"Sleeping positions are subconscious so it very much reflects your emotions and what is going on deep inside of you," says Lillian Glass, PhD, a body language expert in Beverly Hills, California. "It can also tell you a lot about your relationship when you are sleeping with someone."
Of course, because they're subconscious, you can't really control how your body wants to spend each snoozefest—or what that says about you during the waking hours. Still, considering you spend a third of your life passed out in bed, it can be enlightening—and let's be real, just plain fun—to figure out what each sleep position means for you.
If you sleep on your stomach:
You’re probably a bit more private and perhaps even a tad closed off, says W. Christopher Winter, MD, sleep specialist and author of The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep Is Broken
and How To Fix It. It’s a "secure sort of position," he explains, though—just a little FYI—it’s not the best choice for your airway or lower back. People who sleep on their stomach are "very stoic," Glass adds.
"You kind of feel covered and protected, like a turtle with your shell," Winter explains. You may be also "more inward-looking than outward-projecting," he notes, which makes sense, considering your body is **literally** turned inward.
If you sleep on your back:
You’re more open to projecting and/or receiving certain things, explains Winter. Glass agrees: “This means you are open and feeling very secure.” She notes this is also the position animals sleep in when they feel secure and comfortable with you.
“It’s a fairly confident position, particularly if you're somebody who doesn't wear a lot of clothing to bed. It's all kind of out there on display,” says Winters.
But this sleeping position isn't all about confidence, it can also indicate a cautious personality. This position might help you hear what’s going on in the house better, Winter says, and if something were to go down, you’d be more prepared to spring into action than if you were lying on your stomach or side.
If you sleep in the fetal position:
You’re likely feeling a little (or a lot) insecure and may be in need of “security and protection,” says Glass. “This is your way of self-comforting,” she adds. Winter agrees, noting the fetal position is a way to “protect yourself from the world” when you’re feeling emotionally vulnerable.
“It's thought of as being a sort of regressive position,” he explains. “…When there's trauma you're not able to deal with, you kind of ball yourself up [in the fetal position].”
If you sleep on your side:
You’re all about maintaining balance—in bed and in life. Because this position “is a combination of back and fetal position, it balances you out,” Glass explains. “Most people are very comfortable sleeping in this position.”
And, if you look like a runner mid- sprint in this position, you could even be “trying to maintain an athletic balance,” Winter adds. So, if you’re an athlete during the day, don’t be surprised if you find yourself gravitating to this position at night. “It’s probably the best sleeping position for breathing,” he adds, which may also explain its athletic associations.
Overall, though, sleeping on your side indicates feelings of harmony with the world—you “don't need to put it all out there for everyone to see,” explains Winters, but you also don’t feel the need to hide away.
If you switch between multiple sleeping positions:
You’ve probably got something on your mind—and your body can tell. “It can be a sign of inner turmoil,” Winters says. “With people who have a lot on their minds, they'll often say, ‘I slept poorly last night. I was just thrashing all around.’” But when you sleep well, the covers haven't moved.
If your mind is calm, but your body hasn’t gotten the memo, the problem could be purely physical. “As a sleep specialist, I would look at [switching sleep positions] more as some sort of intrinsic problem with this person's sleep that's making them restless,” Winters says. “Is there a diagnostic meaning to somebody who just can't lay still at night? Maybe they have restless legs or periodic leg movements, so they're constantly waking up to catch their breath.”
While switching sleep positions simply "may have a lot to do with comfort level," adds Glass, it can also reflect what's going on in your dream cycle. "Sometimes, the dream you have will dictate your position," she says. If you wake up and remember having a particularly active dream, that might also explain why your sheets are tangled.
Oh, and one more thing: whichever position you fall asleep in may not be the one you find yourself in the next morning. "When we do sleep studies, it's interesting how many people will tell you they sleep a certain way, but their body position is completely different," Winter says. "...The perception of what you think you're doing during the night might be really different from what you're actually doing." That means the sleeping position you're in when it's time to rise and shine is likely more accurate than the one you started the night in. (Brb, gotta go test this theory myself...)
This article originally appeared on Women's Health US.