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. 🙂