Sleep positions – what do they mean and can they determine personality? Can sleep position predict your personality traits? Readers of Sleepmo send these kinds of questions in fairly often, so it’s about time I wrote an article about this idea.
First I had a look around for the various sleep positions that are claimed to represent particular personality types. Whether or not there’s any truth to this idea, it’s quite fun to have a look at the supposed links.
I also did a little deeper research to see if there’s any good evidence for this kind of link between sleeping position and personality (as you might have guessed, there isn’t).
Supposed sleep positions and personality traits
As soon as I started looking into this issue, I found a big give-away that the whole idea is nonsense: none of the sources of information are even slightly consistent on what different sleep positions mean about your personality.
Different people mix up the various sleep positions and their meanings into every possible combination. There isn’t even any agreement on what the significant sleeping positions are.
The baby: “looking for comfort”
Also described as ‘fetal’, apparently if you sleep curled up you’re “looking for comfort” (makes sense when you’re in bed, right?). Other people also say that this position means you’re “tough on the outside but sensitive on the inside”. That’s a description of most people, which is a well-known psychological trick. And sure enough, this is the most common sleeping position found in the ‘study’ (see below).
The log: “sociable”
If you sleep lying on your side with your arms and legs straight, apparently it means you’re a sociable person. Why this is, or what the link is, is a total mystery as far as the Web is concerned. Nonsense at its best.
The soldier: “reserved”
If you sleep on your back with your arms and legs straight, you’re a ‘soldier’ sleeper, and it means you have a reserved personality. Perhaps because you’re in the ‘reserve’ garrison? Who knows?
The yearner: “looking for sensitivity”
If you sleep on your side with your arms sticking out in front of you (or hugging your pillow) it means that you are “looking for sensitivity”. This is different to most people, who are of course looking for brutality. Sleeping in this position could also mean that you’re the narrator of an annoying song.
The free-faller: “brash”
If you sleep on your front with your arms and legs stretched out, it means that you have a ‘brash personality’, and that you are difficult to share a bed with.
The break-dancer: “energetic”
If you sleep spinning around on your head with your legs doing a helicopter-style move, you’re a “break-dancer” sleeper. This means you have the type of personality that likes caffeine too much (I might have made this one up).
Evidence for this whole idea: none
The Web is a wonderful thing, providing a way for all of us to share our knowledge, opinion and learning with the rest of the world. This kind of collaboration is a good thing. But one of the problems with the Web is that some people seem to take the fact that any old website has repeated some information as evidence for it being true.
This whole sleep positions determining personality issue is an excellent example of this. The idea is everywhere online, but about 90% of that is just people copying and rewriting the same basic information, apparently without any fact checking. Others also seem to have arbitrarily re-interpreted the information, again without providing any evidence or sources.
The original idea actually seems to stem from a study done in 2003 by Chris Idzikowski at the Edinburgh Sleep Centre. It’s actually quite hard to track down the original content of this study. Apparently it involved 1000 participants, which is a fair number, but I couldn’t find the methodology anywhere, so we have no idea if it’s a good study or not.
Judging from the fact that the only ‘source’ links ever given for this all point to the BBC News article and not the original paper, and that there are no other published papers on the idea, I would say it’s fair to conclude that the idea is a load of rubbish.