How You Sleep With Your Partner Says a Lot About Your Relationship

January 31st 2017

Michelle Betters

Whether you’ve been dating someone for a long time or you’re seeing someone new, you might’ve wondered what your body language says about your relationship. When it comes to sharing a bed with someone, for example, people tend to think more physical contact is better. However, some experts seem to agree that the opposite is true, and couples who sleep without touching each other are more secure in their relationship.  

Sleeping Couple

According to a 2012 study of 2,000 couples, the most common sleeping position was what relationship psychologist Corrine Sweet called the “liberty”:  couples sleep back-to-back with a little space in between them. Sweet, who conducted the study in collaboration with Travelodge hotels, says that means each person is “independent enough to sleep separately,” especially if they’re in the fetal position. “Sleeping on your side with head and shoulders curled in and knees pulled up,” Sweet told Telegraph, “shows innocence and trust.”     

Surprisingly, less than 20 percent of couples spoon each other while they sleep.

Described by Sweet as the most traditional sleeping position, spooning means that one person is protective of the other. Additionally, in heterosexual pairings, this is also the most gender normative. Only 6 percent of couples surveyed sleep with the female as the big spoon, whereas 15 percent of males said they were on the outside.

In an interview with Cosmopolitan, body language expert Patti Wood said that the big spoon might even be a bit possessive of their partner. On the other hand, being in such close contact is also an expression of intimacy. “It's a very vulnerable position that's sexual, but says, 'I trust you,'" Wood explained.

But it’s normal for couples to loosen up after the “honeymoon phase.”


According to Paul C. Rosenblatt, author of "Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing," once the excitement of sharing a bed wears off, most couples default back to whatever position is best for them individually. He interviewed 42 couples for his book and found that many shared a bed even though they said they’d sleep better alone. “The bed is where they found privacy,” Rosenblatt told the The New York Times. “There’s also something about late night that allowed them to open up and connect.”

That might be why 9 percent of couples cuddle as they fall asleep, but eventually separate.  Sweet calls this position the “lover’s knot.”  Even though the couple sleeps apart, facing each other is “a sign of intimacy, love and sexual activity.”

Because you can’t fake body language in your sleep, it’s a great way to better understand your relationship. For more information, check out Patti Wood’s blog or Corrine Sweet’s full Travelodge study.