The Health Benefits of Sleeping in Hammocks

Hammocks are great places to kick back and relax, unwind, and savour a sunset view…and quite possibly, fall asleep to the soothing sounds of nature. But did you know that sleeping in a hammock can actually be healthy?

Most of us grew up sleeping in flat beds, and were raised in a culture that told us to lie still to get a good night’s sleep. But recent discoveries in neuroscience and sleep medicine are casting doubt on the benefits of gigantic beds, expensive mattresses and plush pillows. Instead, what scientists seem to be uncovering is that the humble hammock might just be the healthiest place to have a snooze.

Heads up! Hammocks offer the best body position for sleeping 

According to doctors and researchers at the Academy of Sleep Medicine, the optimal sleep position is on your back, with your head raised. Doctors say that having your head elevated between 10 and 30 degrees above your chest allows you to breathe deeply during sleep, and facilitates increased blood circulation.

Ironically, while many sleep specialists try to achieve this head-above-body position by arranging multiple pillows under the head, there’s a much simpler and more satisfying way: using a hammock. The academics conducting the sleep trials noticed this — they cited examples of native cultures sleeping in hammocks as the closest to emulating this ideal body position.

 Hammocks rock! Researchers find swinging beds provide a superior slumber

In 2011, researchers at the University of Geneva decided to study whether people slept better when their bodies were stationary, or when they were rocking side-to-side. Researchers built two custom sleeping stations: one stationary, and one that swayed gently. They recruited 12 participants, and asked them to fall asleep the job…literally. Each time the participants took a nap, scientists monitored their brain waves and recorded their sleep stages.

The results? No surprise to hammock aficionados. Not only did the people who napped in the rocking beds fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, but their brain waves increased and they showed enhanced neural activity, the type that is believed to help solidify memories. To top it off, three-quarters of the participants rated the rocking bed as ‘more pleasant’ than the stationary bed.

So next time you find yourself dozing off in your hammock, don’t fight the feeling: embrace it. It will be a sleep to remember, and you may wake up feeling smarter.

Rock a bye baby 

Much research has focused on the health benefits of hammock sleeping for healthy grown adults. But what about the tiniest humans around? Turns out that newborn babies, especially those born prematurely, can also benefit from hammock time.

Brazilian infants sleep better in hammocks on maternity wards

As reported in the Daily Mail newspaper, nurses in Manilia Brazil are using slings of cloth to create hammocks in incubators. According to staff at the university hospital maternity ward, the hammocks help newborn babies feel cradled and supported, replicating the conditions of the womb and providing a calming influence in the hospital setting.

Born prematurely? Colombian babies benefitting from tiny hammocks

Babies born before the 40-week gestation often struggle with health problems, with underdeveloped bones, organs and lungs. But as BBC reported, doctors in the city of Cartegena, Colombia, are experimenting with tiny woven hammocks strung in the neonatal wards. Staff on the maternity ward found the babies slept longer when they were cradled in the small hammocks, since hanging reduced the weight placed on their undeveloped bodies.

So there you have it. Whether you’re looking to catch a cat nap, cop some afternoon zzzzs or nod off and saw logs from dusk ’til dawn, make sure your next sleep is in a hammock.

There are many ways to sit in a hammock. How many of them do you know?