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What Your Sleeping Style Says About Your Relationship, According to Therapists

Your sleeping position is sending subtle cues—here's what they mean.

From an evolutionary standpoint, sleep is one of the most vulnerable things we do. Because sleeping next to someone is inherently an act of trust, how you sleep next to your partner can offer a window of insight into the dynamics between you. Experts say that the position you sleep in can send a range of signals about your feelings toward one another, your priorities as a couple, and the strength of your bond. Read on to find out what your sleeping style says about your relationship, according to therapists and sleep experts.

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Facing one another

couple sleeping in bed. It is morning, time to get up soon.

Sleeping oriented toward one another demonstrates emotional openness, the experts tell Best Life. This is especially true if you spend time before bed engaging in pillow talk.

"Couples who sleep facing each other often have a close, intimate relationship. They trust one another," says Amy Braun, LCPC, a licensed clinical professional counselor. "This position indicates emotional and physical closeness, as it allows for eye contact and easy communication. It suggests a strong emotional bond and a desire to stay connected."

Facing away from one another

Couple in bed not having sex not talking

When both partners face the outer sides of the bed instead of one another, this can sometimes signal a lower level of intimacy or connectedness. "It's common for couples to sleep in this position at times, especially if they've had an argument," notes Braun.

However, she's quick to add that sleeping in this position doesn't necessarily mean that the relationship is heading south, when so many other factors could be at play.

"Sleeping with your backs to each other could indicate a desire for personal space and independence," the counselor explains. "It could also be that nothing is notably wrong in the relationship, that they just need some space while sharing a bed."

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In a "spooning" position

A young heterosexual couple asleep in bed while cuddling

When a couple sleeps in a "spooning" position, they rest facing the same direction with one person cradling the other. This is an especially affectionate way to sleep—one that most often signals intimacy and comfort, as well as "a nurturing and protective dynamic in a relationship," Braun says.

However, it can also point to a power imbalance since the two "spoons" are cast in different roles. "The partner on the outside of the 'spoon' often takes on a protective role, while the partner on the inside may seek security," explains Braun.

With one partner resting on the other's chest

couple cuddling and sleeping in bed at night

If you sleep resting on your partner's chest (or vice versa), it suggests a deep sense of romance and satisfaction in the relationship. It's often associated with the "honeymoon phase" of the relationship, which occurs in the early months or years of getting to know one another.

"This position can signify trust and comfort. The partner resting on the chest seeks solace and emotional safety, while the one underneath often assumes the role of the protector," explains Dominique Rice, PhD, IMFT-S, a holistic sex therapist with The Art of Love and Intimacy.

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Young couple in love lying on bed at home and cuddling, embracing and enjoying weekend together

Sleeping intertwined with your partner often signifies "a deep and passionate connection," explains Braun. "It suggests a strong desire to be close physically and emotionally. This position often indicates a strong romantic bond and sense of unity."

Grant Lewis, founder of Dream HQ, says this sleep position is more common when emotions are running high: "It's usually a sign of a new or rekindled relationship. The one resting their head is often madly in love or feeling super secure."

Both people sleeping on their stomachs

A man sleeps in a bed on his stomach in the morning

When both people sleep on their stomachs, this often comes down to physical comfort, the experts say. However, it can also suggest that the couple values independence and honoring their personal needs over showy displays of affection.

"It doesn't necessarily mean that there is a lack of connection, but may suggest that both partners value their personal space," says Braun.

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In the starfish position

Overhead View Of Young Woman Sleeping Beside Her Husband On Bed

Finally, if one partner in the couple sleeps in a starfish position, this could indicate unhealthy power dynamics or an insensitivity to the other partner's needs.

"One partner spreading out and taking up a lot of space can indicate dominance or selfishness in the relationship, especially if the other partner is confined to a small space," says Michelle King, LMFT, a therapist with Ocean Recovery.

However, it's also important to note that some people truly have no control over their positioning while they sleep. "It's essential to approach these interpretations with caution, as individual comfort and sleeping habits can play a significant role," adds Rice. "What might be true for one couple may not be for another. The best gauge of a relationship's health is open communication between partners."

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Lauren Gray
Lauren Gray is a New York-based writer, editor, and consultant. Read more
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