From a centuries-old snoozing sling to a modern day symbol of comfort and relaxation, the humble yet versatile Hammock has come a long way!

The origin of the hammock is believed to date back some 1,000 years, to Central America, where the Mayans and other indigenous peoples crafted them out of tree bark or plant fibers. Suspended beds prevented contact with the dirty ground and offered protection from snakes, rodents and other poisonous creatures. According to accounts by 16th-century explorers, people would place hot coals or kindle small fires under their hammocks to stay warm or ward off insects as they slumbered.

Columbus and his men were the first Europeans to experience the hammock when they noticed their widespread use among the Taino people of the Bahamas. They brought several samples of the woven sleeping nets back to Spain. During the colonial era, Spaniards and other Europeans brought cotton, canvas and other cloths to the New World, many of which were eventually used by traditional hammock weavers along with more time-honored materials.

In the United States, hammocks had caught on both as a leisure item for wealthy families and as a cheap, practical sleeping solution for frontier farmers. The first known mass producer of hammocks opened in Pawleys Island, South Carolina, in 1889 and since then, hammocks have only become more popular.

A recent study conducted by a team of Swiss researchers has offered a scientific explanation for the longstanding global hammock craze. The team found that a swinging motion synchronizes brain waves, allowing people to doze off faster and attain a deeper state of sleep. Their results also support the ancient—and still very much alive—tradition of rocking children to sleep.