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

July 3, 2018 at 2:23 pm

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.