The Creepy Thing Your Sleep Position Can Tell You About Your Personality

All hail the starfish sleeper.

Originally Published: 
Your sleep position can reveal a creepy amount about your personality.
Ashley Batz/Bustle

Whether you're into cuddling, solo sleeping, or snoozing on your side, back, or stomach, how you sleep can reveal a lot about you. You spend about one-third of your life asleep, according to a 2011 study published in the Handbook of Clinical Neurology journal, so it makes sense that your preferred sleep style can reveal insights into your waking self. But what your sleep position says about your personality may surprise you.

When you're awake, your personality can involuntarily shine through in the way you carry yourself, like your posture, tics, or expressions. The same is true when you're asleep, according to Adrianne Carter, a UK-based facial expression and body language expert. "Sleep positions are a form of body language," she tells Bustle. "Our body's posture and movement reveal how we are feeling and what is happening for us internally, and mostly happens subconsciously."

Just like your personality, sleep is complicated and multifaceted. It's not uncommon for a person to have more than one trait that directly contradicts another. Obviously, everyone needs sleep. But while it's clear that everyone needs ZZZs (it helps you think clearly, regulates your mood, and staves off disease, for instance) sleep positions and personality traits are not universal and vary by culture (because they're self-reported), according to a British study conducted by Dr. Chris Idzikowski and reported in BBC News.

"We are all aware of our body language when we are awake, but this is the first time we have been able to see what our subconscious posture says about us," BBC News quoted Idzikowski as saying. "What’s interesting is that the profile behind the posture is often very different from what we would expect." So what does your sleeping position say about your personality? Here's what to know.


Side Sleepers Are Easy Going & Open Minded

If you snooze on your side, you're in good company research shows it's the preferred sleep style for adults.If you sleep with your arms by your side, Idzikowski noted that you're likely easy going and trusting. If you extend your arms (a position aptly named "the yearner"), this indicates open-mindedness. It can also suggest a cynical or suspicious nature, like you're reaching for answers, according to Idzikowski. What's more, he noted that side sleepers can wake up stiff, which could make you a lot less of a go-with-the-flow type during the day. Stretching at night and when you wake up can help reduce your chances of getting up on the wrong side of the bed.

Which side you're facing and who you're sleeping next to can also tell you something about your inner workings, says Carter. "Sleeping on your side, close to the edge, and facing away if sharing a bed may reveal that you want to keep your independence and are worried about getting too close literally and figuratively to the other person," she explains. "Sleeping on your side in a normal position probably just indicates you're comfortable that way and not worried about coming into contact with the other person in the bed."


Fetal-Position Sleepers Seek Comfort

Curling up in the fetal position like a newborn baby signals that you're trying to comfort yourself at the end of the day, Idzikowski explained. If this sounds like you, welcome to the club. It's another one of the most popular sleeping positions and is particularly common in women, according to Carter. It can also signal self-assuredness, she notes. "This person values their own company and is happy to look to themselves for comfort and security," she tells Bustle.


Free Fallers Are Outgoing & Overwhelmed

If you sleep on your stomach with your arms under the pillow, Idzikowski's dubbed you a free faller. If you favor this sleep position, you are likely to be brash and outgoing after all, you're breaking free of the side-sleeping mold. "The person that sleeps like this is probably sociable and enjoys new situations," says Carter. "They are willing to try things and have a go."

Idzikowski also noted that free fallers might harbor anxiety due to feeling overwhelmed or out of control during your waking hours, so quieting your mind before hitting the hay could help.


Back Sleepers Have High Expectations

Sleeping on your back with your arms by your sides, also known as the soldier position, reveals that you have high expectations of yourself and others, according to Idzikowski. Soldier sleepers are also the most likely to snore, according to research.

This position also suggests that you're more reserved, according to Carter. "How much space the person on their back takes up can tell us a lot," she says. "Sleeping on your back and taking up minimal space can show that a person is very self-contained and probably aloof."


Starfish Sleepers Make Great Friends

There's nothing quite like sprawling out on your bed, limbs askew behold, the starfish sleeper. Though sleeping on your back with your arms over your head and around the pillow may sometimes earn you the label of bed hog, starfish sleepers actually prefer not to be the center of attention, according to Idzikowski's research. They tend to be trusted friends, good listeners, and even generous lovers.

If you're not the only one in bed, starfishing could indicate that you're the dominant partner in the relationship, according to Carter. Research says it may also set you up for snoring, though fortunately you'll make up for your noisy ZZZs with those great listening skills during the day.


Spooners Are Warm & Connected

Whether or not you cuddle with your partner at night can be a window into your mind, according to Carter. "If a person doesn't want to spoon or cuddle, they're keeping distance in the relationship and their personality is probably aloof in all relationships," she says. "Being willing to cuddle or spoon shows a warmer personality that's willing to engage with others."

Sleeping close to your partner taps into your brain in more ways than one. Science shows that hugging your partner releases feel-good chemicals, and these hormones can promote the bonding, stress relief, and feelings of love that you might be subconsciously seeking during a sleepy snuggle. Added bonus? Sleeping on your side means you're less likely to snore in your partner's ear.

If you don't find your sleep style jives with your personality, or you favor a number of different sleeping positions, it's not an exact science. Most of the results are self-reported, and while the comparisons are interesting, sleeping is definitely an individual thing. You can be all of these things or none of them. But as long as you're getting enough sleep, you're generally going to be more pleasant to be around during the day regardless of whether you're a starfish or soldier at night.


Adrianne Carter, "The Face Whisperer," the UK's foremost expert in facial expressions, emotions, and behavior

Studies referenced:

Aminoff, M. (2011). We spend about one-third of our life either sleeping or attempting to do so. Handbook of Clinical Neurology.

Light, K. (2005). More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological Psychology.

Ravesloot, M. (2013). The undervalued potential of positional therapy in position-dependent snoring and obstructive sleep apneaa review of the literature. Sleep and Breathing.

Skarpsno, E. (2017). Sleep positions and nocturnal body movements based on free-living accelerometer recordings: association with demographics, lifestyle, and insomnia symptoms. Nature and Science of Sleep.

Worley, S. (2018). The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep. Pharmacy and Therapeutics.

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