What do you sleep on at night? A bed or sofa might be the obvious answer. However, according to recent studies, there might be a better option. Sleeping on a hammock may be the secret to a good night’s rest.
Think about it. We cradle babies to sleep in rocking chairs, baby rockers, or with our own arms. The practice is so common across the world, yet no one gives it a second thought.
Apparently, the effect of rocking doesn’t stop at infancy. According to a 2011 study by the University of Geneva in Switzerland, cradling in a hammock benefits adults, too. The experiment involved twelve healthy male volunteers, ages 22 to 38. They took two separate 45-minute afternoon naps: one on a bed that stayed still, and one on a bed that gently rocked back and forth. From there, the researchers measured sleep quality of each person.1 Here’s what they found out.
Unexpected Benefits Of Sleeping In A Hammock
1. Induces Sleep
For many of us, falling asleep is the hardest part. Maybe you have a lot on your mind, or maybe the neighbors or loud. Or perhaps you just feel wired. Whatever the reason, it can be annoying.
The study discovered that cradling helps you fall asleep faster. Stage 1, the change from wakefulness to sleep, is shorter. Meanwhile, stage 2 takes less time to start. Considering you spend most of the night in this period of deep sleep, this is great news.2 The reason behind this effect is interesting. Our motor and sensory systems are actually linked to brain structures, like the amygdala. This particular structure controls both emotions and sleep-wake states, explaining why cradling is so relaxing.
2. Increases Deep Sleep
Rocking doesn’t just bring on stage 2 sleep. It makes it longer, too. The researchers found that cradling extended the duration of this deep sleep stage, which was measured with sleep spindles. This effect was seen in every single participant. Again, most of your time is spent in stage 2. This is the period when you’re actually sleeping. It’s not as deep as stage 3, but it certainly paves the way for a smoother transition. Researchers think this has to do with the onset of sleep. As the sensory system is stimulated, so is the brain’s control over sleep. The result is better, healthier rest.
3. Enhances Deepness Of Sleep
Hours of shut eye won’t matter without deep sleep. According to the study, something like a hammock can help just that. This factor was measured with an EEG machine. Increased movements point to better slow-wave activity, a marker of deep sleep. After rocking back and forth, the EEG had more powerful, consistent movements.
In fact, it also points to better protection against sleep interruptions. For someone that wakes up easily, a hammock may be your answer.3
The Importance Of Sleep
Remember, sleep is a major factor of good health. You need it for brain function, emotional well-being, and physical health. Poor sleeping habits can even mess with hormones, making it hard to lose weight. The “hunger hormone” ghrelin increases, while the “satiety hormone” leptin decreases. Productivity and focus will also take a nosedive. When you don’t snooze much, it’ll take longer to finish tasks and pay attention. Making mistakes will be far too easy. Above all, sleep deficiency increases the risk of injuries. It’s just as bad as driving drunk!4
Consider resting in a hammock when you’re camping or traveling. At home, you’ll obviously need the right backyard or indoor space. If you can swing it, treat yourself to a hammock.
|↑1, ↑3||Bayer, Laurence, Irina Constantinescu, Stephen Perrig, Julie Vienne, Pierre-Paul Vidal, Michel Mühlethaler, and Sophie Schwartz. “Rocking synchronizes brain waves during a short nap.” Current Biology 21, no. 12 (2011): R461-R462.|
|↑2||Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.|
|↑4||Why Is Sleep Important? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|