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Is Sleeping in Hammocks Bad for Your Back?

During the summer it can be quite a joy to simply sit back and relax in a hammock. You can read a book, enjoy the scenery, or even take a nap. As it turns out, sleeping in a hammock can actually help you fall asleep faster and give you “better” rest, eliminating tossing and turning.

Back pain often leads to discomfort, which can disrupt your sleep cycle and even prevent you from getting to sleep at all. It is important to keep in mind that a strong, supportive hammock that is properly hung is the best option for easy relaxation. Flimsy or smaller versions can lead to lower back pain, so it’s best to avoid those at all costs.

Hammocks were first invented for sleeping in Central and South America, and later introduced to Europeans by Christopher Columbus, who brought several back from his voyages to the New World. As early as 1600, the British Royal Navy adopted them for use on ships, as the movement provided superior comfort for their sailors and prevented them from being thrown to the deck if waves tossed the ship.

Hammocks can actually help us fall asleep faster and encourage a deeper, more fulfilling slumber. Think of it like rocking a baby to sleep. Researchers at the University of Geneva in Switzerland tried to discover why this works and what happens when people are rocked to sleep. In order to conduct the study, the team built custom devices that gently rocked, and monitored brain activity using an electroencephalogram (EEG). “We observed a faster transition to sleep in each and every subject in the swinging condition,” researcher Michel Mühlethaler said in the study’s news release.

Additionally, the researchers found that the gentle rocking increased sleep-related oscillations in the brain called “sleep spindles,” which are intertwined with deep sleep and memory consolidation, when compared to the control component of the study done on normal, still mattresses. It has been suggested that the slight elevation of the head allows for better circulation around the brain.

The next time you have access to a hammock and haven’t been getting a good night’s rest because of back aches and pains, or if you’re just interested in the concept, take a few hours of down-time to give this a try. It might not work for everyone, but it is an option available to you.