It’s been a long day and all you can think of is getting some shut-eye. You crawl into bed next to your partner.
(a) Snuggle up close in his arms, and fall asleep in a tangle of limbs till morning?
(b) Roll over and face the wall (your partner is already snoring with his back to you)?
If you answered (a), congratulations on being a cuddly romantic and a sound sleeper. But if you answered (b), don’t worry, your relationship isn’t necessarily on the rocks. You might be relieved to know that back to back is the most common sleeping position for couples – 42 per cent of bed-sharers sleep this way, according to a UK study.
How close are you?
This is the first research to look closely at couples’ sleeping positions, says Professor Richard Wiseman, a specialist in the science of sleep and dreaming. A thousand people were asked to describe the way they preferred to spend the night next to their partner. The participants also rated their relationships. Then the researchers collected details like how close the lovebirds slept and whether they touched each other throughout the night.
Facing the same way – think spooning – is the second most popular position, with one in three couples reporting they sleep like this. Fewer than five per cent say they spend the night lying face to face.
There’s more good news for couples who lie back to back: not facing your partner doesn’t necessarily say anything about the quality of your relationship. Instead, it’s how close together you lie and whether you spend the night touching that might indicate whether or not your relationship is doing great.
The further apart a couple sleeps, the worse things probably are, the study showed. People who sleep less than an inch from their sweetheart are more likely to be in a happy relationship than those who lie more than 30 inches from their partner at night. Twelve per cent of the couples were in the one-inch snuggling category. Just two per cent wriggled as far away from each other as they could.
Touching is another major sign of a happy relationship, the research revealed. Almost 95 per cent of couples who stay in contact with their partners all night long is happy together, compared to just under 70 per cent of those who don’t touch while they sleep.
Not surprisingly, unhappy couples are less likely to touch each other during the night.
So, if you and your sweetheart spend the night in close contact, even if it’s back-to-back, that’s a pretty good sign that things are great. And if you don’t, rest assured, you could be among the percentage of happy couples whose sleeping positions don’t necessarily reflect how they’re doing together.
Of course, this study was carried out in chilly Scotland. You might be thinking, ‘Hey, I can’t keep my hands off my lover – but on a steamy summer night, I want to spread out on the coolest patch of the sheet.’ Or on the other hand, ‘Our bed is so narrow we end up squashed together – but actually, I’m sick to death of him!’ The effects of climate and bed size will have to wait for further research.