Whether it’s sprawled across the bed, curled up in foetal position or spooning our significant other, most of us seem to gravitate towards a favourite sleeping position.
But can the way we sleep reveal more than we think about who we are?
Over the years, body language specialists, relationship experts and even leading sleep scientists have attempted to decipher what our sleep positions could reveal about our personality traits or, in the case of couples, our relationship status.
In 2012, a widely reported analysis by body language specialist Robert Phipps looked at a number of common sleep positions. Those who sleep in foetal position, for instance, were described as “over-thinkers” who “like things ordered” and tend to “worry unnecessarily” while “yearners”, who sleep on their side with arms outstretched, were seen as “wanting more from life” but “their own worst critics”.
In an email to HuffPost US, Phipps admitted that the analysis wasn’t to be taken too seriously. But even some of today’s biggest names in sleep science have found a correlation between sleep positions and personality.
Back in 2003, the BBC reported on a sleep position analysis by Professor Chris Idzikowski, which looked at six common positions, similar to those later analysed by Phipps.
Meanwhile more recently, a 2014 study led by Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire, found that how close a couple sleep in bed could be an indicator of how happy they are in their relationship.
“This is the first survey to examine couples’ sleeping positions, and the results allow people to gain an insight into someone’s personality and relationship by simply asking them about their favorite sleeping position,” said Wiseman, who presented the research at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.
The jury is out on how much credence we should give to these studies. But if you’re the kind of person who likes to take a sneak peek at your horoscope with a healthy dose of scepticism, you might like to find out what the experts have got to say about your sleeping position with our handy infographic.
Foetal position: In his analysis of 1,000 people, sleep expert Professor Idzikowski found this to be the most common sleep position, adopted by 41% of those questioned. He described curled-up sleepers as “tough on the outside but sensitive at heart”.
Back-to-back: According to a study led by Professor Richard Wiseman at Hertfordshire University, sleeping back to back is the most popular position for couples, with 42% doing so. But perhaps not surprisingly, those sleeping at the opposite sides of the bed were found to be less happy in their relationship than their close-sleeping counterparts.
Spooning: Almost a third of couples (31%) interviewed by Professor Richard Wiseman’s team said they slept facing in the same direction, with the results also suggesting cuddled up couples were the happiest. Of the 12% of couples who slept less than an inch apart, 86% said they were happy.
Starfish: Those who sleep on their back with both arms pointing upwards “make good friends”, according to Professor Idzikowski, because they are “always ready to listen to others”. But relationship expert Dr Pam Spurr warns that partners who sprawl outstretched, leaving their other half clinging to the edge of the bed, could be “selfish and unaware, or uncaring, of their partner’s needs.”
Freefalling: Dubbed the “Freefall”, Professor Idzikowski described those who sleep on their stomach with their hands around the pillow and head turned to one side as “often gregarious and brash” but highly sensitive underneath. In another study, body language specialist Robert Phipps described “freefallers” as feeling out of control.
Log: Those who sleep on their side with their arms down by their side (literally sleeping like a log) are easy going, social people who like to be part of the in-crowd and are trusting of strangers, says Professor Idzikowski. But Phipps’ interpretation of logs is that they can also be stubborn.
Arms outstretched: People who sleep on their side with both arms outstretched are said to have an open nature, but can be suspicious and cynical, according to Professor Idzikowski. “Yearners” as he calls them are “slow to make up their minds, but once they have taken a decision, they are unlikely ever to change it.”