Are Hammocks Bad for Your Back?
For people with back pain and sensitivity, it's crucial that their sleep habits support their backs and provide restful sleep, so they don't wake up with pain and soreness. Many people with sensitive backs want to experience the ease and comfort of using a hammock for sleeping outdoors, and it's natural to wonder if hammocks are bad for your back.
However, many back pain sufferers find that sleeping in a hammock actually helps their back pain, and provides greater comfort and a more restful sleep. Let's take a closer look at hammocks and back pain.
The Benefits of Sleeping in a Hammock
For many people, a hammock is the most natural, comfortable way to sleep. Sleeping in a hammock has been practiced around the world for centuries, and is traditional in many cultures.
Many doctors suggest that the perfect sleeping position is with the head slightly elevated, at a 10-30 degree angle. This angle promotes proper circulation to the brain, and reduces obstruction when breathing. Many cultures sleep on angled surfaces, including hammocks, for this reason, rather than on the flat surfaces we tend to sleep on in the West.
Hammocks are also a great way to relieve pressure points, because body weight is distributed and supported by the entire surface of the hammock. In many conventional mattresses, pressure is concentrated on key parts of the body, which can contribute to pain and soreness.
Hammocks also rock slightly, and studies have shown that this gentle motion provides deeper, more restful sleep. A rocking motion helps people get to sleep faster, and also promotes more “sleep spindles”– the special brain oscillations during sleep that promote deep sleep and memory encoding. Rocking helps babies go to sleep more quickly and deeply, and works for adults as well.
Finally, sleeping in a hammock forces most people to sleep on their back, rather than on their stomachs. Most doctors recommend that people with back pain avoid sleeping on their stomachs or sides, to better support their spine during sleep. Hammocks naturally promote this optimal sleep position to avoid back pain.
What Kind of Hammocks to Use for Back Pain
Generally speaking, people with back pain should avoid lounging-type hammocks with spreader bars at the top and bottom. These hammocks often don't provide great stability when sleeping, particularly if you are prone to tossing and turning, and woven rope hammocks may not provide optimal support for the whole body.
For people with back pain, soreness, or stiffness, it's important to use a gathered-end hammock made of high-quality material, for the best comfort and support for spinal health.
How to Lay in a Hammock for Back Health
The most common mistake people make when sleeping in a hammock, and that can exacerbate back pain, is to hang their hammocks incorrectly. To hang a hammock too low, or too loose, so that the center of the hammock has a deep depression and bowl shape, doesn't provide optimal sleep conditions for anyone, and can make pack pain and stiffness worse.
However, to compensate for the natural curve of the hammock, many people pull the hammock too tight, in an effort to make it flat. This can be uncomfortable, and create unwanted pressure points.
In other words, it's important to hang your hammock at the correct angle, and with the correct tension, to promote healthy sleep and reduce back pain.
And then, when you are lying in the hammock, lay at a diagonal angle. Shift your lower body a few inches away from the center on one side, and your upper body a few inches toward the opposites side, until you are lying at about a 20-30 degree angle across the center of the hammock. Angling your body diagonally to the center of the hammock allows the hammock to cradle your body gently, in a nearly flat body position. It reduces pressure points, reduces the curvature of the spine, and allows you to rest comfortably.
There are many different conditions that cause back pain, and a hammock isn't an ideal solution for every type of back pain and problem. Those suffering from back pain, stiffness, and soreness should always seek medical advice. However, most back pain sufferers can have deep, restful, comfortable sleep in a hammock, and many people with back pain switch find hammocks more comfortable than their conventional mattresses.
There is no reason for a hammock to be bad for your back, and many reasons why sleeping in a hammock can promote better back health and more restful sleep.