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Hammocks make for deeper sleep
June 21st, 2011
07:41 AM ET

Hammocks make for deeper sleep

Babies aren't the only ones who benefit from gentle rocking. A new study suggests that when you lie down for some shut-eye, swaying in a hammock will help you fall asleep faster and make you sleep more deeply than napping on a stationary bed or couch.

Swiss researchers monitored the brain activity of 12 men during a 45-minute nap on a stationary bed and a nap of the same length on a gently rocking bed designed to simulate a hammock.

When they were in the "hammock," the men drifted off to sleep one minute faster, on average, and entered a deeper stage of sleep more than three minutes faster than when they napped in the still bed, the researchers found.

In addition, the researchers were surprised to discover that the men, while rocking, spent nearly five more minutes in that second stage of sleep (known as N2), which typically makes up about half of a normal night's rest. They also spent less time in the initial stage that serves as a transition between wakefulness and sleep.

Health.com: Seven tips for the best sleep ever

Although the study is small - even for brain-monitoring research - and the results will need to be confirmed in future experiments, the researchers say their findings could lead to novel treatments for insomnia and other sleep disorders.

"This (research) could be helpful in terms of patients who typically suffer from sleep-onset difficulty and sleep-maintenance difficulty," says Sophie Schwartz, Ph.D., one of the study's authors and a professor of neuroscience at the University of Geneva.

Health.com: Take a backyard vacation

Schwartz and her colleagues aren't certain why hammocks help put us to sleep. One explanation may be simply that people associate the gentle to-and-fro of a hammock with relaxation, leading them to drift off more easily.

But other brain processes may also be at work. Directly or indirectly, the rocking motion may activate regions of the brain that are involved in sleep, such as the amygdala. In fact, the authors say, rocking back and forth may actually "synchronize" brain waves in a way that promotes deeper sleep.

Health.com: Which sleep position is healthiest?

The researchers measured brain activity with electroencephalography (EEG), which uses electrodes placed on the scalp to gauge brain activity. When the men were rocking, the researchers found a higher concentration of "spindles" on their EEG readouts - the defining characteristic of N2 sleep - and evidence of more slow-wave brain activity, an indicator of deep sleep.

The effect of rocking on the brain may even play a role in brain functions besides sleep, such as memory and healing after brain damage, according to the researchers.

"Rocking during a nap or night of sleep might be good for other cognitive functions," Schwartz says.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011

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Filed under: Health.com • Sleep

soundoff (52 Responses)
  1. Sigh

    The researchers compared people who slept in a bed, versus a gently rocking bed that SIMULATED a hammock? Why not just use real hammocks? Or why not just state that a bed that rocks puts you to sleep faster and leave the word hammock out of the article? What's next? A study that shows that simulated cholesterol increases your chance of heart disease?

    June 21, 2011 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dalila

      That annoyed me too. A bed that rocks IS NOT a hammock. I'm assuming that they were lying flat in the "hammock bed", so the results may not translate over to a real hammock. Really, it's a bit scary to see how "unscientific" these studies that modern medicine base their practice on can be.

      June 21, 2011 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
    • Johnny

      On the Brazilian style hammock shown in the picture, there is probably about 5 minutes of residual rocking after you lay down on it, then it comes to a dead stop. I like taking a nap on it. I also tried the 8 hour sleep and it didn't work for me, simply because you have to stay on the same position that is on the picture, during the entire night.

      June 21, 2011 at 10:09 | Report abuse |
  2. Kim

    No doubt an evolutionary hold-over from when we, like the chimps and gorillas, made nests out of tree fronds.

    June 21, 2011 at 08:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. KC

    A rocking bed is not a hammock–makes the study flawed. Hammocks are fun–probably because we associate them with summer and vacation! If you had to nap, or sleep in it every day, you'd probably be as sore as can be!

    June 21, 2011 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • MarylandBill

      I don't know about that. For 300+ years, hammocks were the standard berth for sailors on ships. Some sailors even brought their hammocks with them when they slept on shore.

      June 21, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
  4. Darrell

    The study was of men in a simulated hammock, and the picture shows a woman in an actual hammock.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Taylor

    My dad sleeps in a hammock in my backyard since my mom won't let him put one in their bedroom. He has terrible back problems (ruptured disc) and when he sleeps in the hammock he claims he sleeps better, feels more rested, and wakes up without back/neck pain. My mom now takes naps in it and feels the same way. It's not a regular hammock- its one meant for camping so it is covered. Check them out if you have problems sleeping- its very comfortable and the $100 for it is way cheaper than a new bed.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dude

      TMI Taylor. TMI...

      June 21, 2011 at 12:53 | Report abuse |
    • jilly

      Not enough information post the website where I can purchase. Thanks.

      June 21, 2011 at 18:01 | Report abuse |
    • bob wilson

      VUI Taylor (very useful info). Screw the "dude" - he's definitely not THE dude! Just some hack poser that's too cool for school and has never had chronic back pain, nor sympathy for those that do.

      October 29, 2014 at 12:38 | Report abuse |
  6. Summer06

    This study confirms something I had suspected. I discovered previously that when I sleep on a cruise ship, with a gently rocking motion, that I get the best sleep ever. Now someone needs to market a bed that automatically rocks slightly side-to-side so we can all take advantage of this discovery.

    June 21, 2011 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      I have similar experiences in air travel. I get very sleepy whenever the plane is experiencing mild turbulence.

      June 21, 2011 at 12:42 | Report abuse |
  7. Goodstuff

    poo.

    June 21, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. DubA

    I just spent 6 days sleeping in my $90 "eno" hammock out in the woods and its the best sleep ive had in years. Im trying to figure out how to hang it in my room. And get rid of my $1000 bed.

    June 21, 2011 at 15:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Biff

    No wonder my wiener wakes up refreshed after spending the night in my banana hammock.

    June 21, 2011 at 15:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. matt

    Different men, different sleep rates....flawed experiment.
    Same men, different sleep rates dependent upon mood, meals, mental pre-occupation at the time....still flawed experiment.

    You just can't say positively that something IS just from a few tests on humans. You need to test it on millions of participants. Nobody has the budget for that test.

    June 21, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ea

      Under your conditions, scientists would never be able to test anything, and there would be no scientific progress. Also, they don't conclude that this IS the answer, "Although the study is small – even for brain-monitoring research – and the results will need to be confirmed in future experiments"
      CONFIRM IN FUTURE EXPERIMENTS - that's how science works.

      July 8, 2011 at 19:15 | Report abuse |
  11. Jay L

    Great article. The piano piece Hammock in the Philippines by Steven Cravis is very relaxing for sleep too.

    June 21, 2011 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Seth Haber

    If you're thinking of sleeping in a hammock, I highly recommend checking out this blog post:

    "Sleeping In A Hammock: Your Complete Guide to Going From Hammock Fear to Hammock Love"

    http://www.treklightgear.com/TrekLife/index.php/2010/03/sleeping-hammock-guide-fear-love/

    Trek Light Gear makes hammocks that are designed for sleeping: they don't spin or flip you on the ground or leave rope marks in your back and you can lie perfectly flat to sleep on your side or your stomach. They even pack up into a pouch and only weigh 1 pound so you can take it anywhere with you.

    I love seeing new research being done on hammock sleep, even though this particular study is a bit odd in how they simulated the hammock as many of you have pointed out. If you want to learn more about sleeping in a hammock and incorporating a hammock into your everyday (and active!) lifestyle check out the blog and don't be afraid to give sleeping in a hammock a try!

    June 21, 2011 at 18:06 | Report abuse | Reply
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      July 25, 2011 at 05:52 | Report abuse |
  13. Krystal

    What an awesome way to explain this—now I know evertyihng!

    July 1, 2011 at 19:03 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 2, 2011 at 05:01 | Report abuse | Reply
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      I found just what I was needed, and it was enerttiainng!

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  15. Masxon X Hamilton

    Clearly no one in the study ever had a hammock flip them out on to a hard floor. Plus – ever try sleeping on your stomach in a hammock?

    July 18, 2011 at 20:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. offshore letter

    Great Post

    May 3, 2012 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. marvin

    I highly recommend this site as they provide the best hammock in town. My friends and I had enjoyed our vacation using this their hammocks, their hammocks are really relaxing. http://www.mexicanhammocks.com.au/

    June 1, 2012 at 01:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. marvin

    Hammocks are really helpful if you want to relax after your stressful work. Hammocks in this site are great and affordable, Try their hammock. http://www.mexicanhammocks.com.au/.

    June 4, 2012 at 05:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Mark Glicker

    Futons work well also.

    June 4, 2012 at 05:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. paulmarker592

    I agree with your post.Realy hammocks is better way to relax the mood and perfect comfortable for deeper sleep.Large Quilted Hammock are very helpful for it.

    April 2, 2014 at 00:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Aldophus

    Great article! Always buy quality gear, you won’t regret the investment. I love my hammock and tarp from Kampin Gear, very high quality at a great price. Find them at kampingear.com

    November 17, 2017 at 12:58 | Report abuse | Reply
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    I really like this article on Hammocks and benefits of owning them. I really like the idea of owning one myself if I had a backyard, or perhaps I can think of a way to have one indoors. My web store sells a few hammocks http://www.thetrailsendboutique.net along with other products for Camping and Outdoor use.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.