You control most of the ways you broadcast your personality to the world, like the way you speak, how you dress, and the ways you treat others. But there are some things beyond your control that telegraph things about you, like your sleeping position.
What does your sleeping position say about you?
Many studies suggest that your preferred sleep style can be directly connected to your overall health and wellness. Research has found that those with chronic conditions, like sleep apnea, can benefit from side sleeping, while folks with back issues tend to fare better with back sleeping.
Things are a bit murkier when it comes to what your sleeping position says about your habits and behaviors.
While some small studies and surveys have found a link between sleep position and personality, the findings aren’t consistent and more research is needed in this area.
That’s right: the way your body is most cozy getting its snooze on might actually provide insight into your health and personality.
So time to get comfy, ‘cuz we’re going to find out just what your sleeping position may say about you.
We generally don’t give much thought to how we sleep, as long as we’re feeling comfy and cozy. But some sleep psychologists suggest that your preferred sleep position may actually be linked to your personality.
While there are three main sleep positions — side, back, and stomach — each has its own variations. According to a survey by sleep expert Chris Idzikowski, these six common positions may reveal a unique insight into your traits and behaviors.
(There’s very little in the way of other research that supports it — you might well be a deeply antisocial, suspicious log sleeper. There are many facets to your personality, and it’ll show itself in a whole range of subtle ways. Don’t take these as literature.)
The side positions
- Fetal (on your side, arms and legs curled up). Shy at first, fetal sleepers may be a teddy bear hidden in a grizzly’s body.
- Yearner (on your side, arms outstretched). Yearners are generally open-natured and set in their choices. They can be suspicious and cynical.
- Log (on your side, arms down at your sides). According to Idzikowski’s research, Loggers tend to be easy going, social, and trusting.
The back positions
- Soldier (on your back, arms down at your sides). Quiet and reserved, soldier sleepers tend to have high standards.
- Starfish (on your back, arms up and legs slightly apart). Starfish sleepers have traits that suggest they might be helpful, listen well, and avoid the spotlight.
The stomach position
- Freefall (on your stomach, arms under or wrapped around the pillow, head to the side). Freefallers generally don’t like criticism or extreme situations.
Another survey by the Better Sleep Council (BSC) found that:
- Women prefer the fetal position more than men, while men enjoy the starfish and log positions more than women.
- Log sleepers generally find that they get better sleep and are healthier overall.
- Millennials and Gen Xers prefer stomach sleeping more than baby boomers.
- Introverts often avoid stomach sleeping with arms raised.
- Those with a graduate degree or higher more often prefer the fetal position vs. those with less education under their belt.
Again, this is hardly scripture — just an interesting survey.
The survey included a limited number of people, and results varied when a second group took the same questionnaire. It’s also important to keep in mind that these results are based on self-reported data, so there may be some bias when it comes to the findings.
There’s also a flat zero other reliable studies supporting a link between personality type and sleeping position. Zilch.
Now, the link between sleep and your health has a more solid basis than the one between sleep position and personality. From the good, the bad, and the groggy, there are plenty of science-backed deets that link your preferred sleep position to your overall health.
Research suggests that side sleeping is generally better for you, thanks to its ability to promote better digestion and relieve snoring. It’s also beneficial during pregnancy, as it can improve both maternal and fetal health.
Sleeping on your side has other potential health benefits, including:
- a more supported spine
- boost brain health
- relief from lower back pain
- easing heartburn
The pros generally recommend sleeping on your left side, rather than your right. Sleeping on your right side may put less strain on your organs but might make digestive issues like acid reflux worse. Lying on your left, however, keeps your stomach below your esophagus, so stomach acid stays down.
Side sleeping does have its drawbacks. It may put pressure on your shoulders and cause tension or pain in your head and face. Research also suggests that if you have carpal tunnel, sleeping on your hands or with your wrists bent can make symptoms worse.
Sleeping on your back might offer some benefits like:
- spinal alignment
- reducing tension headaches
- easing pressure points and back pain
- reducing breakouts or wrinkles for those with sensitive skin
- reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
When it comes to back pain, sleeping on your back can be a hit or miss. Some folks find this position eases their pain, while others find that it makes the pain worse — it all depends on the individual.
Those with sleep apnea should avoid this position, as it’s easier for the airways to become blocked when sleeping on your back.
The cons can sometimes outweigh the pros for stomach sleepers.
While studies have found that sleeping on your tummy might benefit chronic snorers and those with obstructive sleep apnea, this position also adds strain to your back and neck. This could potentially lead to unwanted (and unpleasant) chronic back pain.
At the end of the day (er… night), getting quality sleep depends on more than simply your sleep position.
Those who get a good night’s sleep that leaves them rested and ready for the day can stick to their sleep style. But if you wake up to pain or tiredness, it may be worth trying a new position or altering your current position to maximize its benefits.
Don’t let your sleeping position keep you awake at night
You also move around during sleep. There’s no guarantee that the position in which you fall asleep is the one you’ll wake up in. It’s more important that you sleep comfortably.
For side sleepers
Side sleeping is the most popular way to get some Zzz’s, thanks to its many benefits. But while it can help ease back pain and get your gut movin’, side sleeping can also put pressure on your shoulders and create tension in your head and face.
To get the most out of your side sleep snooze:
- Choose a firm pillow to support the curve of your spine and a mattress that alleviates pressure points.
- Place a pillow between your legs to support your hips and lower back.
- Support your arms by hugging a body pillow.
- Don’t sleep on your hands or with your wrists bent to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Fetal sleepers can prevent numbness and discomfort by keeping their chin and limbs loose.
- If you’re a fan of the fetal position but want to wake up with less tension or pain, try snoozing in the yearner position.
For back sleepers
Back sleeping can help evenly distribute your body weight, so you might wake up with less pain and a better-aligned spine.
Here are some ways to get the most from sleeping on your back:
- Put a small pillow under your knees to help your spine keep its natural curve.
- Ease neck pain by placing a small, rounded pillow underneath the curve of your neck.
- Elevate your head with a wedge pillow to ease symptoms of snoring, allergies, or heartburn.
For stomach sleepers
Stomach sleeping isn’t usually recommended, as it can cause neck or back pain.
If you find yourself at your most relaxed and refreshed in this position, however, there are a few adjustments you can make to keep your spine aligned and avoid stiffness:
- Regularly change which direction your head faces to combat neck pain and stiffness.
- Opt for a firmer mattress for better spine alignment and pain prevention.
- Use a thin, flat pillow (or no pillow at all!) to stop neck pain before it starts.
- Ease back pain or stiffness by placing a pillow under your pelvis.
- Use the freefall position to relieve hip and shoulder pressure.
- Freefallers can avoid hand stiffness by extending their arms out to the sides, rather than folded under their pillows.
There are plenty of science-backed deets to help you decide what your preferred sleep position says about your health. However, there’s less research that suggests that your sleep position relates to your personality.
Some surveys have suggested that different sleeping positions are directly related to how you act, your age, or what level of education you may have, but their findings should be taken with a grain of salt. Results may be skewed because these surveys were small and self-reported.
If you’re waking up with pain or discomfort, try switching up your sleep style or talk with a sleep specialist. But if you’re sleeping soundly and waking refreshed, there’s little need to worry about your sleep position or what it means.