If there’s one universal rule about the internet, it’s that sex sells. If there’s a second, it’s that people love to read about themselves—whether that means taking a personality test, keeping up with their horoscope, or puzzling out what their favorite sleep position can reveal about the depths of their souls.
In 2003, Chris Idzikowski, PhD, sleep specialist and former research director of the Edinburgh Sleep Centre, administered a self-reported survey to 1,004 British participants in order to draw parallels between their sleeping positions and personalities. He had survey-takers note the way they slept—on their side, on their back, etc.—and then choose from a list of adjectives they believed to be most representative of their personalities. Perhaps surprisingly, the results of a factor analysis did suggest legit associations between some of the sleeping positions and personality traits of participants in this sample. (Sleep in the fetal position? You’ve got a tough exterior but a gentle soul, the BBC reported back when Dr. Idzikowski released his results.)
And this brings me to the third rule of the internet: You can’t believe everything you read. When Dr. Idzikowski’s survey was repeated with a group of residents from Southeast Asia, the sleep archetypes he originally detailed didn’t hold up. Given that replication is key to rigorous science and generalizability, it’s safe to say his results aren’t tsubstantive enough to merit credible armchair psychoanalysis on the basis of sleep position preferences.
Plus, Dr. Idzikowski himself has been quoted as saying, essentially, JK! “The original study was never more than a fun study,” he said, pointing out that his “research” did help lead to important conclusions about which sleep positions are better for your health.
Okay, okay, you still want to know what it means that you’re a yearner, a soldier, or a log. Dr. Idzikowski’s findings are below—but use them as they were always intended: as entertainment.
Keep reading to see what 6 common sleep positions may reveal.
The Fetal Position
The fetal position was the most commonly reported, with 41 percent of participants endorsing it as their sleeping position of choice. According to the personality analysis, people who slept in the fetal position were like watermelons: hard on the outside with a softer interior. They were also described as being shy at first blush but warming up to new people and feeling more relaxed over time.
This side-lying, straight-armed stance was another of the more popular positions, with 15 percent of participants indicating that they lie this way as they drift off to dreamland. Though it may sound counterintuitive, Dr. Idzikowski found that log sleepers were more likely to report a friendly, carefree, and social nature. They were also afflicted with the less-glamorous trait of gullibility.
Yearners, or side sleepers with outstretched arms, made up 13 percent of the sample. Dr. Idzikowski described them as a series of contradictions; both open-minded and cynical, indecisive but stubborn.
The 8 percent of participants who identified as soldier sleepers were most comfortable sleeping on their backs with both arms pinned to their sides, calling to mind the image of a stiff toy soldier. Their self-reported personality traits—quiet, reserved, and quick to set high standards for themselves and others—also fit this stereotyped soldier persona.
Dr. Idzikowski deemed the 7 percent of study subjects who fell asleep on their stomachs with arms wrapped around their pillows and heads turned to one side “freefallers.” People who slept in this freefall position were more likely to describe their personality as gregarious or brash. Freefallers were also painted as sensitive to criticism; it was noted that despite expansive personas, they were thin-skinned underneath.
Only 5 percent of participants reported sleeping in a starfish position, on their backs with both arms up around the pillow. Starfish sleepers described themselves as good listeners and helpful friends who prefer to avoid the limelight.
Good news: Americans are finally starting to turn their terrible sleep habits around. But if you’re still having trouble drifting off, here’s an evening routine designed for optimal zzz’s.
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