Whether it’s on our side, back or even starfish­ing, the waywe sleep says a lot about our char­ac­ter and our health, dis­cov­ers Chris­tine Field­house

Friday - - HEALTH -

We all have our own favourite sleep­ing po­si­tion. Some of us love to curl up in a com­pact ball and snooze un­til dawn, while oth­ers spread out, arms and legs wide, tak­ing up the whole bed. One per­son may cud­dle their pil­low, while their part­ner might sleep on their front, as if they’ve been dropped from a great height.

Whichever way we sleep, we usu­ally find the right po­si­tion for us by trial and er­ror over the years, and once we know what works, we tend to stick to it – un­less some­thing ma­jor hap­pens in our lives.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, the way we lie when we hit the hay is about more than just sleep­ing. Our cho­sen po­si­tion could have some health ben­e­fits and also says a lot about our per­son­al­ity and the way we op­er­ate.

“To sleep well, you need to feel safe,” says Dr Ne­rina Ram­lakhan, au­thor of Tired but Wired: How to Over­come Sleep Prob­lems.

“Many people go back to the first time they felt safe, when they were in the womb, and sleep in the fe­tal po­si­tion, curled up with their knees up, but oth­ers may find other po­si­tions are bet­ter for their needs.”


Ly­ing on your side, knees up and hands hold­ing your head or knees. Dr Ir­shaad Ebrahim, con­sul­tant neu­ropsy­chi­a­trist, who is open­ing The Dubai Sleep Cen­tre in Septem­ber, (www.dubaisleep­cen­tre.com) says: “The com­plete fe­tal po­si­tion with knees curled up might re­strict breath­ing, but the adapted ver­sion, with legs slightly bent, doesn’t put any pres­sure on the heart. Be­cause our mus­cles are re­laxed, this po­si­tion al­lows us to tran­si­tion from one sleep state to the next.”

Your per­son­al­ity

Fe­tal sleep­ers tend to be self-re­liant be­cause they have an is­sue with trust­ing other people, says body lan­guage ex­pert Becki Houl­ston (www.beck­i­houl­ston.com).

“They of­ten feel fear­ful about life so they curl up into a ball to make them­selves feel pro­tected.

“It’s not that they’re weak or fee­ble; they just want to find so­lu­tions on their own be­cause they know they can trust them­selves.”

TIP: Break free from your com­fort zone

“Ques­tion your bound­aries and take up a new chal­lenge such as mar­tial arts or yoga – any­thing that stretches both your mind and body at the same time,” ad­vises Becki.


Ly­ing on your right side with your arms by your side. “Sleep­ing on your right side is highly rec­om­mended. It’s con­sid­ered to be ex­cel­lent for car­dio­vas­cu­lar health as it aids breath­ing,” says Dr Ebrahim. Though some re­searchers think ly­ing on your side might lead to an in­creased rate of age­ing.

Your per­son­al­ity

The log sleeper has a con­trolled mind and thinks in a lin­ear way, says Becki.

“This per­son feels safest when they know where they are go­ing and what they are do­ing,” she ex­plains.

“They think in a log­i­cal way and fol­low or­ders well. Al­though they make ex­cel­lent em­ploy­ees, they are in dan­ger of be­com­ing a lit­tle too ro­botic. They also ob­sess about the finer de­tails of their lives, like the five min­utes they were kept wait­ing to or­der in a restau­rant.”

TIP: Choose to be happy rather than right

“Re­lax about the non-es­sen­tial things in life, even when they threaten your sense of or­der,” says Becki. “Ask yourself if the lit­tle things that are both­er­ing you, like your teenagers not putting their clothes away, will mat­ter in a few months’ time.”


Ly­ing on your side, with your arms stretched out. “This is a good po­si­tion for spinal health,” says Dr Ebrahim. “The spine is sup­ported nat­u­rally and the strain on the back of the neck is re­duced. It en­cour­ages bet­ter air­flow so it is ex­cel­lent for any­one who suf­fers from sleep ap­noea, which is a con­di­tion that causes people to stop breath­ing sev­eral times through the night.”

Your per­son­al­ity

“This per­son is a day­dreamer and in­tu­itive,” says Becki. “If the Yearner

‘A few drops of laven­der, eu­ca­lyp­tus or rose oil on your pil­low can help, along with yoga or Pi­lates’

day­dreams and then takes ac­tion, they could be for­mi­da­ble, but they are equally ca­pa­ble of frit­ter­ing away hours and hours by just star­ing into space or wait­ing for a bril­liant idea to pop into their head as if by magic.

“They’re quite self-pro­tec­tive and they don’t fall in love eas­ily, but when they do, it’s usu­ally for keeps.”

TIP: Take ac­tion

“In­stead of wait­ing for in­spi­ra­tion, try to think more strate­gi­cally and ask yourself what ac­tion you could take to solve a prob­lem,” says Becki. “Check the ac­tion feels right, give yourself a time­line and get mov­ing!”


Ly­ing on your back, with your arms by your side.

“This is the ul­ti­mate ac­cep­tance po­si­tion in yoga,” says Dr Ram­lakhan. “It’s a good po­si­tion to try be­fore you go to sleep, ei­ther as a pre-bed­time yoga rou­tine to calm the ner­vous sys­tem, or once you are in bed.”

Your per­son­al­ity

“The Sol­dier sleeper is en­thu­si­as­tic yet eas­ily in­flu­enced both by their own emo­tions and other people,” says Becki. “They are very com­fort­able within their own skin and they can do very well if they sur­round them­selves with in­spi­ra­tional people, but they also get en­thu­si­as­tic about neg­a­tive in­flu­ences, which can get them into a lot of trou­ble. They’re the type of people who sign up for a trek to the Antarc­tic on a whim, but they’re also just as likely to start smok­ing again if some­one of­fers them a cig­a­rette.”

TIP: Choose your friends care­fully

“Get a firm idea of who you want to be and sur­round yourself with people you re­spect, rather than those with bad habits,” says Becki.


Ly­ing on your front.

“These sleep­ers of­ten have their faces in a pil­low,” says Dr Ebrahim,

“which isn’t rec­om­mended for good breath­ing. But if they can tilt their head slightly to one side, it can be a ben­e­fi­cial po­si­tion for them.

“Some people think this po­si­tion will aid di­ges­tion, and many people sleep on their front to avoid sleep ap­noea, which can cause day­time sleepi­ness, high blood pres­sure and di­a­betes.”

Your per­son­al­ity

The Freefaller is both pas­sion­ate and er­ratic, says Becki.

“This per­son is prone to tantrums, and sleeps with their head in the pil­low to try and ground them­selves and pro­tect them­selves from their driv­ing emo­tions.

“If they’re hav­ing a tough time, you’ll know about it! They can be thrill-seek­ers – er­ratic and ex­cit­ing at the same time – but when things go wrong, they of­ten blame oth­ers and lose sight of the big­ger pic­ture.”

TIP: Learn from your mis­takes

“If some­thing doesn’t go to plan, be­fore you blame any­one else, stop and ex­am­ine what you could have done dif­fer­ently for a bet­ter out­come,” sug­gests Becki. “Think about what les­son you might learn from your ex­pe­ri­ence.”


Ly­ing flat on your back, with your arms above your head and legs stretched out. “This po­si­tion will in­crease sleep ap­noea and may cause acid re­flux, where stomach acid re­fluxes and burns the lin­ing of the oe­soph­a­gus,” says Dr Ebrahim.

“It isn’t good for pos­ture be­cause your back will be slightly arched. How­ever, be­cause you are stretched out, it might make your mus­cles slightly more toned.”

Your per­son­al­ity

“The Starfish sleeper is open and trust­ing,” says Becki. “This per­son is com­fort­able with vul­ner­a­bil­ity but they some­times act with­out think­ing of the con­se­quences. They don’t re­alise their bad habits, such as a lack of or­gan­i­sa­tion, might in­fu­ri­ate other people and be­cause they’re so open, oth­ers take ad­van­tage of them.”

TIP: Learn to say no

“Be­cause Starfish sleep­ers are pleasers, they of­ten take on too much and spend their lives run­ning around af­ter other people,” says Becki. “Learn­ing to say no would free them from some com­mit­ments and give them more time for their own in­ter­ests and goals.”

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