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Need Sleep? Try a Hammock

By HERWriter
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Insomnia related image Photo: Getty Images

Some historians believe the Mayan Indians invented the first hammock. The elevated hammock provided the Mayans with protection from small reptiles and other animals. Also, it allowed the Mayans to sleep above their dirt or sand floors.

After Christopher Columbus introduced the hammock to the Europeans, the hammock was used by various military organizations, shipping vessels and prisons. Hammocks were mainly used due to a shortage of space.

Today and internationally, more than 100 million people use hammocks for sleep or a quick nap.

Hammocks bring about feeling of peace and relaxation. Many island vacation pictures feature a hammock on a beach. A doula compared sleeping in a hammock to sleeping in the womb.

Now, Swedish researchers have found sleeping in a hammock has a couple of key benefits. This new discovery might help those who have difficulty falling asleep as well as insomniacs.

In a study published in the June issue of Current Biology, neuroscientists at the University of Geneva found people fall asleep deeper with a gentle rocking motion. Also, they fall asleep faster.

Scientists at the University of Geneva developed a bed which mocked the motion of a hammock. During the study, the bed moved back and forth approximately every four seconds.

According to professor of neurology Sophie Schwartz, "This rocking is very gentle, very smooth, oscillating every four seconds. It's not like the rocking you would see some mothers rocking their babies, it's more gentle."

The test group consisted of 12 health individuals who did not have any type of sleeping disorder.

First, the group slept individually in the swaying bed for 45 minutes. Secondly, the same group slept for 45 minutes on a stationary bed. During both naps, the participants wore electrodes (EEG or electroencephalography) to monitor their brain activity. All participants fell asleep faster in the bed which swayed like a hammock.

Schwartz, who led the study, said, "It is a common belief that rocking induces sleep: 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."

The next benefit of sleeping in a swaying bed surprised researchers. The rocking motion increased N2 sleep. According to MSNBC, "N2 sleep, which is a form of non-rapid eye movement sleep, accounts for more than half of a good night's sleep."

During N2 sleep, an EMG (electromyography) registers sleep spindles. Sleep spindles have been associated with the brain’s ability to recall new information.

Additional studies are planned and a full-night study is in the beginning stages.


Reviewed June 28, 2011
Edited by Alison Stanton

Add a Comment4 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

We have two hammocks from The Mexican Hammock Company (http://www.hammocks.co.uk). They are now in constant use both for sleeping and for general relaxation. For sleeping we find that it's best to drag a duvet on the hammock first then lie on that and drag another on top. I've had sleep problems before in normal beds but seem to just drift off really quickly in a hammock. There is something very comforting about being gently rocked to sleep. I also seem to wake up in the same position every time, no matter how I start off. I guess there is one perfect position and your body naturally finds this at some point during the night. I always end up diagonally cocooned. Highly recommended.

April 19, 2013 - 3:49am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

That sounds wonderful! Will have to look into it for sure! Thanks for the info -Lynda

April 19, 2013 - 12:00pm

thanks alot for your informations cause i don't sleep at night because of the prednisone [60ml]i take,i can try the hammock.

July 31, 2011 - 8:31pm

Wonder if that works for side-sleepers? I am a side sleeper and am not sure how comfortable THAT would be in a hammock, though I love hammocks, not sure I can actually sleep in one comfortably. Guess I'll have to buy one and find out!

July 5, 2011 - 2:28pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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