That said, many long-term hammock sleepers would always prefer a mesh hammock over any other type, no matter if used outdoors or indoors. A mesh hammock adapts extremely well to the body which ensures maximum relaxation of the muscles during sleep. Also, the mesh hammock provides proper ventilation which prevents heavy sweating. Of course, this is an advantage primarily in hot temperatures. When it’s colder, you may need a blanket to insulate. This also helps to ease the sensation of the fabric against the skin.
Can a hammock replace a bed?
If you experiment a little, you will be able to spend some very comfortable nights in a hammock. And, yes, a hammock can be a permanent replacement for a bed but this is probably not for everyone. The experiences of sleeping in a hammock are as many and diverse as the personal reasons for choosing this alternative sleep arrangement.
Here are some things to take into consideration:
- Do you have a bed partner? Switching to sharing a hammock is probably not going to work for a long time, if at all. You can, of course, get two hammocks, but there will hardly be any cuddling with your partner. Think how will that affect your relationship.
- Do you have enough space? Yes, a hammock saves space as it can be easily stored away, but you need either enough distance between two sturdy walls or bars or enough space to mount a hammock stand.
- Switching to hammock sleeping for health reasons? While there are people who have woken up pain-free for the first time in years after a night in a hammock, this might not be you. For those who are looking to switch to a hammock bed for health reasons, it may be wise to start out for a couple of nights has a test run before getting rid of the bed.
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Best is probably to start with looking at a hammock as an occasional alternative to your bed. Especially when it’s hot, the hammock can fully demonstrate its advantages. Then, listen to your body. If you wake up more relaxed in the morning not feeling stiff because you experienced an uninterrupted, good quality sleep for the first time in years, then you know the hammock is a perfect (if not permanent) alternative to your bed.
What to take into consideration when buying a hammock?
To recap, these are the essential points to consider when choosing a hammock:
- Purpose (indoor/outdoor)
- Size (length and width, double or single)
- Hanging system
- Included accessory
- Cleaning and care
- Child & pet-friendly
Sweet, rocking dreams!
One Reply to “Can’t Sleep? Find Out if it’s Time for You to Sleep in a Hammock”
Very helpful and informative article. And thanks for your time, Skill, and Knowledge. It surely gives one a lot to think about. great job. A hammock makes me think of slow summer days and the smell of fresh-cut lawns and garden flowers.