Research shows that preferences for certain sleeping positions actually fall more with age; the older you are, the less likely you are to change position or move in your sleep. Children spend almost equal amounts of time sleeping on their backs, side and stomachs, while adults show a preference for sleeping on their side with only a few choosing to sleep on their stomachs. There's also a trend to sleep on the right hand side as we get older!
Across all age groups, the fetal position is the most popular and it's said to be the best way to sleep to remove 'brain-waste' during sleep - a great little tip if you've got a lot on your mind! Some say that sleeping in the fetal position means you have a tough exterior but are warm and open-hearted, whereas if you have a preference for sleeping on your side with your arms outstretched, you are perceived as open but are actually a suspicious character!
The source of these claims comes from sleep expert, Dr Chris Idzikowski, who conducted a survey on behalf of a PR company. Although his initial survey showed some interesting findings regarding sleeping positions and personality that lead to the media stories, he has not been able to replicate the findings in further surveys and so the work remains unpublished. “The original study was never more than a fun study,” he states, “but was successfully a vehicle for sleep positions and health messages: sleeping on one’s back leads to reflux, snoring, even an increased incidence of sleep paralysis.”
The preference for side sleeping with age is likely to be due to comfort rather than personality as this position eases flexibility, and digestion and breathing problems. Additional effort is needed for breathing in other positions and the spinal cord becomes less flexible with age. Studies have identified bodily discomfort as a major factor affecting sleep quality and this appears to increase with age. Investing in a mattress to suit personal preferences and finding a sleeping position to suit you may help to reduce any bodily discomfort that contributes towards poor sleep.
Keep an eye out for the next in our Sleeping Positions series - how does your sleeping position affect your health?