You Are How You Sleep? Well, Within Reason…

What’s your favorite position? Er, I’m talking about how you sleep in bed by the way. You may prefer spread-eagled, curled up fetal-like or just cozily resplendent on your back. Whatever your position choice, a sleep expert believes it reveals much about you and possibly your partner relationship. Of course, while there are those who almost fear the prospect of sleeping alone, others positively can’t bear another sharing their bed space.

According to a sleep specialist interviewed for a national UK daily newspaper, those of us who adopt the fetal position in bed are ‘worriers.’ In fact, the tighter they curl up like a threatened hedgehog, the more comfort they’re supposedly seeking.

You a ‘free-faller,’ ‘yearner’ or just a plain ‘log-ger’?

Those who sleep on their stomachs, with their arms stretched wide, are ‘free fallers.’ Apparently, they feel their lives are out of their control while ‘yearners’ – those who sleep on their sides, with their arms outstretched – are of a dream-chasing nature. Then there are ‘logs’– straight and rigid sleepers who have the personality to match. So, on a par with star sign readings, is this really all a sort of ‘sleep-o-scope,’ just by pairing sleep positions with personality traits?

Well, Dr. Chris Idzikowski, of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre in Scotland, says that in the 1940’s there was an article by a psychiatrist who claimed side-sleepers lacked moral fiber. Idzikowski pondered on this and then felt it worthy of research. He surveyed 1,004 Brits about their preferred sleeping positions – at the same time asking them to check boxes with adjective choices they felt best matched how they saw their personality. Amazingly, when he analyzed the data, he found a definite link between particular sleep positions and certain psychological traits.

British BBC TV did a report program on Idzikowski’s results and revealed that those who sleep in fetal position were said to be tough on the outside but sensitive on the inside. The ‘loggers’ meanwhile were found to be easy-going and social and ‘yearners’ held up as being open, cynical and slow to make up their minds. Finally, the ‘free fallers’ were outgoing but thin-skinned bunch and did not like being criticized. Idzikowski admits however that the UK research relied on self-evaluations and that when a similar survey was conducted among a group of Southeast Asians, the archetypical results just didn’t hold up.

Maybe down to pure and simple preference after all

Philip Gehrman, a professor of psychiatry and a member of the Penn Sleep Center, has pooh-poohed the suggestion that there’s a deep meaning behind how people sleep and how they are. Says Gehrman: “OK, you can’t argue with the fact that they did in fact find a correlation between sleeping positions and personality, but the link is unlikely to be anywhere near strong enough to make those kinds of statements.” He offers his own explanation as to why people sleep the way they do, and it’s very simple – personal preference.

“It’s really just a matter of whether you are comfortable,” he says. Adding further fuel to the debate, Dr. Stuart Quan, a professor of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, feels it would be difficult for people to have their personalities tied to one sleep position, because most people move around in their sleep. “They will toss and turn and are naturally switching positions,” he explained. Quan does believe however that there are correlations between sleep positions and quality of sleep, but such ties are likely the result of personal health conditions, like sleep apnea. This is a disorder in which people go through irregular breathing during sleep and can be made worse by sleeping on their backs. Heartburn is another condition that could be made worse by the position a person sleeps in.

The real thing that can influence the quality of a person’s sleep, says Quan, is what they do while they are awake. “Nicotine is a stimulant. If you exercise right before you go to sleep, you tend to be hyped,” he explains. “Even if you get into an argument with your partner and then you try to go to sleep, well, those are obviously the sort of things that affect people trying to go to sleep.”

Too much coffee, medications and exposure to certain light sources can all ruin a good night’s sleep. The bedroom is for just two things, concludes Quan. They both begin with‘s’!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Juliette Siegfried, MPH

Juliette Siegfried, MPH, has been involved in health communications since 1991. Shortly after obtaining her Master of Public Health degree, she began her career at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Juliette now lives in Europe, where she launched ServingMed(.)com, a small medical writing and editing business for health professionals all over the world.

Juliette's resume, facebook: juliette.siegfriedmph, linkedin: juliettes, (+31) 683 673 767

Recommended Articles