Could the way you sleep be impacting your health?

When you go to bed at night, your health might be the last thing on your mind. But some experts suggest that the way you sleep could say more about your health, and even your personality, than you might think.

To get to the bottom of this, we surveyed the nation to find out just how people catch their forty winks, and spoke to some experts to see what the way they lie in bed means. Below are the UK’s most common sleeping positions and insight from medical and psychological professionals.

  1. On side with arms tucked under the cushion – 23% of Brits sleep this way

This is the most popular sleeping position and almost a quarter of us tend to go to bed like this. Scientists at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) say that sleeping on your side helps with snoring. When you lie on your back in bed, your tongue can fall back in your mouth, obstructing air, but sleeping on your side keeps the airway open, helping to combat snoring.

When it comes to personality, leading psychotherapist Nick Davies says: “People who sleep like this live a balanced life. They tend to be the more relaxed type who are usually open-minded and have playful personalities.” 

  1. In the foetal position – 20% 

A fifth of Brits lie in their beds in the foetal position like a baby. According to experts at UCSD, this position can exacerbate back or neck pain and should be avoided if either of those areas are sore. It can also strain the neck and head and compromise circulation and breathing.

Nick Davies says: “Curling up almost into a ball in bed, these types of people feel vulnerable and lonely as their bodies move to the position where they were first nurtured in the womb.”

  1. On side with arms stretched out – 9% 

Just under one in ten Brits sleep sideways with their arms stretched out. When it comes to sleeping on your side, UCSD scientists admit there is debate on which side is best. Generally, pregnant women should lie in bed on their left side where possible (rather than on their stomach or back) as it takes pressure off the uterus, breasts and stomach. 

For everyone else, there are pros and cons to either. Lying in bed on your left side can put strain on the liver and lungs, while sleeping on the right can aggravate heartburn. You should do what feels most comfortable for you.

To Nick, stretching out your arms in bed “suggests someone reaching for something unconsciously”. People who do this ”may have unresolved goals and dreams, or it could symbolise longing for a partner. These people can be clingy, insecure and can often get into co-dependent relationships.” 

  1. Cuddling spooning partner – 8% 

Overall, spooning (or cuddling) is the top position for 8% of us when we go to bed and it provides the same benefits as a nice warm hug. Interestingly, this is more popular for men than for women, with one in ten (10%) men opting to spoon compared to only 7% of ladies.

According to Nick, ‘big spoons’ (the partner with their arms around the other) tend to be people who “enjoy giving comfort and protection to their partner” when in bed together, while ‘little spoons’ (the partner being cuddled) “enjoy being looked after, cared for and nurtured”. 

  1. On front with arms by side – 8% 

A further 8% of Brits like to flop into bed on their front with their arms by their sides. UCSD guidance says that this position should be avoided where possible, especially if you have your head turned to one side, as it puts strain on the neck, spine and lower back. If you like sleeping on your front, consider using a thin pillow to minimise the harsh angle of your neck and a pillow under your pelvis to keep your spine neutrally aligned.

Nick adds, “these people are exhausted and they literally ‘crash out’ in bed, falling straight down onto the mattress. This tends to be tired parents or could be someone with a very demanding boss.”

  1. On back with arms by side 7% 

Alongside 7% of the population, UCSD recommends sleeping on your back in bed with your arms at your side if you suffer from acid reflux in the night as this position ensures that your stomach is below your oesophagus by keeping your head elevated.

From a personality point of view, Nick adds that lying in bed this way “suggests that you are an open book with nothing to hide. People like this are direct communicators and don’t hold back what they think, though this can sometimes come across as rude”.
No matter how you like to sleep in bed, one thing experts all agree on is that a good quality mattress is a great starting point for a good night’s sleep. Check out our range of comfortable and affordable mattresses.

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