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Are you the starfish or the soldier? What your sleeping position reveals about your personality – and your health.

We all know we’re meant to sit and stand with straight backs and maintain good posture for spine and muscle health – but did you know that posture is equally important during sleep? The position you sleep in not only affects how well you sleep, but also has a significant effect on your waking posture and body health. A bad sleeping position can contribute to aches, pains and muscle stiffness. Taking care to think about the way you sleep and the mattresses, pillows, mattress toppers and bedding you use can make a big difference to your sleep health. Here we take a look at different sleeping positions, what they might reveal about your personality, and what you can do to improve your sleep posture and comfort.

Sleep specialist Professor Chris Idzikowski analysed 6 common sleeping positions and the personalities of 1000 people and came up with some interesting results. These are the positions, and personality types he identified:

  • The foetus. Adopted by 41% of the people surveyed, curling up on one side was far and away the most popular sleeping position and reveals a personality that is ‘tough on the outside but shy and sensitive at heart’. Sleeping on your side can be helpful for preventing snoring and acid reflux, though sleeping on your left side can put pressure on some of your internal organs and being curled up can cause muscle pain. If you are pregnant, sleeping on your left side is recommended as it has been shown to help your kidneys get rid of waste products, and is safer than sleeping on your back which can stress the main blood vessels that supply the uterus.
  • The starfish. Beloved by small children (especially when sharing beds with their parents) – the starfish is an open position, lying on your back with your arms up. Starfish sleepers are described as helpful, friendly and good listeners. This position is good for your spine as you are lying straight, but leads to a greater likelihood of snoring, sleep apnoea and breathing problems which can be quite disruptive for refreshing sleep.
  • The freefall.  Lying on your front with your arms up is the freefall position which is adopted by extroverts who are gregarious but don’t take criticism well. Lying on your front is beneficial for digestion but because your head is turned sharply to one side to aid breathing, it can sometimes cause neck or spinal pain.
  • The log. Easy-going and trusting, log sleepers lie on one side with legs straight and with the arms by the side. This is a great position as it keeps the spine straight, the airways clear and is comfortable – there is a good reason for the phrase ‘sleeping like a log’!
  • The soldier. Lying straight on your back with your arms by your sides is a position favoured by quiet and reserved types who have high standards. As with the other back sleeping positions, this pose can lead to snoring and breathing problems. If you’re sleeping next to someone who snores, usually flipping them over to one side will help!
  • The yearner. If you lie on your side with your arms out in front of you, you are a ‘yearner’. You may be indecisive and cynical, but you should have fewer problems with acid reflux or snoring than a back position sleeper. One downside of side sleeping is that leaning on pillows with one side of your face can cause wrinkles – make sure you have the best quality cotton, silk or micro modal pillow cases to minimise the damage.

Of course, as fun as this all is, most people don’t have much control over their sleeping positions. It’s something you do naturally and can’t really change even if it is causing problems with snoring or back pain. Despite this, there are things you can do to ensure that you have the best chance for sleeping in a comfortable and healthy way. Here are our top tips for organising the best sleep environment:

  • Mattress – your mattress should support your body and distribute your body weight evenly to keep your spine aligned. As a mattress ages, the structure becomes compressed, so make sure you get a new one every 10 years or so. You can add a topper to give an extra layer of softness and comfort to a firm mattress.
  • Pillows – Down and feather pillows are most comfortable as air is trapped between the feathers and they will keep their shape longer. Obviously some people have problems with allergies. If you need to use synthetic pillows, replace frequently as the structure deteriorates quickly and won’t give your head and neck enough support.
  • Support Pillows – If you’re a side sleeper, place a pillow between the legs to support the hips or under your side to support the back. If you sleep on your back, a pillow placed under the knees can support the spine. Front sleepers risk neck pain, but a pillow placed under the chest can lift the body a quarter turn to take the pressure off the spine and open the airways.
  • Duvets – Duvets made from natural materials are best for aiding sleep. Down and feather fillings are warm and can feel gorgeously light and airy. Wool duvets are also great for retaining warmth and are hypoallergenic. Synthetic duvets are a good choice for those who have allergies – but try to get the best quality you can afford. Some poor quality synthetic duvets can be limp and heavy.
  • Bed linen – Try to use the best quality natural bedding materials. Synthetic fibres can trap heat leading to an uncomfortable night. Natural fibres like Egyptian cotton are more breathable, durable and smooth. If you get a cotton with a sateen finish – that will be even softer. Some materials like good quality linen can be great for both summer and winter as they can keep you both cool and warm. Wash your bedding frequently and buy new when your existing bedding becomes tired. Hot water, detergent and frequent use will all shorten the life-span of your bedding, although high quality cotton sheets will last much longer than the norm.

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