Recently, a Redditor under the handle SirNacho posted a comment on the Hammocks Reddit with the provocative title “My story: Hammocks saved my life.” SirNacho begins his post by saying, “This may seem insane but hammocks have most certainly saved my life. When I was young, I was never able to sleep more than an hour or two each night. My doctor called it insomnia.”
SirNacho suffered through sleepless nights until he was 16, when he tried sleeping in a hammock. His first night in the hammock he got 18 hours of sleep. “Hammocks cured me of my insomnia (of 15 years) and I am forever greatfull!” he wrote.
People have been sleeping in hammocks for centuries, and hammock users have long been vocal about the health benefits they have experience in sleeping in them.
But it’s only been recently that science has begun to give weight to these assertions. More and more, the science coming out about hammocks confirm what SirNacho says: They might save your life.
Hammocks Put Your Body in an Ideal Sleeping Position
In a Huffington Post blog post, Dr. Steven Park, a member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, is quoted as saying that the ideal sleeping posture is “lying on one’s back, with the head slightly elevated, about 10 – 30 percent.”
Does that sound familiar? It’s because hammocks put you in this exact position: on your back, with your head slightly elevated.
Unlike a bed, which allows for all sorts of unhealthful sleeping positions, a hammock forces you into an optimal sleeping position.
They Make You Fall Asleep Faster
According to a study published in Current Biology, sleeping in a hammock makes you fall asleep faster than you would sleeping in a bed.
The study’s authors monitored 12 adult men as they took two afternoon nap: once in a stationary bed and once in a swaying bed (mimicking the motion of a hammock). Conclusion: “We observed a faster transition to sleep in each and every subject in the swaying condition,” said co-author Michel Muhlethaler in an NPR interview.
They Make You Sleep Deeper
Muhlethaler in the same interview, highlighted another benefit of sleeping on a swaying hammock: “It’s not just you go faster to sleep,” Muhlethaler said, “but also while you sleep, your sleep is deeper.”
There are numerous health benefits to deeper sleep, not limited to improving your mood, mental performance and memory.
The Swaying of a Hammock Hacks Your Brain
For reasons scientists are still unclear about, the swaying of hammocks alters the brain waves of sleepers. The swaying makes the brainwaves stronger, Muhlethaler said.
The causes for the brain-hacking properties of hammocks remains obscure.
Swaying “induces a sustained boosting of slow oscillations and spindle activity. It is proposed that sensory stimulation associated with a swinging motion exerts a synchronizing action in the brain that reinforces endogenous sleep rhythms” the paper’s authors wrote, whatever that means.
They May Cure Insomnia
SirNacho’s case suggests that, for whatever reason, hammocks can help to alleviate, or even cure, insomnia. This is backed up by numerous other anecdotes reporting this effect.
Scientists have yet to test this hypothesis in a rigorous setting, but hammocks could very well become an effective medical treatment for the pernicious disorder of insomnia.
They’re Just Really Comfortable
If you sleep on the ground, then pressure is put on the various parts of your body that connect to the ground. This subtle pressure is uncomfortable, leading you to turn over in your sleep a lot in attempts to find comfort.
Expensive mattresses improve matters by cushioning your body at these pressure point — but it doesn’t fix the problem. The pressure on your body while sleeping on a mattress still produces discomfort, which can potentially disrupt your sleep cycles.
The good thing about hammocks is that they eliminate this problem. You’re suspended in air with no point of pressure.