How To Replace Your Bed With A Hammock..

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Sleep the sleep of the gods!

A proper hammock is way more comfortable than any bed. It is cheaper to buy and to own. It's more spacious, yet takes up no living space when not in use; not to mention a big handful of important, proven health benefits. I could go on. It's a no-brainer, yet most people don't. I think I might know why, and I want to do something about it..

So, a page that attempts to have everything you need to ditch that stupid bed of yours and instead sleep in a cloud; or near-as-dammit. Yes, it's that comfortable, if you know what you're doing.

I do, because I've been doing this for decades* and have learned many, many useful things along the way. Here I'll share all my best tips, tricks and much more.

I'll start with a crucial HAZARD WARNING, which is also a buying guide..

THIS:

IS NOT A HAMMOCK!

It is a death-trap designed to trick the unwary or slightly intoxicated into planting their face forcefully into the ground below, even if it's concrete and two meters down.

YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!


NOT A HAMMOCK! It's just pretending to be.  

That was the first hammock-like device I ever attempted to use as a bed-replacement. I learned that if I roped it real tight and slept diagonally across it, I could achieve a certain level of balance and safety. Unless I had a couple of drinks near bed-time; then I woke up on the floor. More than once.

After a couple of months I "upgraded" to a Brazilian hammock. A few months later I got the hammock I still use today (we recently had our 21st anniversary).

On the subject of not-hammocks, this thing..

And this (heaven forbid!)..


Death machine in natural cotton fibre.

Is not a hammock! I look at that image and I'm just waiting for the old folks to hit the deck. Falls are no joke for old folk.

Now you know better, you can get them something safe and comfortable and pass on the required instruction yourself. Or send them here.

Yes, it's those stupid spreader-bars, no doubt added by some ignorant westerner. A deadly addition. I'm basically saying avoid any "hammock" with spreader-bars, even if it calls itself a "Mayan" hammock (I have seen this!). They will flip you over and kill you, or maybe just maim. Either way, don't do it.

PLEASE DO NOT BUY YOUR ELDERS A SPREADER-BAR HAMMOCK AND THINK YOU ARE DOING SOMETHING KIND!

This..


IS A HAMMOCK!

You cannot fall out of this. It is a beautiful, hand-woven marvel of "primitive" engineering. I'll have more to say about this engineering, later. Sure, there are other hammocks that look similar, a Brazilian hammock is fun on the beach, and I've seen some nice lightweight, hi-tech hammocks that would be great fun strung between two rock crags or over rivers but THIS guide is about SLEEPING in a hammock, at home, night after night and that means the number one priority is..

Comfort

Want to sleep in a cloud? Well, close. The only way how I know of, is a proper woven hammock (and a duvet).

Weaving is one of things most people don't think about. I'm one of those people, but every time I get into my hammock I'm reminded of how amazingly functional weaving can be. Proper woven "Mayan" (aka. "Mexican") hammocks are the product of one engineering goal: comfort.

When you sleep on a conventional bed, gravity pushes your body down which compresses certain points, building up pressure which you eventually, unconsciously, relieve by moving to a different position, and so on, all night. This is often the reason people wake up with stiffness, soreness, aches, tingling and much worse in the long-term.

With a good hammock, your body is supported evenly at every point. Think about it. Memory foam doesn't come close. Once you get into that sweet comfortable position, your body has no need to adjust and you just relax and fall asleep. When you wake up, you are usually in the exact same position.

There is a small learning curve with hammock-sleeping, compared to a "conventional" flat bed (like, where does the duvet go?), but once you know what you are doing, you can start to reap some life-changing benefits. I'll tell you everything you need to know.

Space-Saving

Not the final frontier, but that valuable stuff that comprises your home. We fill it up with stuff and so have less of it. I like space, and I live in a wee city flat so even half-filling a room with something I only use for six hours a day is not happening. But even when I had a massive flat in the outskirts, I still wouldn't give up all that space for a bed. They are just so HUGE!

Once installed, your hammock is simply unhooked in the morning and spends the day hanging from the other hook. The only space it uses is wall-space and optionally a little floor-space. Some people even have a nice shelf to rest their hammock on day-time, or a big pot.

Re-usable urban spaces is probably a thing now, but for me always has been. My seats are bean-bags and pouffes. My tables beautifully crafted wooden "boxes" ( with one side open for storage - I have five of them and they can be slid around, joined together, and so on). In the city, space is too valuable to remain uselessly occupied.

Who doesn't like more space? The versatile hammock is also happy enough to be slung anywhere, so you can sleep in your living room (which I do) or in the hall or wherever you like. Got guests coming over? No need for a guest room, just sling up another hammock or two.

One day we will live in a world where all houses have hammock fittings built-in (and where people only ride bikes!). Well, a boy can dream...

Cost

Beds are crazy expensive! And mattresses have stupidly small life-spans. Half-decent beds start at around £250 and go up basically for ever. I'd wager the £10,000 beds still arent as comfy as my hammock; still going strong after twenty years and with decades of life left in it yet!

A jumbo size, thick cord hammock suitable for year-round sleeping will cost you less than £200. Probably much less. By the time it wears out (basically, it won't) you would have bought dozens of beds and mattresses costing thousands of pounds. Do the math.

And hammocks aren't just for adults! My two boys (currently 3 and 9) both sleep in hammocks. Not only the "best sleep ever" but lots of fun as an indoor swing. They love it! "Tablet-time" often happens in a hammock, too; very comfortable position. And of course they love all that space they get when the hammocks get hooked away, for play.

Health Benefits

We now understand a lot of the science behind what millions of hammock-sleepers could have told you.. People who sleep in a hammock are happier, healthier and live longer. Here is why..

Remember being in the womb? Or your mum cradling you in her arms and rocking you to sleep? Me neither. But somewhere in my primal genetic code is a program that responds to this gentle rocking motion, stimulating multiple health benefits, both physical and mental.

The swaying motion soothes you and helps you fall asleep faster. It also encourages a deeper sleep with more REM-state. This, on its own, is reason enough to go get a hammock now.

I've mentioned the ultimate comfort aspect. This extreme comfort produces a cascade of healthful benefits. Most adults never achieve complete relaxation, and certainly not in bed. When the body is completely relaxed, it goes into healing overdrive. Growth is stimulated. Blood flow is increased, circulation improves. Systems are repaired.

Simply put; if you want to age more slowly, get a hammock. I'm regularly mistaken for being 10-15 years younger than I actually am. And I spent a decade hydrating myself with nothing but espresso, smoked for over thirty years, and the rest... Thank you "primitive" engineering! I guess my genes are probably decent, too.

Got back pain? Get a hammock! I'm not saying it's a complete replacement for a healthy, active lifestyle (what your body wants), but it is the ultimate low-friction method for relieving chronic back pain. You don't have to do anything, just fall asleep. Except this time, properly, like when you were a baby, before the back pain. Ditto most other skeletal pain.

I know this because I broke my back many years ago and although rest and yoga got me back up and running in a couple of months I thereafter experienced regular back pain. Until I got my hammock, that is.

Acoustic and mechanical isolation

If you live in a city flat, you probably have to deal with noise. A lot of this is low frequency vibrations and noise transmitted directly through the very bones of your building; you can feel it in the walls and floors.

Where we live; right on a busy cobbled street; heavy trucks rumble by and literally shake the floor. These vibrations travel right up the legs of any regular bed, chair, even through bean-bags.

A hammock strung up with nice thin ropes (more on this later) provides near total isolation from vibrations and low frequency environmental noise pollution. I'm highly sensitive to this noise and this alone would be reason enough for me to switch to a hammock.

If you suffer from this sort of disturbance, you should also seriously consider using your hammock as a couch...

Free couch with every hammock!

While your hammock is hooked up and hanging in its natural state, rather than open it; with one hand, lift the edge up by the handles (well, both edges, as they are touching each other - push your hand through the centre-ish handles) and simply plant your arse into the side of the hammock. Voila! It instantly transforms into a couch.

The weave is doubled, creating a sturdy base to sit / stretch out / lounge on. Reach under and pull the front for plenty room to sit cross-legged or even with your legs stretched right out in front of you. Add cushions and pillows as required.

Note: the gentle swinging of a hammock has a synchronising effect on the hemispheres of your brain and you will find activities like watching films/TV and particularly reading become highly absorbing.

Note 2: remarkably, even when swinging wildly, your eyes stay absolutely fixed on the screen, so it's easy to immerse yourself in a film or TV show and completely forget you are swinging..

More than once I've given myself a wee scare because I've gotten lost in a film and suddenly notice in my periphery, a table coming straight at me!

A moment later I laugh and realise this is because I am still swinging and put the table just out of swing range, to reach stuff. Once in motion, my hammock swings for ages, so this has happened a few times! Of course, I could just stop swinging the thing so much or put the table farther away, but where's the fun in that.

There are other interesting configurations; like sitting sideways inside your hammock and using the other side as a table for your laptop; but I'll leave you to discover these for yourself.

Bottom line: if you suffer from low-frequency/vibrational disturbances - neighbours heavy on their feet, slamming heavy doors - passing lorries - etc. - you can save yourself a lot of stress by using your hammock as a couch. Pop on some decent headphones and your neighbours are effectively gone!

Infinite sleeping positions

The normal and natural position is to lie on your back, diagonally across the hammock, with your body very gently curved, feet slightly raised, head raised slightly more. It's quite similar to being in the womb or a parents arms, I imagine.

You can sleep on your side no problem. With a good hammock and technique, you can have a near flat, firm woven support, so even stomach sleeping is doable. But don't stop there. The hammock is uniquely capable of supporting all sorts of comfortable positions. For example, start flat on your side, facing out, then roll back into the weave so you end up around 45 degrees. Magic!

Another nice one is foetal position facing in. Stretch out your legs then curl your feet back, pulling the weave with you. You can go almost upside down with this one and still be completely supported and comfortable. Play around for a while and you will doubtless find your favourite.

I like to lie for a few minutes on my back until my hammock slows down some before rolling over onto my side, but I'm regularly asleep before that happens.

When you awaken in the morning, you are in exactly the same position. I invite you to consider this for a moment!

<More benefits here>

Which hammock to buy?

As well as the hammocks I've owned and used myself, I've slept in (or attempted to sleep in) everything from hi-tech nylon camping hammocks to home-made para-cord death-traps. It turns out the pinnacle of hammock design was achieved almost a thousand years ago and there have been no advances since, as it's perfect.

So I really only have one recommendation here: Buy the biggest, thickest Mexican/Mayan hammock you can afford. That means jumbo size (4+ metres long, 2.5+ metres wide) and with tightly woven thick cord (#24 cotton yarn or bigger).

The thick cord is important. And while I accept that a regular (thin) cord hammock may be *slightly* comfier, that difference vanishes once you throw a duvet in there. A thick cord hammock has many advantages.

Primarily, it's extremely hard wearing. If I had a buck for every time I've caught a button or finger (or some other object) in the weave of a regular woven hammock, I'd have enough to buy another hammock. Getting that thread back into place involves a whole lot of shaking and waving and pulling and swearing. If you even can get it back. Once I even snapped a cord. Ouch! Sorry mate!

A thick cord hammock can take all sorts of abuse; kids leaping in and out, catching on objects, vigorous love-making, you name it. This gives you the confidence to play around in it without worrying you will irreparably damage your precious bed.

Thick cord hammocks also provide better shade (for afternoon snoozing, the far side of a quality hammock is like a black-out blind). They are also cosier yet like all woven hammocks, can provide wonderful cooling in the Summer - We have no air conditioning because Aberdeen, but the Summers have lately been getting increasingly hot and leaping into a swinging hammock is a sure-fire way to cool a sweaty body!

The bigger the hammock, the comfier it will be. A "single" hammock is really only useful for children. An adult will need at least a double/matrimonial size for sleeping, but would be far better off with a family or jumbo/XXL size. There is no such thing as too big when it comes to hammocks, so long as you have the space to hang it..

The nuts & bolts of using a hammock as a bed..

We'll start with the bolts!

Where to hang your hammock?

First you will need a big enough room. You probably have this. Use an online hammock calculator (this one is good) to figure out exactly how much space you will need. It's okay to sling it diagonally across a room. If you want your head pointing in a particular direction (i.e. North), remember that you will also be sleeping diagonally across the hammock (more on this later).

A note about hammock calculators..

Once you have figured out where to put the hooks/bolts, you need to get them into the actual wall. This is where many people get stuck. For some reason, most homes don't have hammock hooks built in. If you live in some modern kit-house with paper thin walls and/or spindly/aluminium joists, you may have a wee challenge ahead. I'll delve into some solutions for you later in this document.

If you live in an older house or flat, it's probably as simple as screwing some quality eye-bolts into your wall's supporting joists. If this isn't something you feel comfortable with doing; employ a competent joiner. If you are doing it yourself, and why not, you will need at least two of these..


Standard Stainless Steel Wood Eye-Bolt. Get four.

For kids and small adults, M8 size (8mm) is enough. Otherwise use M10 size (10mm).

Ideally, you want certified marine grade stainless steel eye-bolts, with the KG rating stamped on the side. Some of my hooks aren't certified, but they work just fine.

I say "at least" two bolts because after putting up a few hammocks over the years, I've learned that at least for adult bedroom activities, it's best to use four hooks per hammock.

The first pair is installed right above the skirting board (the rope ties on here) and the second pair is installed directly above* at the correct hammock fitting height (the rope is then fed through these).

This distributes the weight between four points instead of two (thanks to a rigger friend of mine for the suggestion) and enables you to easily hold a couple hundred Kilograms without stressing the joists. If you are planning to use your hammock for lively adult fun, this setup is highly recommended.

My kids' hammocks use a single pair of M8 eye-bolts per hammock. Once securely fitted, they can easily handle 100KG (me + my eldest). I occasionally snooze in the "play room".

* This assumes the beam you are screwing these eye-bolts into is absolutely vertical. This is definitely not a given and you should use the usual methods** to ascertain the exact location of the centre of the beam before you drill any guide holes.

** My usual (most reliable) method is to tap the wall with a hammer to get the rough location then drill actual holes with the smallest drill bit I have, working along until I find the left and right sides of the beam, then put my guide hole (2-3mm smaller than than bolt) bang in the middle. When I'm done, it's trivial to plaster up the wee holes.

You will also need..

Rope..

The main qualities we are looking for here, aside from environmental credentials, are high strength, low creep and low stretch. Ideally something capable of handling 200 Kilograms or more.

I also like my rope to be thin. The thinner the better. Not only does it look elegant; a jumbo hammock suspended by 3mm spider-web strands; but in my experience, thinner rope better isolates you from low-frequency environmental noise, which matters to me.

I spent a few years trying to find the right balance between strength and thickness, but all those ropes eventually stretched and snapped, sometimes quite alarmingly, often within weeks or days. Even the ones which were rated at 500KG!

So, strong rope generally means thick rope. And if you are going to use thick rope, you might as well get jute or hemp or something natural and give up on thinness.

BUT, as well as elegance and protection from vibration and noise pollution, thin rope also has less friction, so you swing longer and more quietly/silently, and the rope wears out less. Hmmm. If only there was a rope that was super-strong but also super-thin..

Enter Dyneema®

Dyneema® is an UHMwPE (Ultra High Molecular weight Polyethylene) or HMPE (High Modulus Polyethylene) fibre developed by DSM in the Netherlands some 30 years ago. It is 15 times stronger than steel and is used for everything from gloves to sailing rope to bullet-proof vests.

With Dyneema you can have a 3mm diameter "string" capable of holding 900KG. I kid you not. Granted the initial purchase stings more than a nylon / polyester / polypropylene rope, but after one has snapped and stretched a half dozen so-called strong ropes one understands the meaning of value-for-money. Don't pay for land-fill!

The SK78* variant is actually fairly reasonable these days at around £2/metre. Think of it as an investment, something you can pass on to your children, and they to theirs and so on.. this stuff will basically last for ever. Most people will need less than ten metres. You can afford it.

Note: Dyneema®'s incredible strength means it's quite challenging to cut. Best to order two lengths instead of one.

Also note: Dyneema® is quite "slippy" which means that many of those quick and simple knots (i.e. bowline) will slip if you put more than around 200KG on them. If you want to put a lot of weight in your hammock, either use a non-slipping knot or better yet, a splice.

At the eye-bolt end of things, a non-slipping knot is fine, but at the hammock end, for elegance I recommend splicing the Dyneema® around a 3 or 4mm steel thimble..


To which you can attach a nice carabiner, for easy un-hooking in the morning.

* SK78 is what I recommend. You can splash out on SK99 or DM20, but even SK75 will be fine. SK38 should be avoided.. For more information about Dyneema®, see here.

Fear not the splice!

I hadn't considered, let alone performed any kind of splice (always believing there's a knot for everything) until I started looking into Dyneema. I settled on the "Mobius Brummel" splice, got myself a youtube tutorial and a few minutes later had a good-looking thimble-splice. It's much easier to do than it looks. Any old splice would probably do fine.

Note: a store-bought or home-made fid is pretty much essential for this..


Never heard of a fid? You are not alone.

Get one that nicely fits the size of rope you are using; i.e. 3mm rope = 3mm fid. My fid has a thread on the inside of the blunt end (the hole) so it's easy to fit the rope; simply melt the end a bit and twist it in. It looks like this..


A cheap, threaded fid. Perfect.

To do..

Mental Health

Myths

Going to bed..

As I said, there's a slight learning curve to sleeping in a hammock, and unless you were brought up with hammocks-as-beds; like millions of kids around the globe; you will need to learn. You probably won't get it exactly right on your first try, but quite possibly your second or third. Give it a few nights, anyway.

I will do a video of all this, which will likely be a lot easier to follow. But here goes, in text.

Terminology:

Getting in and out of your hammock

This is the most basic skill you will need. In the Yukaton, the common practice is to lift the edge of the far side of the hammock up onto your shoulder and just let yourself gently fall back, butt-first into the centre of the hammock. Once properly in, you cannot fall out, and lifting the far side up like this guarantees you get your body where it's supposed to go. In, not over and out.

Once in, spin yourself around so that your head is at the near side, and your feet at the far side, so you are lying somewhere between almost straight across and a 45 degree diagonal. This is important for the next step..

Even out the weave. This is a crucial step which is commonly skipped. A woven hammock still vastly outperforms a bed without having the weave evened out, but performing this step creates a perfect sleeping surface and is well worth the small effort. Why?

When you get into a hammock, the weave will be wherever; which is to say, some parts of the weave will be bunched together, some more spread out, depending on how you get in. Our goal is to spread the weave out evenly across the entire width of the hammock, so that when you lie down, you are supported evenly. This is simple to do..

Plant your heels into one side of the hammock, just under the handles, and then your shoulder (or head, if you are strong) into the other. Then simply lift yourself up by these two points and whilst lifted up, run one hand along the weave, starting at the feet. The weave will ripple and settle into an even state. Then lie down. The whole operation will take you less than two seconds, once you are up to speed.

Note: Some people find this difficult as it relies on core strength, which they lack. If this is you, then congratulations! You have just found an excellent way to start working on your core strength, saving you years of pain and misery down the road.

Note: If you are using a duvet, you only need to do this once a night. If you get up to go to the toilet or something, the duvet will keep the weave in place.

Once the weave is evened out, spin yourself round to a comfortable diagonal angle, taking the weave with you. Now you have a near-flat, even, perfectly tensioned surface on which to sleep.

Tip: When you get into your hammock, push off the floor with your feet to get it swinging. A minute later (or less) you will still have plenty swing energy left and you will probably be asleep before you stop swinging.

The Duvet

When I was a kid we had sheets and blankets for years and I remember the great joy I felt the first time I slept under a duvet. I have loved them ever since. No one told me that I wasn't supposed to use one in a hammock, so I quickly figured out how to do exactly that.

Essentially, we are folding a duvet in half and using it like an extra-cosy sleeping bag. Start by folding a double duvet in half and laying it on the floor (I do this on top of my hammock, which is at this point hooked at one end only and draped across the floor, as is usual of a morning). Next, roll/fold the duvet from the bottom-up. Now you have a rolled duvet which you can store away for the day!

Fast-forward to night time. Up goes the hammock, out comes the rolled duvet from this morning (during the day my duvet and pillow live in a handy storage box). Next we are going to unroll the duvet into the hammock, diagonally.

Start by laying the rolled duvet with the open end at the outside of the hammock, about 4 handles down, and the closed end in the centre, about a hand's width below the clew/"nettles" (i.e. the edge of the main hammock body).

Next, unroll the hammock diagonally across the hammock, pulling the hammock out to meet the other end of the duvet. The folded corner should land about 4 handles in, with the open end in the centre of the hammock. If you like, you can tuck the folded corner of the hammock into one of the handles and out another, to keep it fixed in place while you get into bed.

Next, grab both corners of the bottom end of your duvet and with the hand holding the open end, roll the bottom over a couple fo times, to seal the bottom of the duvet. I like to move my other hand down a hand-width now and keep rolling the other end for a couple of turns, as I find it creates a better shape.

Then throw the top half of the duvet over the far side of your hammock and get in as normal, except, when you swing round, you are putting your feet into the duvet/sleeping bag you just made.

Next you want to get the duvet nice and flat underneath. Roll over to the right and pull up on the left-top corner of your duvet. Repeat for the other side. You will learn your own techniques for this. Sweeping your arm under is a good one. I use them all.

This is important due to something I call the Princess And The Pea Effect. Basically, as the hammock is so perfectly comfortable, the slightest imperfection in your duvet; a fold or ripple; will be obvious and amplified. So take a second to get your duvet as tight as drum under your bum.

Now relax! Wow, eh!

Quick tips:

You want both ends of the hammock to be at the same height, or pretty darned close.

To quickly raise your hammock *slightly* (i.e. when setting it up or experimenting), tie a knot in one of the ropes.

* I know, FINALLY I get around to a guide. I feel duty-bound somehow.

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