New BSC research says sleep positions may reveal more than you think

A new survey conducted by the Better Sleep Council, the consumer-education arm of the International Sleep Products Association, suggests sleep positions may reveal important aspects about people, including their health, age and even education level.

sleeping positionsMost people sleep in one of these positions:

  • Fetal: On your side, curled up
  • Freefall: on your stomach with arms and legs outstretched
  • Log: on your side with both arms down
  • Soldier: on your back with arms down and close to your body
  • Starfish: on your back with arms up
  • Yearner: on your side with arms out front.

The research found those who reported higher levels of education, such as graduate school or more, were less likely to sleep in the fetal position, the most common sleeping position among Americans (47%).

Differences between age groups became apparent in reported sleep position preferences as well: Gen Xers and millennials are more likely to sleep in the freefall position than baby boomers.

Although sleep positions largely are a matter of perceived comfort and habit, the survey found sleep positions affect sleep quality. For example, people who sleep in the log position report getting a better night’s sleep than those in the fetal position. Also, people who sleep in the starfish or log positions are more likely to sleepwalk.

In addition, the survey found that log sleepers are more likely to consider themselves healthy, while introverts have the strongest aversion to the freefall position.

Other insights include:

  • Women are more likely to sleep in the fetal position than men (54% vs. 39%).
  • The soldier (11%), starfish (7%) and log (6%) positions are the least popular, yet those who sleep in these positions are more likely to say they have medical benefits.
  • Log sleepers are more likely than fetal, freefall or yearner sleepers to say their mattress is very comfortable. They possibly could feel this way because they’re more likely than other sleepers to rest-test their mattress before purchasing.

Terry Cralle, a certified sleep educator, author and spokeswoman for the BSC, offers these tips to sleep better in whatever position you prefer:

  • Back sleepers (soldier or starfish): Sleeping on your back may induce lower back pain and sleep apnea, which interferes with normal sleep. If you experience back pain, consider placing a pillow or rolled-up towel under your knees to more naturally align the curve of your spine.
  • Stomach sleepers (freefall): Sleeping this way can strain your lower back and cause neck pain. Try sleeping with a soft pillow—or not one at all—so your neck isn’t at an awkward angle.
  • Side sleepers (fetal, log, yearner): Side sleeping is one of the most common ways to sleep. Sleep specialists recommend sleeping on your side to rest more comfortably and lessen the likelihood of interrupted sleep.

For more information on sleep positions, including illustrations of each one, visit BetterSleep.org/Better-Sleep/Sleep-Positions.

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