STUDY: Hammocks Put You to Sleep Faster and Keep You Asleep Longer Than Beds

Hammocks might be the most advanced beds ever invented, according to a growing body of research

If you’ve spent thousands of dollars on mattress after mattress, trying to find one that doesn’t hurt your back and leave you tossing and turning all night, you may have been wasting your money, according to a growing body of research that says the simple, ancient hammock may be the most ingenious bed humans have ever created.

Christopher Columbus and crew might have thought the people he found “sleeping on nets between trees” in the Bahamas 700 years ago were crazy, but new studies show the hammock sleepers were probably getting a lot better sleep than he and his European friends.

The first to mention the virtues of hammock sleeping in writing was a student of Socrates in 450 B.C.

The ancient Mayans call the invention of the hammock “a gift from the gods,” and now we’re finding out they were grateful for more than just protection from bugs, snakes and other creatures on the forest floor… they were likely grateful for the best night’s sleep of their lives.

Here are five benefits of hammock sleeping, confirmed by modern science:

1. Fall Asleep Faster

A 2011 study found that the gentle rocking motion of the hammock helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer than a stationary bed.

“It is a common belief that rocking induces sleep,” researcher Sophie Schwartz of the University of Geneva in Switzerland said in a news release.

“We irresistibly fall asleep in a rocking chair and, since immemorial times, we cradle our babies to sleep.

“Yet, how this works had remained a mystery. The goal of our study was twofold: to test whether rocking does indeed soothe sleep, and to understand how this might work at the brain level.”

In the study, researchers monitored brain activity of participants in hammock beds and stationary beds during 45-minute naps, finding those in hammock beds fell asleep much faster.

2. Sleep Deeper

The researchers in that same study were surprised to find that the swinging motion of the hammock beds also helped participants sleep much deeper.

“Surprisingly, we also observed a dramatic boosting of certain types of sleep-related brain wave oscillations,” said Michel Muhlethaler, professor of neuroscience at the University of Geneva.

The brain wave oscillations, known as sleep spindles, are associated with deep sleep and memory consolidation.

The rocking motion also increased the duration of the non-rapid eye movement stage of sleep that usually takes up about half of a good night’s sleep.

The researchers said they hope to perform further research to determine whether hammock sleeping should be prescribed for insomnia.

3. Ideal Sleep Position

According to Dr. Steven Park, a head and neck surgeon and member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the optimal sleep position is on one’s back, with the head elevated, about 10 – 30 percent.

This gives the brain optimal blood circulation rather than congestion and also allows for more unobstructed breathing, he says in a Huffington Post article.

The legs should be elevated too, with pillows or an adjustable bed, Park says.

That’s the exact position hammocks put you in, which may be why many native cultures sleep in them rather than on flat beds.

I remember my grandma spending thousands of dollars for an adjustable Tempurpedic bed that raised her head, and legs, at a doctor’s recommendation. Maybe she would’ve done just as well or better with a $50 hammock.

4. Alleviate Back Pain

While there haven’t been any peer-reviewed studies on hammocks’ alleged ability relieve back pain, there are thousands of anecdotal reports (just look at the customer reviews on Amazon) and they are commonly recommended by chiropractors, orthopaedic surgeons and other doctors because of their ergonomic shape.

The theory is that the way hammocks cradle our bodies similar to how they were cradled in the womb. The cradle shape paired with gravity evenly distributes all the weight of our bodies, resulting in zero pressure points and therefore zero pain.

5. Improve learning

Hammock swaying improves memory, and as a result reading and learning.

The particular brain waves monitored during the 2011 Swiss study are directly related to memory.

“The type of waves which are reinforced here, have also been associated with an increase in memory for recent events,” Michel Muhlethaler, professor of neuroscience at the University of Geneva, told NPR.

“So it’s true that from that point of view, this type of ameliorated sleep could be beneficial also for cognitive purposes.”

Brain wave oscillations not only improve our memory while we sleep, but are known to help us concentrate and retain information while reading/studying. So next time you’re cramming for a test, do it the easy way, swaying in the breeze.





15 responses to “STUDY: Hammocks Put You to Sleep Faster and Keep You Asleep Longer Than Beds”

  1. Prometheus Avatar

    I started sleeping in a hammock while camping last year. I’ve been using tents, pads and sleeping bags for decades. On a whim, I bought a cheap gathered end hammock and gave it a shot. I loved it. It was the best sleep I’d ever had camping. This year, I bought a better hammock (Dutchware Chameleon) and it only got better. I’d actually rather sleep in my hammock than my bed. If my wife would let me, I’d probably sleep in my hammock instead.

  2. Kevin Avatar

    I sleep on a mat

    1. Dave Brown Avatar
      Dave Brown

      Where is your mat? On the floor/ground, or in a hammock, or elsewhere?

  3. Charissa Pacheco Avatar
    Charissa Pacheco

    I’ve been sleeping in a hammock for about 5 years now. I’m so miserable when I travel and have to sleep in a bed. My sleep is horrid and my back is killing me when I get up. I don’t care how good of a bed it is, I’d much rather be in my hammock! I spent about $100 for a very sturdy stand and double wide cotton hammock. I just replaced the hammock portion for the second time (about $30 each time.)

  4. Frank Douglass Avatar

    I’ve been sleeping in a hammock for decades. One of the reasons is because they got a hairline crack 5th sacral segment. But all those reasons listed above a part of it plus more. Glad to see the article agrees with me.

  5. D Metrailer Avatar
    D Metrailer

    I don’t usually comment on FB but I must respond to this. Forty four years ago I started traveling in Mexico, especially the Yucatan. I bought my first hammaca in Chetumal, Q. Roo. There is a definite educational aaspect to hammacas and I was fortunate to be taught by Mayans ( who were bred and born in hammacas) on how to tie up the hammaca and how to take it down and store it, how to break it in and how to properly sleep in it. Guess what… I have been using and sleeping in my hammacas ever since and every member of my family gas their own. I use the Yucatacan style woven hammacas. If you are thinking of buying a Yucatacan hammac always buy a cotton (algodon) with nylon upper strings. The nylon colors are beautiful but hot and uncomfortable. To be really comfortable you need a very large one, which they usually call a “matrimonial”. If you buy on line this can be deceiving and are usually much smalller than a true matrimonial. If you are buying in Mexico, get the vendor to tie up the hammaca and get in it to see the true size. Just remember… No shoes or clothing with back buttons. You don’t want to snap a threat. Hammaca maintenance is a whole other thing. I can’t tell you the countless happy hours I have spent in my hammacas. There is one hanging on my porch right now. Just remember one very important thing: ALWAYS LIE AT A DIAGONAL, NEVER STRAIGHT UP AND DOWN. This way you can lie flat. Happy hammacing!!!!

  6. Philip M Smith Avatar
    Philip M Smith

    I’ve been sleeping in a hammock for 3 years now and I can say with 100% certainty I do NOT miss my bed XD

  7. oliver Avatar

    Take a hammock into a quiet wood put it up and hop in! trust me it is something else being in the presence of nature whilst relaxing in a hammock

  8. dennis Avatar

    I have a 1/2 dozen hammocks, even one in my truck under the seat for the occasional short nap in the woods. I lay diagonally across my 11ft model and sleep so sound that the first time I remember thinking I’d take a 30 min nap and ended up waking some 14 hrs later!

  9. Asia Avatar

    I have slept in hammocks for decades. Glad to see this study ,

  10. E Hughes Avatar
    E Hughes
  11. Sébastien Avatar

    Thanks a lot to for sharing such an informative article and I have pleased to get this blog page. I am new at this. I have read your valuable article and gotten much information. but I have a little question that, which hammock is the best for traveling? Could you please suggest me? I will await your valuable response with great interest.

  12. Marty Deemst Avatar

    Thanks for sharing this helpful information. You are inspiring me for camping. I love camping in different places. But I was worried about choosing the right hammocks for camping? I got a lot of information from your blog which you have written your blog. Review this article my confusion is clear, Thanks.

  13. Emma McGann Avatar

    Thanks for sharing.

  14. Laura McNab Avatar

    I just read through your entire blog and I found it quite interesting. And yes you are right that hammocks are better than beds when traveling. These are a piece of really essential and helpful information for traveling with hammock. Thanks.