As we’re nearing the middle of summer in the states, many people are resorting to hammocks in the shade to catch an afternoon nap. Is it healthy to sleep in a hammock? Are there benefits to hammock napping?
Let’s first look at the history of the hammock. Hammocks were first discovered by Christopher Columbus during his New World explorations. In his journals he wrote about the native Taíno people in the Caribbean:
Their beds and bags for holding things were like nets of cotton.The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot, 985-1503: The Voyages of the Northmen, Volume 1
Shortly thereafter, nautical seafaring people adopted the hammock to reduce seasickness and to elevate them from the ship floors. In contemporary time hammocks are enjoyed by college students, outdoor enthusiasts, and people wanting to unwind from the stressful world.
Effects on the Body
One recent study in Switzerland followed up on data from 2011 that showed gentle rocking helped lull participants to sleep. In the findings published in February in the journal Current Biology, participants slept in a lab in a bed that rocked mechanically. “Sleeping in this bed increased their deep sleep, the restorative sleep,” says Dr. Mason, who works with insomniacs at UCSF Osher Center sleep group. “People also woke up less when they were on this bed.”
Fewer awakenings, falling asleep faster and staying in deep sleep for longer are all beneficial, the sleep expert says, but the study is small and, of course, doesn’t exactly mimic a hammock. “Sleeping all night in a hammock is a romantic idea, but getting in and out of one is complicated, especially if you’re older,” Dr. Mason adds.
Are there any Risks?
According to Dr. Shane Burch:
“you’d need to sleep in a hammock at a very crucial life stage for a very long time to change the vertebrae. And for an adult, there is zero chance doing that would change the shape of the back, even if you’re a habitual hammock user.”Spine Specialist, Dr. Burch, works with many patients who have scoliosis, a rotational curvature of the spine.
The bottom line is there isn’t any perceived dangers and there is limited research on benefits. If you enjoy lounging in a hammock on a lazy afternoon, go for it! If you haven’t tried laying in a hammock before, now is a great time to get one for cheap!
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