Does your relationship rest on the quality of your sleep?

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Does the way you sleep with your partner correlate with how happy your relationship is?

Of all the things that couples share with each other – hopes, dreams, dessert – their beds are among the most important elements of their coexistence. While some of our most intimate moments happen in bed, it’s also the place where we can feel intense frustration: Snoring, sweating, tossing and turning. The way a couple shares a bed echoes the dynamics of their relationship. Intimacy, independence, selfishness, sacrifice – it’s all lurking under the covers. 

Given the significance of shared sleeping arrangements, Mattress Advisor set out to learn which sleeping positions men and women favor most… And least. To do so, we surveyed 1,000 Americans who are in relationships about how they like to cozy up to their partner at night (or retreat to opposite ends of the mattress). We then studied their sleep quality, sex lives and relationship satisfaction to understand the link between successfully sharing a bed and staying happy with a partner. Read on for a deep dive into cuddling and companionship.

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Amenable arrangements

To start our survey, we asked respondents who were in relationships what their favorite way to share a bed with their partner was. We then broke down responses among males and females. 

Many respondents were fond of having some space to themselves when sleeping. For men and women alike, the most popular position involved partners sleeping on their sides facing away from each other with a small amount of space between their bodies. Sleep scientists promote curling up on a side, citing benefits that range from improved breathing to reduced lower back pain. 

Both genders’ second- and third-favorite positions also involved partners lying on their sides, although slight preference differences also emerged here. While intimate spooning with the man on the outside position ranked second for female respondents, it fell to third place for men. Conversely, male participants ranked spooning with a little more space between partners second overall, while women named that position their fourth favorite. While some have suggested that men take issue with spooning in general, perhaps they simply prefer a bit more breathing room between bodies.

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Uncomfortable configurations

Although women demonstrated a preference for physical contact with their partner, they loathed taking on “big spoon” duties in bed. Interestingly, men didn’t seem to mind assuming the little spoon role as much – it didn’t rank among their five most annoying positions. Guys’ least appreciated position of all, though, was lying on their backs with their partner curled supine on top of them.

A large number of women reported disdain for the traditional spoon as well. In fact, our data shows that there’s an agreement among genders: Women and men shared three of their top five most annoying arrangements. However, female respondents were more likely to disdain sleeping in opposite directions, whereas men didn’t appreciate the face-to-face embrace.

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Shifting in our sleep

As you’ve probably experienced, most people aren’t entirely immobile at night. In fact, our data suggest that couples change their overnight positions 76.5 percent of the time. 

Among those couples who began the night with their backs to each other with some space in between, just 37.5 percent remained that way. The space between sleepers increased during the night in nearly a quarter of those cases. Additionally, 18.6 percent of couples who slept this way ended up with the male partner sleeping on his stomach far below his pillow and the woman lying on her back. 

Among sleepers who began facing opposite directions with more space between them, a majority maintained this position until the morning. 13 percent, though, said the space between them decreased slightly. Another 16.3 percent awoke with the man on his back and the woman on her stomach. Spooners were the least likely to maintain their original arrangement, with more than a third flipping to face away from each other during the night.

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Lying down for the long haul

As the initial spark of love settles into solid companionship, do couples’ preferred sleep positions change as well? Our data suggest that couples tend to opt for more sleeping separation as relationships mature.

The popularity of sleeping back to back with some room between partners grew steadily after the five-year mark. Ultimately, this position became the sleeping arrangement of choice for 37.5 percent of couples who were in relationships lasting longer than 30 years. Some have suggested that this position indicates a lack of connection between partners, but it could also just mean the honeymoon phase is over and getting quality sleep becomes more important than intimate cuddling. 

A corresponding decline in close spooning emerged across the years. After peaking in popularity among those sleepers who had been with their partner for one to three years, this position’s popularity dropped significantly. Additionally, after a slight uptick for couples who’d been together for five to 10 years, the percentage of couples practicing intimate spooning declined steadily. After more than 30 years together, just 6.3 percent of couples opted for this sleeping arrangement.

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Rest and relationships

While the benefits of good sleep extend to virtually every aspect of our lives, the upside of adequate rest can also be visible in our relationships. Among respondents who reported sleeping poorly, 74.5 percent stated that they felt satisfied with their relationship. This number may seem solid by itself, but it pales in comparison to the number who felt better about their sleep. Among this well-rested cohort, 95.9 percent said they felt satisfied with their current romance.

Multiple explanations might account for this trend. Perhaps those individuals who are unhappy with their partner have more difficulty sleeping due to relationship stress. Additionally, a growing body of research suggests that a lack of sleep intensifies conflict among couples. In one recent study, researchers found that marital disagreements tended to result in hostility far more often when one or both partners were consistently skipping out on sleep. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that marital satisfaction declines once couples have kids – babies have a habit of disrupting their parents’ slumber.

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Passion and position

Aside from general relationship satisfaction, which positions catalyzed physical intimacy most often? Our findings suggest that positions that already involve quite a bit of contact translate to sex most easily. The sleeping arrangement that most correlated with sex featured couples facing each other with their limbs intertwined. Close spooning with the man on the outside took second place.

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Sleeping single

There were instances in which no position could make sleeping with a partner palatable for some respondents. Such circumstances are more common than you may think: Recent research suggests that almost one in four American couples sleep in separate rooms. The reasons that our respondents gave for splitting up at bedtime were largely practical – they chose to sleep solo to preserve their precious rest. 

Snoring was the top culprit in this regard, causing 23.5 percent of separate sleeping scenarios. These partners may have good reason to keep their distance; recent data suggest that we lose about an hour of sleep for each night we share a bed with a snorer. 

Another top reason for sleeping apart was different sleep schedules. Many experts suggest that these differences often have biological origins. They also recommend that couples adapt if their circadian rhythms diverge rather than try to change each other. Illness was the third-most common reason, as anyone wary of catching his or her partner’s flu may well understand. For 11.1 percent of those surveyed, however, sleeping separation resulted from an argument of some kind. The old trope of a banished partner sleeping on the couch remains relevant in these cases.

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Improved sleep in any position

As with many compatibility concerns that may crop up at the beginning of a relationship, there’s no telling how your sleeping position preferences might differ from that of a partner. However, as you experiment with sleep arrangements that work best for both of you, the essential tools for relationship success, cooperation and communication, apply. Our findings reveal how varied our favored positions can be and how they can incite intense emotion. That said, don’t let resentment over how you share your bed with a partner build. By discussing your sleeping styles directly, you might save yourself some conflict – and get better rest as a result. 

No matter how you choose to sleep beside your partner, no position can compensate for the discomfort of a poor mattress. Choosing the best mattress for one person is a delicate process, and meeting the needs of two people can prove even more complicated. Let Mattress Advisor be your guide. With extensive and unbiased reviews, we’ll help you and your partner select the mattress that leaves you both in coupled bliss.

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Our survey

Metholody: We collected responses from 1,000 Americans via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. 40.9 percent of our participants were male and 59.1 percent were female. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 73, with a mean of 35.9 and a standard deviation of 11.0. We weighted the data to the 2017 U.S. Census for age and gender. 

Limtations: The data we are presenting rely on self-reporting. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include but are not limited to: Selective memory, telescoping, attribution and exaggeration. No statistical testing was performed, so the claims listed above are based on means alone. As such, this content is purely exploratory and future research should approach this topic in a more rigorous way. 

Fair use: You’re welcome to share our findings and images – even if you have an audience of one (hint: Your sleeping partner). We simply ask that you attribute us to our work.

This article originally appeared on and was syndicated by

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