What's Your Position?

by Florence Cardinal Patient Expert

According to Dr. Samuel V. Dunkell, MD, Psychiatry, New York, there are four basic sleep positions and they reveal a lot about your sleep patterns, sleep difficulties and even personality traits.

The four basic positions are:

  • PRONE POSITION - Sleeper lies face down on the stomach revealing a compulsive, stubborn personality.

  • ROYAL POSITION - Sleeper lies flat on his or her back and indicates self-confidence.

  • SEMI-FETAL - The most common and optimal position, sleeper lies on his or her side with knees slightly bent. This position reveals someone who is non-threatening and willing to compromise.

  • FULL FETAL - Sleeper lies curled on side with knees drawn up to the chest, similar to the position of a babe in the womb. This person tends to be emotional and sensitive.

The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy produced a guide on the effect of position on your back and your sleep. Having recently experienced a few weeks of back pain, I can well empathize. Despite sleeping soundly (or so I thought) every night, I still felt like somebody's left over dirty laundry in the morning.

A comfortable mattress and a quiet room are, of course, important. But according to London, England, physiotherapist Sammy Margo, it's also important to sleep so as to avoid uneven stresses on the head, neck or back. She stresses how vital a good night's sleep is to our health and well being. A poor night's sleep will leave a person tired out and lacking in energy. It's important to do everything possible to assure your sleep is pain-free. Dr. Margo suggests these positions:


  • Lying on your side - Put a pillow at your back to keep your neck in line with your head. Also, a pillow between the knees takes some of the pressure off the back.

  • Lying on your back - A pillow under the knees take pressure off the lower spine.

  • Lying on your stomach - Place a pillow under your tummy to keep the spine aligned with the neck and head.

Always try to keep the body in a natural alignment. Try to avoid sleeping at an unnatural angle. Avoid the use of too many pillows. This will place undo strain on the neck.

According to Dr. Margo, physiotherapists are accustomed to seeing patients who have injured themselves by sleeping in a contorted position. Even if you're prone to toss and turn in the night, try to ease unnatural positions by the use of pillows.

Even getting out of bed can cause injuries. Avoid straining by rolling onto your side, bending your knees and using your hands to push yourself upright.

Florence Cardinal
Meet Our Writer
Florence Cardinal

Florence wrote for HealthCentral as patient expert for Sleep Disorders.