Many people mistakenly think of hammocks as woven mosquito nets strung between two trees in the jungle, and not the high-quality sleep cocoons that are manufactured today. Modern hammocks are not exactly what the Mayans would have used.
These days they are made from the same materials as parachutes and other structurally-sound fabrics, but our ancient friends were on to something when it comes to the benefits of sleeping in a hammock. Numerous studies have revealed health benefits that suggest swinging in a hammock is not just for an afternoon on the beach, but rather a good night’s rest.
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1. Fall Asleep Faster
There’s a reason we rock babies to sleep, and hammocks work much in the same way for adults. In 2011, researchers published a study that found the swinging motion from a hammock lulls individuals to sleep faster and into a more steady sleep throughout the night.
The Swiss research team watched the brain activity of 12 adults while they took 45-minute naps on stationary beds. Then the participants took a 45-minute nap in a rocking bed made to simulate a hammock. In the faux hammock, the participants fell asleep an average of one minute faster and went into a deeper sleep more than three minutes faster than on the regular bed.
2. No Pressure Points
When you sleep on a mattress or other flat surface, every place it contacts your body becomes a pressure point, sending signals to your brain throughout the night that you aren’t comfortable. That causes tossing and turning during the course of an evening.
Sleeping in a properly hung hammock provides a zero-pressure point experience. Spend a night in a hammock and say goodbye to tossing and turning.
3. Deeper Sleep
Falling asleep much quicker and not battling pressure points means better sleep that should help you wake up feeling refreshed and ready for whatever the day holds. On top of more sleep, you should also get deeper sleep! The rocking motion encourages the second stage of sleep (known as N2), which is good for brain health. Deeper sleep promotes recovery and allows the body to repair itself. This is the time that energy is restored; the immune system gets a boost and your tissues and muscles heal.
In the same Swiss study from 2011, the researchers found that the study participants on the hammock-like bed spent almost five more minutes in N2 sleep. Participants also spent less time in the transition period between being awake and asleep.
4. A Cure For Insomnia
Many people turn to over the counter and prescription drugs to deal with severe insomnia. Others try sound machines to create peaceful states for sleeping, and some turn to cell phone applications that are supposed to help you optimize your sleep cycles with awkward timers. The answer may be much simpler. The same rocking motion hammocks provide that lull the average sleeper to dreamland so much faster than on a mattress may do the same for people with chronic insomnia.
If you’re having trouble sleeping, changing up your sleeping habitat could be just what the doctor ordered. There’s something to be said for curling up in an apparatus that mimics a cocoon or a womb, as opposed to a flat mattress.
5. Better Health
Just as hospital beds are designed for patients to lie on their back with their head slightly elevated, hammocks put you in the same position. This position promotes optional blood circulation to the brain (rather than congestion) and allows for less obstructed breathing. Because of this position, hammocks are recommended for people suffering from bad backs, joint pain, and just the everyday aches or life.
The health benefits of sleeping in a hammock long term are really just starting to be studied in-depth, but it appears that it could have quite the impact on common ailments like arthritis, sleep apnea, and even acid reflux.
Researchers have also noted that the rocking effect may be good for other cognitive functions, such as memory or recovery after brain damage. This can be achieved through napping in a hammock — not just swapping your bed.
No matter if you’re considering totally swapping your regular mattress for a hammock or just purchasing one to nap in occasionally, it’s important to learn about the different kinds and how to properly sleep in one before you jump in. The many people who have sworn off traditional mattresses will tell you hammocks are for much more than summertime napping!