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If you’ve ever wondered what your preferred sleeping position says about your personality, you’re not alone. Despite the interest, there’s limited scientific research on the topic.
Some research links personality traits with sleep positions. However, it’s difficult to say with precision because sleep positions vary, and so do the things that affect our personalities.
That being said, the data that is available can provide some interesting insight. In this article, we’ll look at correlations researchers have found between personality and sleep styles and what that could mean for you.
How Is Your Sleeping Position Connected to Your Personality?
The connection between your favorite sleep position and personality may exist, but it’s not concrete. Many researchers believe that your sleeping position won’t affect your personality. Instead, they hypothesize that the correlation1 may be the other way around; your personality may affect how you sleep and which position you find the most comfortable. While there are three primary positions (stomach, back, side), there is variance within these sleep types, including potential personality trends among the sub-categories.
Some studies2 suggest that our sleep positions might be related to differences in everyday interactions, defense mechanisms, and personality traits. However, the methods used in these studies make it difficult to pinpoint exactly how related the two are.
Side Sleeping Positions
Side sleeping is the most common position. According to a 2012 poll, as many as 74 percent3 of people choose to sleep on their side.
There are also several variations of this position. Some people sleep like this because they find the position comfortable, while for others, side sleeping may help with certain conditions like indigestion, snoring, and sleep apnea. Often, people will learn how to side sleep in order to take advantage of this position’s many benefits. Furthermore, the side you sleep on matters as well since most experts recommend sleeping on the left side over the right to aid with digestion.
The fetal position is the most common. Most people who sleep like this are curled up into a ball with the legs and arms bent. This position is called ‘Fetal’ because the person resembles a baby in the womb. Sleep researcher Samuel Dunkell was the first to find a correlation between fetal position and specific personality traits in the 1970s. In 1980, researchers Domino and Bohn found the same thing: people who sleep like this are usually more emotional and anxious. Researcher Chris Idzikowski also found similar results for the fetal posture. There is also what’s known as the semi-fetal position in which a sleeper has their body and legs slightly bent. Semi-fetal sleepers are described as unlikely to take extreme risks, persuadable, and calming.
People who sleep in a log position have their legs and arms fully extended while on their side. Some researchers say it’s a common position, while others disagree. In other words, even if their legs are extended, most of these side sleepers still have at least one arm folded.
Idzikowski says that people who sleep like this are sociable and outgoing, meaning that they interact easily with other people. However, he suggests that these traits, although considered good, can make these people more impressionable.
The yearner position isn’t as common as the first two. People who sleep like this look like they’re yearning or reaching for something since their arms extend forward. Their legs are extended as well, like in the log position. Idzikowski claims that people who sleep like this are outgoing but not as much as those sleeping in the log position. In addition, those who sleep like this may sometimes be suspicious and cynical. He also adds that these sleepers may take their time making decisions but remain firm in their decision once they do.
Back Sleeping Positions
Sleeping on your back is considered the least common sleep posture, with just 10 percent of people reporting they lie this way3. Back sleeping is known to help with spine alignment, allowing some relief for those who struggle with uncomfortable back pain. This sleep posture is also helpful for reducing the appearance of wrinkles since your face isn’t pressing directly against your pillow. Although this position is considered one of the healthier options for body alignment, not everyone is used to it. The good news is you can try out helpful tips for back sleeping that could help you become accustomed to it.
In his research, Idzikowski recognizes two common ways to sleep on your back: the starfish and the soldier.
The Starfish position is when a person lies on their back with their legs stretched and their arms up near the head. Idzikowski claims that these back sleepers are friendly but may not like being the center of attention. He also goes on to say these people are peaceful, free-thinking, and in need of space in life.
The soldier is a simple position in which you lie on your back with your arms by your side. Many participants of Professor Idzikowski’s study on personality and sleep positions reported getting the most rest in the soldier position. He adds that these back sleepers tend to keep to themselves, may be reserved, and are good listeners.
Stomach Sleeping Positions
Some people prefer this position over any other. That being said, many experts warn that stomach sleeping is bad because it puts pressure on the spine, which could cause you to develop back pain. Spine pressure from this posture is caused when the sleeper’s midsection and dips dip too much into the mattress. If a mattress has great support, however, it could help prevent this from happening. Stomach sleepers make up about 16 percent3 of the population, making it the second most common position.
Dunkell has claimed stomach sleepers are rigid, compulsive, and anxious.
The freefall is the most common stomach sleeping position. In this position, the sleeper has their arms spread out under or on the pillow, and the legs may be slightly bent. According to Idzikowski, some researchers claim that these people are narrow-minded, arrogant, bold, and outspoken. Additionally, the person sleeping like this might not respond to criticism well.
Couple Sleeping Positions
A YouGov survey4 of more than 12,000 adults found that more than 60 percent of American couples enjoy sharing a bed, while the rest prefer having separate beds. This is mostly due to different sleeping habits. As we grow older, we struggle to get good quality sleep, and our partner may make it even harder for us to doze off. Some couples may also struggle to sleep well if one of them is a combination sleeper, changing positions several times throughout the night. Those who still like sleeping together do this in a few ways: spooning, back to back, front to front, and cradle.
Learn more about best mattresses for couples here.
Spooning is the most common sleep position for couples, and it’s the most comfortable posture for partners who are side sleepers. In this position, one partner is behind the other, hugging their loved one from behind. This intimate position provides partners with both physical and emotional comfort, but it's usually newer couples who sleep like this.
The person hugging their partner is called the big spoon. This person is considered the protective one and a more giving partner. On the other hand, the little spoon, which is the partner being hugged, needs nurturing and likes feeling safe.
Back to Back
Partners who sleep back-to-back while touching like the close contact but find it more comfortable to sleep independently. These people like feeling connected but don’t have a problem facing away from one another. This usually shows that both people are relaxed and comfortable around each other. However, sleeping like this right after a fight can still show how much you mean to one another, even when mad.
Sleeping back-to-back with space between you may indicate independence and connection. This is a common position for couples who have been together for longer than a year, although switching to it from a more intimate position may feel weird at first.
Front to Front
The front-to-front position isn’t as common as it involves partners facing each other. Heads are typically at the same level, possibly even touching, while your arms are hugging. Although it’s an intimate position, many people may find it uncomfortable. Couples who sleep like this are generally like-minded and get along well in their relationship.
The cradle position is when one partner rests their head on the other person’s chest. Their legs and arms are wrapped around one another, showing a high level of romance, protection, and trust between the two. This position is a common one among many couples, especially new ones.
Everyone has their own preferred way of sleeping, and it’s interesting to know that there could be a correlation between how we sleep and our personality. While there’s no conclusive evidence that sleep position and personality are linked, you may find some connections after assessing your own sleep style.
The most important takeaway from your sleep position, however, is that you want to rest in a posture that promotes a healthy, neutral spinal alignment. A big part of this is having a mattress that’s a good match for your sleep position and body weight. This can help prevent back pain down the road and leave you waking up without uncomfortable aches.
- “Correlation Between Sleeping Positions and Personality”. Penn State University. September 3, 2015.
- Kamau, Lincoln., Luber, E., Kumar Phd, V.K. “Sleep positions and personality: Zuckerman-Kuhlman's big five, creativity, creativity styles, and hypnotizability”. North American Journal of Psychology. December 2012.
- “National Sleep Survey Pulls Back The Covers On How We Doze And Dream”. PR Newswire. December 26, 2012.
- Ballard, Jamie. “Only two-thirds of Americans want to share a bed with their partner.” YouGov. April 9, 2021.