I Have Been Sleeping in a Hammock for a Year

A year ago, I bought a hammock and decided to try to sleep in it full-time. I never expected that I would become a convert, but except for my trip to Haven in September and my trip to Mazatlán in March, I have not slept in a bed since I started sleeping in the hammock.

So that’s my setup now. It took me eons to figure out a night table setup that would let me reach things, put things down, and not be in the way. This was a bit obvious once it was attained, but sometimes the simplest solutions are the the last to be considered. I lie with my head towards the table, so I can easily reach back and grab things.

You’ll notice the fan. It blows at my back all night, providing cooling, ventilation, and white noise. Fan + blackout mask + hammock = bliss.

I have been tracking my sleep for a few years now and had some pretty good data from my pre-hammock nights to compare to my hammock nights and the Haven and Maz nights that I was in a bed. There were two things to note.

1) I really am not a great sleeper, waking up a lot during the night, tossing and turning a lot in beds, and failing to fall into truly deep, restorative sleep.

2) The hammock eliminates all the tossing and turning, rocks me back to sleep when I wake during the night, and allows for longer periods of restorative sleep. In a bed, I could spend ten hours lying down and have my sleep tracker record four hours of restorative sleep broken up over that period. With the hammock, I usually spend seven to eight hours in bed for a total of six to six and a half hours of restorative sleep, often broken up into two chunks. Most days, that is all I need and I’m raring to go! The nights that I need more, like last night, I can wake up at my usual time, read a bit, and rock myself back to sleep to get an extra hour and a half. Or I can take a nap mid-afternoon. I was never able to nap in a bed, but I can in a hammock.

What I said in the early days of sleeping in the hammock still holds true — a really bad night of sleep in the hammock is what used to be a good night for me in a bed.

This has led to a cascade effect in my life. I’m sleeping better, so I have more energy and focus during the day, as well as time since I’m not spending so much of it horizontal anymore. I’m earning more at work, I have more time for social activities, my house is cleaner, I’m eating better, I’m exercising more… I’m going to go into a lot of that in the last “Staying Put” post, which should be coming out soon.

The benefits of sleeping in a hammock haven’t just been mental. When you lie correctly in a hammock, you’re essentially weightless. There’s no pressure on your joints. I haven’t had aches and pains worth mentioning in recent memory. Even when I step up my exercise routine, I’m not sore the next day because my body can truly recover overnight.

One of the most amazing changes is one I wish I’d foreseen so I could have taken some before pictures. Due to my enormous  and heavy bosom pre-reduction surgery, I’ve had increasingly bad kyphosis all my life — that’s the form of spinal curvature we call “hunchback.” This has caused me back pain and deformed my body. With the way my lower spine was pushing out, it made my belly look much more enormous than it did, eliminating any appearance of having even the short torso that I do. Within just a few months of sleeping in the hammock, my spine started to straighten out and I regained a full inch of height. My torso slowly materialised and everything kind of redistributed itself where it needed to be — I finally had a waist! But even more importantly, my back pain was gone. I don’t have that problem with a numb spot in my back from prolonged periods of sitting. I know that part of that is that I’m simply moving more, but the straighter back does mean I’m sitting straighter in my chair and not slouching as much.

Another benefit of having the hammock is I don’t have to maintain a huge pile of bedding — I just wash the hammock and my sleep sack once a week. And I don’t have to make the bed — I just bundle the sleep sack (and blanket in winter) in the hammock, as seen above.

Getting in and out of the hammock now is no big deal, no worse than getting out of bed. I do it in the dark just as well as in the light. This continues to be a pretty good video of how to get in, and the one I recommend, except that I sit about two-thirds of the way along near the “head” of the hammock, rather than right in the middle.

To get out, you sit up, put your feet on the floor, and walk back to a standing position. It’s actually physically easier than getting out of bed as the hammock supports your weight.

The first question I get when I mention to people that I sleep in a hammock is how does that work if you’re in a relationship? Well, that hasn’t been an issue in eons. For occasional sleepovers, there is a double bed in the house. And for long-term, there are family-sized hammocks that I’d be eager to try out. Generations of Mayan families all slept together in a hammock, with the dogs even, so hammocks are certainly not just for single people!

Sleeping in a hammock has been an incredibly positive change in my life. I look forward to many, many more blissful nights. 🙂

16 thoughts on “I Have Been Sleeping in a Hammock for a Year

  1. Once again, you make me wish I could figure out where to put a hammock in this small apartment. I would like that full night’s sleep without all my tossing and turning.

    • If you do, please do research on how to pick a good one for sleeping in and how to sleep in it correctly. Literally everyone who has scoffed at me on this subject because it didn’t work for them was doing it wrong. :-/

  2. Thank you, very interesting. So do you sleep “side to side” versus “end to end”? How did you measure to get the correct size hammock for you?

    • I sleep in it diagonally: https://www.treklightgear.com/blogs/trek-life/hammock-angle

      This hammock is matrimonial size – double bed size in US mattress speak. I went to a small shop and the lady there picked out the hammock that she thought was right for my needs at my budget. I also have a single hammock for napping — I could probably sleep in that one too, but it doesn’t have as much room for me to say spread out and stretch since there isn’t as much material.

    • Living in Yucatán, pretty much the hammock capital of the world, I had an abundance of choice. Based on the recommendation of the storekeeper, I went with a traditional Mayan hammock, matrimonial (double bed) size, cotton, and medium weave. I was told I’d probably want to come back in a year or so and get a new hammock with a tighter weave (and a much higher cost) as the hammock would start stretching and a tighter weave is more comfortable for nightly sleeping, but so far, I’m not feeling that need. My hammock looks and behaves a lot like the hammock in the video in this post.

      This hammock on Amazon looks very similar to mine in size and weave. I just put in Yucatan hammock and this was the first link that popped up, so this is just an example, not an endorsement. https://amzn.to/2MmDdOU

  3. Thanks! I found one sort of like that online that comes with a stand. Not as pretty as yours, alas. Can’t wait for it to get here!

    • That’s great! I really hope it works out for you. I’m curious about how a stand would be versus hooks in the wall like we have here.

      • It was so cool! I loved laying in it with the fan going overhead. What a lovely way to have an afternoon nap. Unfortunately it was too big to fit on my screened porch (with everything else) so it had to go back. May be tough to find something that will fit, but I’ll keep looking.

        • Oh, that’s too bad. 🙁 A single is much narrower, but as long. There might be kiddie sizes as well, but I’m not familiar with those. My single is great for napping, but I wouldn’t want to spend a night in it as I can’t spread out as much.

  4. Rae, thanks to you and your blog I’ve also been sleeping in a hammock for almost a year. I have no desire to go back to sleeping in a bed. In fact, I got rid of mine six months or more ago since it was taking up so much space and going unused.

    I was born in Belize City, and my parents would sometimes go to Merida to shop. There, they bought a Mayan hammock just like yours (except it was yellow and white) and hung it in our basement when we moved back to the States. My siblings and I LOVED that thing and spent many countless hours playing in it (3 kids fit just fine!), reading in it, napping in it, etc. Amazingly, it lasted 20 years or more before it had too many holes for my mother to justify keeping it!

    When I read about your experience sleeping in a hammock full-time and was also waking up feeling with a headache and body aches most days, I knew I needed to try one, too. I’m so glad I did! I sleep so much better and longer and wake up most days free of a headache and body aches. Thanks so much for sharing your hammock journey with us!

    • Fern, thank you for that story! I’m so happy that you are also enjoying sleeping in a hammock and are experiencing similar benefits!

      • I should also add that, since I live in a cooler climate, I use this underquilt to prevent what hammockers call “frozen butt syndrome”:

        https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073QMSWVC??tag=travwithmir05-20

        At first, I tried using a blanket underneath me, and that just created all kinds of unhappy issues with bunching underneath me anytime I moved. The underquilt is a perfect solution because it hangs underneath the hammock and provides insulation from below.

        For a cover on top of me, I use a 60×90 down throw which is quite warm without being hot, is lightweight, and isn’t bulky at all.

        For a pillow, I use this Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow which provides adequate support for my neck.

        https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07MQDSW48?tag=travwithmir05-20

        I sleep on my back in the hammock, which I never did when I slept in a bed (had always been a side sleeper).

        Also, for anyone wanting to try sleeping in a hammock who hasn’t read Rae’s earlier posts, be sure to position your body at a 30-degree angle in the hammock. That’s the ticket to finding that wonderful “sweet spot” in a hammock!

        • In the summer, I use a cotton “sleep sack” — just a sheet sewn on the bottom and long edge and in the winter, I use a polar fleece sleep sack. Both prevent the bunching you’re talking about. If I need more warmth on those genuinely cold January and February nights, I might wrap myself in a blanket as well. I don’t use a pillow in the hammock. The hammock has just enough give to mould itself to give me the support I need where I need it.

          I keep posting links to a guide on how to properly lie in a hammock, but the question of what position I sleep in and how do I not have a back ache sleeping like a banana keep coming up. I’ll try your description next time. LOL

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