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Hammock bring to mind vacation: one pitched between two palm trees on a beach, the wave gently rolling in as you sway softly with the breeze. You can almost feel your tension melting away. However, hammocks are good for more than just vacation, so I thought it would be helpful to explain how to sleep in a hammock.

The Evils of the Spreader Bar

Before we can delve into the “how” of sleeping in a hammock, we have to discuss the appropriate type of hammock to use. One of the most common types of hammocks in the United States is the rope hammock, designed to look like a big cargo net, and two spreader bars across the top and bottom of the hammock. This is not the best type of hammock to use, and here’s why.

The spreader bars were included in the design merely to keep the hammock spread open at all times, and to give it a bed-like appearance. Prior to the addition of the spreader bar, hammocks were stable, secure sleeping devices that you didn’t have to worry about flipping over if you turned the wrong way. You see, hammocks aren’t supposed to dump you on the ground.

Now, some people have perfected their balance in a spreader bar hammock, and that’s great, but falling asleep is still an iffy proposition. One slight move to the side while napping and you might have a quick meeting with the floor before waking up fully. Hammocks without spreader bars do not have this issue.

The Evils of Rope Hammocks

Most people go with a rope hammock because that’s what they see in the ads that make hammocks look comfortable in the first place. The problem is, rope hammocks are the worst kind to buy. Most people lay in hammock when it’s warm outside, typically in their bathing suits or shorts and a short. There is a lot of exposed skin that, between your body weight and gravity, can droop into the openings.

Seth Haber, CEO of Trek Light Gear, a company that creates hammocks, calls this the human waffle effect. Not only is this uncomfortable for long periods of time thanks to it cutting off your circulation, but it also leaves nasty rope marks all over your body. Hammocks should never dig into your skin and leave marks.

The Best Types of Hammocks

When it comes to choosing the right hammock, the Mayan and Brazilian are two of the top rated styles. South America has been sleeping in hammocks for hundreds of years, and it’s not because of poverty. It’s because they find it to be far more comfortable than a bed. The material and creation of the Mayan and Brazilian hammocks are sturdy, and they can withstand higher weight capacities.

How to Sleep in a Hammock all Night

Now that you understand what type of hammock to buy, and what to avoid, I can tell you more about sleeping in a hammock. First, make sure that when you hang your hammock, you do not tie it too tight. You might be tempted to do so, thinking the natural curve of the hammock will give you back and joint pain, but the truth is, that curve is important to how you properly lie in a hammock.

Let the hammock material remain loose and relaxed. You want the material off the floor, but a large natural curve works best to achieve the desired sleeping position.

The Hammock Angle

The key to sleeping in a hammock for long periods is the hammock angle. To get the angle right, I’m going to break this down into three steps.

Step 1 – Lay in the hammock with its natural curve.

Step 2 – Move your feet 8-12 inches to one side (doesn’t matter which side) until you notice they are lower and flatter than they were before.

Step 3 – Move your head and upper torso 8-12 inches to the opposite side of your feet until you notice your entire body is lying flat.

This sideways angle keeps you flat, and you don’t have to move as much because there is nothing on your pressure points. You’re free to relax your body and rest.