Why Sleeping Positions?
For most people, sleeping in comfort is high up on their list of priorities. And who could blame them? No-one enjoys waking up sore and stiff! That is why we decided to take a closer look at sleeping positions and how they affect the quality of your rest. Read on to see how your sleeping position influences your daily life.
Standing, sitting or lying down
Why do we have to lie down to sleep? Have you ever thought about it? When I did a Google search to ask this question, I stumbled across a couple of very interesting answers, which I will not mention here… But it actually seems like I am not the only person to have asked this question in the last couple of months. If you have been thinking about this question, here are the two relatively simple answers that made sense to me:
When you lie down to sleep, or to do anything really, your blood circulates more easily throughout the body. Thus your heart rate will decrease, because it doesn’t need to work so hard to pump the blood to all those fingers and toes. Once your heart rate decreases, your brain starts telling your body that it is time to sleep (a simplified version of what really happens). In other words, lying down slows down the heart and lulls the mind into dream world.
You do not have to keep your balance when you lie down. At first I thought this was one of those funny reasons for lying down that I mentioned earlier on. But then I asked a physician about it and he confirmed that this is a valid reason for lying down when you sleep. He gave me a detailed description of a mechanism in the inner ear that plays an important role in keeping your balance. I will now tell you, in far less detail, how this mechanism, better known as the bony labyrinth, works. The labyrinth consists of three cylindrical “tubes” that lie at angles to one another. When you are standing or sitting down, these tubes are constantly balancing your body. When your body is trying to stay balanced, it is difficult to induce sleep.
The verdict? When you lie down your heart rate slows and your ears tell your muscles to relax. And let’s face it, when you are relaxed sleep comes more readily.
Most sources agree that there are six basic sleeping positions. From most to least common these are: The Fetus position, the Log position, the Yearner position, the Soldier position, the Freefall position and the Starfish position.
Quite often, research by one institute or person contradicts research done by another group. So it is clear that the science behind sleeping positions is not all there yet. Even though this is the case, there is some very interesting research out there. Some people focused on health benefits of sleeping a certain way, while others speculate about personality traits that can be attributed to how you sleep. Let’s have a look at what medical practitioners and body language experts have to say about your sleeping position.
A Medical Perspective
The Fetus Position
Different sets of research conclude that between 41% and 50% of people sleep in this position. As you can guess from the name, people that sleep in Fetus position lie on one side, while tucking the knees and chin in towards the chest. Interestingly, more women tend to sleep in this position than men. Maybe it is because during pregnancy, sleeping on your left side in foetal position is the most comfortable sleeping position. When a pregnant woman sleeps on her left side, it increases blood circulation through both her and the fetus’s bodies. It also prevents the uterus from pressing against the liver, which is on the right side of the body.
Beware of curling up too tight though, as this might impede deep breathing. This position may also induce pain in the lower back, because your spine might not be aligned perfectly when you lie like this. To reduce back pains, consider sleeping with a small pillow between your knees to help stabalize your hips and lower back.
The Log Position
Sleeping like a log, in this case, means that you sleep on your side with your legs and head stretched out in a rigid position and your arms are close to your body. Somewhat like a log. Sleeping on your side like this, with your back and legs straight, is good for your posture. You are less likely to develop back and neck pains if you sleep like this. It also keeps your airways open, so you are less likely to snore while sleeping in this position.
Aesthetically speaking, it might be a downer because you are more likely to develop wrinkles. Pushing half of your face into a pillow for a third of your life… Well yes, I can see how that might lead to wrinkles. But hey! Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so maybe you should ask your partner if he/she prefers your snoring, or a couple of wrinkles on your face…
The Yearner Position
This sleeping position is quite similar to the Log. You also sleep on your side, with straight legs and a straight back, but your arms are reaching out in front of you. The medical benefits and drawbacks are similar to that of the Log sleeper.
The Soldier Position
What does a soldier sleep like? Hmm… This is a difficult one… NOT! The Soldier sleeping position is like the log, just on your back. Soldier sleepers lie on their backs with their arms stretched out down their sides, like they are standing at parade. Their legs are together and go straight down.
Sleep experts are divided on the health benefits for this one. Some of them say that this is by far the best and healthiest sleeping position, while others caution against it. According to sleep.org sleeping on your back is good for the spine, neck and head because you allow them to rest in a neutral position. Basically this means that those areas won’t be under tension while you sleep, therefore you won’t develop back and neck pain.
The experts over at The Better Sleep Council says that sleeping on your back might induce back pain. This is the part where I tell you to decide from experience which one of these options are right. If you don’t develop back pains from sleeping on your back, great! On the other hand, if you do get back aches from sleeping like this, try placing a small pillow or rolled up towel beneath your knees, to facilitate a more natural angle for the spine.
One thing that both of these sources agree on is that sleeping on your back can cause obstructive sleep apnea. Basically this means that your tongue blocks your air pipe, preventing you from getting enough oxygen into the lungs. This can lead to waking up during the night and restless sleep. If you do suffer from symptoms like this, maybe you should prop your head up on another pillow.
The Freefall Position
This sleeping position describes people that lie on their stomach, hands and arms around the pillow and face turned to the side. If you are one of the few people that sleep on your stomach (roughly 7%) you might be experiencing back and neck pain, because your spine won’t be in a neutral position whilst sleeping. You might also struggle to fall asleep and when you do, you often wake up because your arms are numb or tingling. Is this you? Consider sleeping with your forehead propped up on a pillow and your chin on the mattress. This might alleviate some of the stress on your spine.
Luckily there is some light at the end of the tunnel (or night). Research done by Professor Chris Idzikowski, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service shows that sleeping on your stomach, and particularly in the Freefall position is good for digestion. It also makes for a snore free sleep.
The Starfish Position
Similar to the Freefall position, the Starfish sleeper lies on his or her back with their arms tucked up around the pillow. The health benefits and drawbacks for this sleeping position is closely related to that of the Soldier sleeping position.
What does your Sleeping Position say about you?
Yes folks, scientists believe that the position you sleep in might give a clue as to how you react to certain things and how you see the world. Now let us get one thing straight. I am not a superstitious person that reads something into everything. Usually I would not even take a glance at an article about “What your Sleeping Position says about your Personality”. But when I started reading up on sleeping positions, I found a couple of very insightful articles on the matter.
Some of these behavioural analysts actually summed up my personality quite well and even coupled it with the right sleeping position! Coincidence? Must be! Or at least, that is what I thought. Out of curiosity I asked a couple of my friends how they prefer to sleep and I could not believe my eyes when they told me. Almost every single one of their personalities fit in fairly well with one of the descriptions attributed to each sleeping position. (Once again, researchers got different results in some areas, and similar results in others).
Now that you know what each sleeping position looks like and the medical benefits associated with each one of them, let us see if the way you sleep can really tell you something, if anything, about your personality.
The Fetus Position .20
There are two perspectives on the average user of the Fetus sleeping position. Prof Idzikowski’s research led him to believe that foetal sleepers are shy at heart, but present a tough exterior to the world. Another set of research, done by Robert Phipps, shows that people sleeping in this position are very well organised. They like to have their affairs in order and when they get up each day, they are energised and ready to face the challenges of the new day. According to Phipps, people that prefer this sleeping position is more likely to overthink things and worry about things outside of their control.
For the Fetus sleepers out there, does one of these profiles describe you?
The revamped Log Position
Once again Idzikowski and Phipps disagree on the personalities associated with this sleeping position. Idzikowski argues that log sleepers are easy going, people-pleasers that can easily be swayed by the crowd. Whereas Phipps states that people preferring the Log sleeping position are rigid in their thinking. They want everything to be done their way, they are stubborn and often times come across as being bossy or aloof.
Struck a chord, log sleepers?
Yearning for something?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to the Yearner sleeping position. The first one says that yearners take their time to make decisions, but tend to follow through on the choices they make. These yearning sleepers are cynics.
On the other hand, other research showed that yearners want more from life and are not afraid to go out and search for their destiny. They expect very good results from themselves, but when things don’t work out the way they planned, they do not hesitate to jump ship. The author of this research cautions yearners to think carefully before they start off on an adventure, because if it is not what they really yearn for, they might just end up wasting a lot of time on something that is not really what they want.
Are you yearning for adventure, or do prefer living with caution?
Soldier sleepers tend to be quiet and reserved, keeping their opinions to themselves most of the time. They expect people and themselves to perform well in everything they do.
Are you a soldier, encouraging people by example?
Most researchers agree that Freefallers are people that appear to be extroverts. However, they do not do well with criticism and often feel as if they cannot control what happens to them. This leads to feelings of anxiety and stress. Often times their anxiety paralyses them, allowing tasks to pile up and in turn, feeds the angst.
If this is you, consider changing your sleeping position. You might also want to write down the tasks that still need to be done. In this way you can approach tasks methodically and complete them one at a time.
According to Prof Idzikowski, Starfish sleepers tend to be great listeners. Apparently they make great friends, because they prefer to serve others over being served. People like this do not want to be the centre of attention.
Now to bed
While you figure out which way to lie down, I’m gonna do some foetal yearning on my left side. I might throw in a couple of Starfishes just to keep my humility in check.