It’s customary for humans to sleep while lying down. For many people, it’s necessary to feel comfortable and sleep well.
Generally, this is related to the way gravity affects our bodies. If you were to sleep while standing or sitting upright, your muscles would need to work extra hard to maintain your posture. This sleep position can make it difficult to sleep.
Plus, lying down is necessary to experience REM sleep. This is an essential stage of sleep where memories are consolidated. Your muscles also don’t move during REM sleep. Lying down ensures that you can complete this stage without having to engage your muscles.
Most people sleep while lying down on a mattress. But others prefer to sleep in a hammock. In some parts of the world, hammock sleeping is common.
If you have an uncomfortable mattress, you may wonder if it’s better to sleep in a hammock. Fans of the practice claim it has health benefits, but there’s minimal research on the subject.
To date, scientists haven’t extensively researched the benefits of hammock sleeping. Most studies involve babies. Additionally, many of the purported benefits for adults are anecdotal.
There’s some evidence that sleeping in a hammock could offer several benefits:
The rocking motion of a hammock may encourage deeper sleep. This concept was explored in a small 2011 study, where 12 men took two 45-minute afternoon naps on separate days. They took one nap in a stationary bed and one in a swinging bed.
As the participants napped, the researchers used polysomnography and EEG analyses to study their brain activity. They found that napping in a swinging bed speeds up the transition from wakefulness to sleep. It also lengthens stage 2 sleep, where your body is in a light sleep and preparing to enter deep sleep.
This might be due to the way gentle swinging affects your brain. According to the researchers, the motion may facilitate internal sleep rhythms, helping you get deeper sleep. The rocking might also promote relaxation by creating a calming feeling.
However, the study is small and outdated. It also focused on naps, rather than a full night’s rest. More in-depth research is needed to understand how hammock sleeping may affect the quality of sleep.
Pressure point relief
Generally, sleeping on a mattress places more pressure on your:
It’s well-established that a good mattress will reduce pressure on these areas, also known as pressure points.
On the other hand, a poorly designed or old mattress can trigger these pressure points.
It’s said that sleeping in a hammock will relieve pressure on these areas. The idea is that the surface is more flexible, so there’s equal pressure on all parts of your body. It also molds to your natural curves.
Although fans of hammock sleeping say it helps their pressure points, it’s a purely theoretical benefit. Scientists haven’t examined how hammock sleeping affects pressure points.
Less exposure to bugs
If you sleep outside, or if your mattress is on the floor, hammock sleeping might be beneficial.
The practice makes you less accessible to bugs. This is useful if you’re camping, where it’s common to sleep on the ground.
In a bedroom, sleeping in a hammock may reduce the risk of dust mites, which accumulate on mattresses.
Hammock sleeping won’t fully eliminate your exposure to all bugs, though. You can still come into contact with pests that fly.
The research on hammock sleeping is lacking. Thus, there’s no proof that doing it every night is good or bad for your health.
According to fans of the practice, it can:
Again, these benefits are anecdotal. Talk to a doctor if you’re interested in sleeping in a hammock full-time.
Sleeping in a hammock isn’t for everyone. Depending on how you sleep and your overall health, you may experience unwanted side effects.
This might include:
There are many types of hammocks available on the market. Traditional versions are suspended between two solid posts, like trees. Others are hung on a metal stand, which eliminates the need for supports.
Nylon hammocks are best for sleeping. Hammocks made of rope or netting are more appropriate for brief periods of relaxation.
For a conventional hammock, follow these instructions to safely hang it:
- Check the manufacturer’s directions for ideal hanging distances. This should list the maximum and minimum distances between your two supports.
- Avoid hanging a hammock to anything that moves, like a trailer. Avoid using dead trees or trees with dead branches. This could be dangerous.
- If hanging a hammock indoors, use mounting hardware provided by the manufacturer.
- If hanging a hammock outdoors, use ropes or tree straps to tie the ends of the hammock to the posts.
- Do not suspend your hammock more than 18 inches above the ground. Avoid hanging it above water.
If you’re using a hammock with a metal stand, follow the instructions for setup.
To get a good night’s rest while sleeping in a hammock, consider these tips:
- Use a pillow to support your neck.
- Wrap yourself in a large, comfortable blanket.
- Lie diagonally across the hammock, which creates more space.
- For extra back support, place a pillow or rolled-up blanket under your knees.
Some people sleep in a hammock out of necessity or preference. Reportedly, this can promote deeper sleep and relieve your pressure points. But there isn’t enough evidence to support these claims. Most of the benefits are anecdotal.
For most people, occasionally napping in a hammock is considered safe. But if you’d like to do it nightly, talk to a doctor first. The practice might cause side effects like back pain or poor posture.