We’re all obsessed with getting sleep. With the stresses of contemporary life, the demands of work and family, and the drive to always do more, getting enough sleep is almost impossible. Besides struggling to get enough sleep, we’re also fighting to get better quality sleep. There’s a simple and affordable way to get more high quality sleep. Keep reading to learn the health benefits of sleeping in a hammock.
If you’re struggling with sleep-related ailments than you already know, there’s a whole industry devoted to selling products for faster and higher quality sleep. In the past, you may have considered replacing your mattress, bedding, and pillows. You may have invested in herbal supplements, sleep trackers, and humidifiers without feeling substantial improvement.
Even if you’re always getting the recommended 7+ hours of sleep every night, your health can still improve from hammock sleep. While replacing a traditional bed with a hammock isn’t practical, you can pair hammock sleep with nature bathing and improve your physical and mental health.
Getting into nature for some relaxation is easy even with the busiest of schedules if you have a portable hammock. They’re lightweight and portable and set up and break down in just a few seconds. They have plenty of pockets and baskets for keeping track of your phone, reading material, and snacks so you can spend a few hours just ‘hanging out’.
Check out our picks for The Best Camping Hammocks.
How do you Sleep Comfortably in a Hammock?
Positioning yourself in a hammock for comfortable sleep takes a little more than just jumping in and swinging away. Body position is vital to gaining the benefits of sleeping in a hammock. If you just hop in and let your body conform to the curve of the hammock, the sides will hug in tight and cause constriction and even force your body into unnatural positions.
Instead, shift your legs off center in one direction. Move your head and shoulders slightly in the opposite directions. Place yourself at an approximate angle of 30 degrees off center. The hammock will flatten out around you.
In this new position, you can shift position, lay flat, and stretch out. If you’re a side-sleeper, you’ll find a hammock still supports your body with ease. Next time you’re in a hammock try it out and see the difference in an instant!
Can You Nap in a Hammock?
Now that you’ve learned how to sleep in a hammock, you need not wait for bedtime to try it out. While some people love sleeping in a hammock full time, getting rid of a box spring is a big commitment. Lucky for you, there’s plenty of research that says adding a nap to your day is so beneficial you can snooze guilt-free.
The Sleep Foundation reminds us that infants and the elderly take naps, so it’s already part of our natural sleep cycle. NASA tested the benefits of napping for pilots and astronauts found that a 40-minute nap improved alertness and job performance. If it’s good enough for NASA, isn’t it good enough for you?
Naps are affordable self-care that let you escape from stress for a little while and leaves you refreshed and engaged for the evening. A scheduled nap, even if you don’t feel tired, will still provide you with these benefits. Using a hammock helps you fall asleep fast and get better sleep for the duration of your nap.
Faster, Better Sleep with a Hammock
Part of the reason hammocks are so effective at lulling humans to sleep you already know with intuition. People rock babies to get them to sleep right? Think of yourself as a baby, and a hammock soothes your restless mind. The gentle rock of a hammock is even gentler than mothers use for their babies, says NPR. But it’s very effective at relaxing the brain into sleep.
According to Current Biology rocking synchronizes your brain waves during sleep, even if it’s just a short nap. The rocking motion in a hammock helps transition the brain from waking to sleep and also increases the time your brain spends in REM sleep. You’re not just napping in a hammock, you’re helping improve cognitive function.
A brain that’s sleeping in a rocking bed has more ‘sleep spindles’, or bursts of brain activity while asleep. Those sleep spindles help you remember new information and improve brain plasticity. Great reasons to knock off work for an hour and snag a quick nap.
Insomnia Relief from a Hammock
If you’re one of the 60 million Americans struggling with insomnia, according to NPR you may already have a lightbulb over your head. Considering how beneficial regular, good sleep is for both physical and mental health, it’s frustrating and concerning when you can’t get to sleep. And you may be ready to try just about anything for relief.
Next time you’re struggling with a sleepless night, try sleeping in a hammock. Even a single night of missed sleep disrupts daily routines, causes stress and impacts general wellness. Next time you toss and turn, don’t try to power through in your bed. Instead, get settled into a hammock and lets your brain relax into REM sleep without a second thought.
Ideal Sleep Position is Natural in a Hammock
When you use a correct body position in a hammock, it naturally elevates your head and heart. This is the sleeping position in which your body gets the best rest. The natural gentle slope of a hammock places your body in the ideal position of head and heart raised 20-30 degrees up from the legs.
Using pillows to find this position in a traditional bed can cause muscle strain, place pressure on the spine, and aggravate pressure points on a mattress. Instead, a hammock naturally cradles your body, placing it in this ideal position. Here are just a few of the benefits you can gain from this sleep position:
- Less snoring: mouth breathing during sleep and even sleep apnea lessen with a raised head during sleep.
- Breathe easier: You may not know that you have respiratory stress during sleep, except that you always wake up tired. An elevated sleep position reduces pressure on the lungs.
- Ease sinus congestion: The body produces a lot of mucus every day, and during flat sleep, it collects in the sinuses. Elevated sleep also prevents blood from pooling in the nasal area.
- Treat chronic headaches: Laying flat can place a lot of pressure on the head and the spine. By elevating the head without additional pressure, headache sufferers can find relief.
- Reduce acid reflux: In an elevated sleep position, stomach acid is less likely to flow out of the stomach into the esophagus during sleep.
- Less sluggish & tired during the day: Without going to a costly sleep clinic, you may never know what sleep disorders are disrupting your sleep. Elevated sleeping can help most of them.
Sleeping in a Hammock Helps Back Pain
There’s a chance that you’re waking up throughout the night because sleeping on a mattress aggravates pressure points throughout the body. When you drop into REM sleep, which is the sleep your brain needs to recuperate, your body stops moving. Pain from pressure against a mattress may bring you out of REM sleep prematurely, so you can switch positions.
Sleeping in a hammock prevents the cycle of rest, REM, pain, waken. A hammock cradles the body, so there aren’t stressful points holding the weight of the body on the mattress. Body position in a hammock also relieves pressure on the spine.
The hammock also creates a gentle spread of spinal discs, which decompresses the spine. Throughout the course of the day, gravity compresses the discs of the spine. If compression becomes severe enough, it can cause a painful and damaging herniated disc.
Many people suffering from back pain find relief by sleeping or resting in a hammock. There’s a common misconception that hammocks will cause back pain because they’re so different from a firm bed. In actuality, hammocks provide gentle support that doesn’t fight gravity. If you struggle with back pain, try napping or resting a hammock as part of your daily routine. Chances are you’ll start feeling better in no time. As an added benefit, it’s a lot cheaper than a chiropractor.
Hammocks and the Vestibular System
You’re not alone if you’re not sure where or what is the vestibular system. It’s a part of the inner ear, the one responsible for orienting you in space and helping you keep your balance. It collects information about the position and movement of the head and passes that information to the eyes and the brain.
When something goes wrong in the vestibular system, it results in symptoms like vertigo, nausea, and imbalance. Not a lot of fun.
Vestibular input naturally feels good though, it releases dopamine into our brains. Dopamine is one of the ‘big four’ happy chemicals in our brains along with oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins. Dopamine is beneficial in that it can contribute to improving alertness and focus, improving motivation and general mood elevation.
Think about when you were a kid, and you’d spin in circles until you fell over; that’s just a big shot of vestibular input, creating dopamine. Swinging also creates vestibular input. And while not as thrilling as trying to swing around the top bar of the swing set, the gentle swaying of a hammock also creates positive vestibular input.
Hammocks for ADD, Aspergers, and Autism
All kids already love hammocks. They’re great fun to hang in, engage in gentle swinging, and wrapping the sides around yourself creates a secret private fort. For kids with developmental delays, extra time engaging in vestibular sensory input can provide significant benefits.
The particular input that a hammock provides; one of gentle swinging is great because it’s not overwhelming for kids who avoid or under respond to vestibular input. Kids get to hang out in a hammock and read, get screen time or nap, all while developing their vestibular system.
For active kids with ADD and ADHD, the website ADDitude describes how a hammock can help. Gentle swinging in a hammock is a safe outlet for rocking behavior, reducing fidgeting that comes from sitting still. And the sides of the hammock provide a comforting, gentle hug.
Sleeping Outside in a Hammock
Regular campers may already know the benefits of sleeping in a hammock while outdoors. They’re lightweight and compact, so you don’t have to pack a bedroll. You can head into the wild knowing you won’t be uncomfortable on the ground all night.
With a hammock, you’re lifted off the ground for high quality restorative sleep. Especially if you’re hiking. The gentle spine expansion that comes from a hammock feels great after carrying a pack all day. But you don’t need to be camping overnight to enjoy sleeping in a hammock outdoors.
‘Forest bathing’ is the practice of spending time in nature without engaging in activity. Just existing and absorbing the sights, smells, and sounds around you in a forest releases stress. There’s significant research showing the health benefits of forest bathing include:
- Decreased depression, fatigue, and anxiety.
- Increased focus, vigor, and dopamine
What better way to forest bathe than from the comfort of a hammock? Double the dopamine benefits to your brain with gentle swaying while absorbing nature around you.
An article in Time describes how you don’t even need a whole forest to practice forest bathing. Head to the nearest park and focus on the signs, sounds, and smells around you. Enjoy a few hours unplugged from the demands of your life while resting in a portable hammock.
Is it Healthy to Sleep in a Hammock?
Yes! In fact, it’s so healthy you may end up swapping your traditional bed for a hammock. Short of that drastic move, there are other ways to get all these great benefits. Using a portable hammock, it takes just seconds to set up a place to rest and recharge anywhere.
Set up a hammock in the backyard and refocus your mind for work by relaxing in it for an hour or two. If you’re a city dweller or without your own outdoor space, you can take a portable hammock to the park to post up for an afternoon or morning relaxation session.
Beach trips are better when you’re not tangled up in your towel every few minutes, covered with sand. Whether you live close to the shore or are just visiting for a few days, use the opportunity to spend some time absorbing some health benefits of sleeping in a hammock.
Make sure to check out our post on the Health Benefits of Camping and learn even more benefits of getting into the outdoors.