When I am alone, I can sleep crossway in a bed without an argument. - Zsa Zsa Gabor
Do you know what position you regularly take up in bed when you drop off to sleep?
According to veteran sleep researcher and New York psychiatrist, Dr. Samuel Dunkell, and author of the book Sleep Positions: The Night Language of the Body, the position you choose in bed each night echoes the way you deal with your daytime waking hours. Invariably, you often sleep as you live. These chronic sleep positions can affect your sleep -- both positively and negatively.
"People have been conditioned to sleep a certain way since birth," says Dunkell, who is director of Insomnia Medical Services in New York. "And even when they want to change their sleep position it's difficult to ensure compliance when the subject is unconscious. It takes tremendous will power to alter sleep behavior." Don't we all know how true this is?
While studies on the impact of positions on sleep and physical health are limited (as most such studies are paid for by drug companies and sleep positions aren't about medications), many MD's see the health benefits of a better sleep postion choice. Relieving pain. Breathing better. Less interrupted sleep.
So what is considered the all-round healthiest sleep position?
Many doctors say it's lying on one's back, with the head slightly elevated, about 10 - 30 percent. This is postulated to give the brain optimal blood circulation rather than congestion and also allows for more un-obstructed breathing, says Dr. Steven Park, a head and neck surgeon and member of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. You see many native cultures sleeping this way, via hammock and other devices, rather than on flat services as in the West.
To try the above sleep position: include using more pillows, a foam wedge, placing blocks under the legs of the bed frame at the head of the bed, or using an adjustable bed. Ten degrees elevation is fine to start with. The legs should be slightly elevated, too, and the person should try to stay on his or her back as much as possible. The ideal position is one you would be in if leaning back in a recliner chair.
Doctors and sleep specialists also say if you can, try and not sleep on your stomach as it compresses your internal organs as well as your spine and neck. Many life-long stomach sleepers have neck and lower-back pain as a result.
That's the physical side of sleep positioning; but there's also the emotional side.
A highly private matter, choice of sleep position, the theory goes, gives insight not only into sleep patterns, sleep history, and sleep difficulties but also personality traits and those of your sleep partner's. And yes, it can even delve into hidden subconscious secrets buried in your relationship.
Tonight, when you climb into bed, pay attention and observe what position you spontaneously assume to make yourself feel most comfortable at just the moment when you decide to fall asleep.
Make sure it's not the position you assume when you first get into bed, but just at the moment you're ready to fall asleep. People often shift position at this juncture. This is termed your "preferred sleep position."
You can ask yourself these questions: What is your preferred sleep position, and has it changed over the years? Has it had an effect on your sleep efficiency, or is it causing discomfort or pain?
Much like a penned signature, your sleep position is your private sleep scrawl and there's no real reason to alter it, as it reflects not creates your personality traits. But if your sleep position affects your physical self -- in other words, if you sleep on your stomach and wake up with a chronic sore neck -- it's likely time to learn to alter your preferred sleep position.
Here are four basic individual sleep positions:
1. In the prone position, sleeper lies face down on the stomach with arms extended and bent, usually framed above the head. People who regularly sleep in the prone position -- and both Madonna and I are in this category, interestingly enough -- tend to have strong compulsive tendencies and stubbornness in their personalities and are persistent and goal-oriented.
2. The royal position is the geometric opposite of the prone. The royal sleeper lies supine, fully on the back, with arms slightly akimbo at the sides. It's an open, vulnerable and expansive position, and these people display self-confidence and self-involvement. Workaholic businessmen and entrepreneurs often prefer this position.
3. The most common position, the semi-fetal, has sleepers lying on their sides with knees slightly bent, one arm outstretched above the head, the other resting comfortably on the opposing upper arm to cradle the head. Conciliatory, compromising, non-threatening, non-shakers; sleep experts claim this to be the optimal sleep posture position.
4. The full-fetal is the characteristic womb position. Sleepers lie curled on their sides, with knees pulled all the way up, heads bent forward. Usually a pillow or blanket mass is centered at the stomach. These people are highly emotional, sensitive, artistic, and have intense one-on-one relationships. Oddly, it's found that women who sleep in this position normally have heightened capacity for multiple orgasms.
Couples' sleep positions are equally telling, with the lovely spoon position most common for partners in the first three to five years together. Here, both partners lie on the same side facing the same direction, one behind the other, a set of spoons curved in the night.
The bridge position has the domineering partner placing a leg over the body of the sleeping partner, using the royal position. The freeze maneuver, each with their back to the other, pulled over to separate sides of the bed, shows anger and distance.
The umbilicus position is a sort of separated spoon with one partner reaching over to lay hands on the other for security. Back to back is when couples sleep back to back with their bottoms touching, for example, and are bonded sexually and sensuously but might like independence.
The bed hog position is what it appears, when one or even both of the partners take up much more space than half the mattress. If kids and animals share the bed, the mix gets quite interesting indeed.
Relationship experts claim the position a couple takes up isn't as telling as a change in the position, so be on the look-out for when and how this change occurs.
Of course, none of this is rocket-science, and you can probably just as easily invent your own names: a friend claims he sleeps with his partner in the George Jeston position, with a dog, Astro, stretched out between them.
Just know that when you make your final shift to fall into slumber, your personality is rarely hidden.
To purchase Janet's book: "The Well-Rested Woman: 60 Soothing Suggestions for Getting a Good Night's Sleep," or for more information on sleep and sleep counseling visit Janet's website: www.wellrestedwoman.com.
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