Remember that time when you and your sweetie cuddled throughout the night? As the years go by, that closeness while you sleep probably falls by the wayside, just like it did for Roseanne and Dan. Don’t worry—that’s completely normal, says Susan Shapiro Barash, author of The Nine Phases of Marriage. “Everything from separate work schedules and snoring spouses to co-sleeping with the kids can interfere in a couple being close while sleeping.” In fact, a recent study by the Better Sleep Council (bettersleep.org) found that more than one in four Americans say they sleep better alone rather than with their partner.
But can your sleep position also tell you something about the status of your relationship? “The interesting thing about humans is that we have both a conscious and an unconscious mind,” says Todd Creager, MFT, LCSW, a marriage therapist and author of The Long Hot Marriage (toddcreager.com). “Anything we can do to uncover the mysteries of our unconscious mind can be helpful. And so much can be revealed about what lies in our unconscious mind by how we sleep with our partner.”
Of course, multiple factors can go into a couple’s sleep style. “When two people are absolutely exhausted, they may temporarily withdraw into themselves and unconsciously avoid contact until they get their energy back and are refreshed in the morning,” says Creager. “However, when there are patterns of these sleeping positions, it is interesting and worth a look to understand the deeper ‘goings on’ between partners.”
Check out these common sleep styles and find out what they can tell you about your love life!
Sleep Style: Spooning
One partner is lying on their side and the other is behind them with one arm wrapped around the other. When spooning, if the man is behind, he probably feels protective and experiences himself as the “traditional” man who takes care of his woman, says Creager. “If the woman is behind, it is not a bad thing either. It could mean that she is a caretaking, nurturing type woman. The man who is being spooned is someone who is willing to be nourished in this way.”
Sleep Style: Royal Hug
This usually occurs with the man sleeping on his back, and the woman resting her head on his chest. A man’s arm around his wife reveals protectiveness towards her, while she feels safe in his arms. “When sleeping on your back, your chest is open and exposed; the place where your heart resides,” says Creager. “So, it both people are sleeping on their back but are touching in one place such as their feet, it could mean that they are both independent and feel supported by life. They are not particularly needy; however, they still like the feeling of connection.”
Sleep Style: Stomach Sleeper
People who sleep on their stomach are in a loose sense protecting their heart, says Creager. “They may be more guarded. However, if one partner is sleeping on one’s stomach and the other is on his side touching his partner, (such as having his arm on her back), this may reveal a protector/protected dynamic similar to when the man is behind spooning his wife.”
Sleep Style: Honeymoon Hug
Creager reveals that two people who face each other while sleeping on their side without touching may reveal a nice balance of independence and dependence. “They like their space but they also are indicating a vulnerability and desire to connect with each other.”
Sleep Style: Opposite Corners
While this might simply be a comfy position because you both need your own space to sleep, it could also be a sign that you need to work on getting closer, says Dr. Fran Walfish, a psychotherapist (drfranwalfish.com). “Sleeping on opposite sides of the bed may indicate a distance, disconnect, or crevice in the relationship.” In fact, Creager says that sleeping on opposite sides “may reveal a conflicted relationship with unresolved feelings. They may avoid each other emotionally by day just as they metaphorically look when they are sleeping at night.”