Healthy Manhattan: Know Your Sleep Positions

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When I am alone, I can sleep crossway in a bed without an argument. —Zsa Zsa Gabor

Do you know what position you regularly take up in bed when you drop off to sleep? According to veteran sleep researcher Dr. Samuel Dunkell the position you choose in bed each night echoes the way you deal with your daytime waking hours. Invariably, you often sleep as you live. These chronic sleep positions can affect your sleep—positively and negatively.

A highly private matter, choice of sleep position, the theory goes, gives insight not only into sleep patterns, sleep history and sleep difficulties but also personality traits and those of your sleep partner’s. And yes, it can even delve into hidden subconscious secrets buried in your relationship. Tonight, when you climb into bed, pay attention and observe what position you spontaneously assume to feel most comfortable at just the moment when you decide to fall asleep. (Make sure it’s not when you first get into bed, but just at the moment you’re ready to fall asleep. People often shift position at this juncture.) This is termed your “preferred sleep position.”

What is your preferred sleep position, and has it changed over the years? Has it had an effect on your sleep efficiency, or is it causing discomfort or pain? Much like a penned signature, your sleep position is your private sleep scrawl and there’s no real reason to alter it, as it reflects not creates your personality traits.

But if your sleep position affects your physical self—in other words, if you sleep on your stomach and wake up with a chronic sore neck—it’s likely time to learn to alter your preferred sleep position.

Here are four basic individual sleep positions:

1. In the prone position, sleeper lies face down on the stomach with arms extended and bent, usually framed above the head. People who regularly sleep in the prone position—and both I and Madonna are in this category, interestingly enough—tend to have strong compulsive tendencies and stubbornness in their personalities and are persistent and goal-oriented.

2. The royal position is the geometric opposite of the prone. The royal sleeper lies supine, fully on the back, with arms slightly akimbo at the sides. It’s an open, vulnerable and expansive position, and these people display self-confidence and self-involvement.

Workaholic businessmen and entrepreneurs often prefer this position. 3. The most common position, the semifetal, has sleepers lying on their sides with knees slightly bent, one arm outstretched above the head, the other resting comfortably on the opposing upper arm to cradle the head. Conciliatory, compromising, non-threatening, nonshakers; sleep experts claim this to be the optimal sleep posture position.

4. The full-fetal is the characteristic womb position. Sleepers lie curled on their sides, with knees pulled all the way up, heads bent forward. Usually a pillow or blanket mass is centered at the stomach. These people are highly emotional, sensitive, artistic and have intense one-on-one relationships. Oddly, it’s found that women who sleep in this position normally have heightened capacity for multiple orgasms.

Couples’ sleep positions are equally telling, with the lovely spoon position most common for partners in the first three to five years together. Here, both partners lie on the same side facing the same direction, one behind the other, a set of spoons curved in the night.

The bridge position has the domineering partner placing a leg over the body of the sleeping partner, using the royal position. The freeze maneuver, each with their back to the other, pulled over to separate sides of the bed, shows anger and distance. The umbilicus position is a sort of separated spoon with one partner reaching over to lay hands on the other for security.

If kids and animals share the bed, the mix gets quite interesting indeed! Relationship experts claim the position isn’t as telling as a change in the position, so be on the look-out for when and how this change occurs.

Of course, none of this is rocket-science, and you can probably just as easily invent your own names: a friend claims he sleeps with his partner in the George Jetson position, with a dog, Astro, stretched out between them. Just know that when you make your final shift to fall into slumber, your personality is rarely hidden.

Janet Kinosian is an award-winning journalist who has written for the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and W, among other publications.

If you sleep on your stomach— and wake up with a chronic sore neck—
it’s likely time to learn to alter your preferred sleep position.

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