There are myriad internet quizzes, magazine articles and self-help books that purport to gauge the strength of your relationship. But did you know that the most important measurement of your relationship’s health may be…inches?
No, not those inches. According to researchers from the University of Hertfordshire, how close you sleep to your partner is directly correlated to your happiness in the relationship. Of the 1,000 people surveyed, a whopping 94 percent of those who maintained physical contact while sleeping reported being content, compared to 68 percent of those who didn’t touch.
Despite these numbers, don’t worry if you and your partner spend the night exploring the outer reaches of your king size bed. In fact, sleeping back to back without touching, dubbed the “liberty position,” is the most common sleeping position for couples, according to another survey of 2,000 couples conducted by the hotel chain Travelodge.
Although the numbers seem to suggest that the 27 percent of couples who chose this position may have underlying issues in the relationship, there are plenty of reasons couples gravitate to opposite ends of the bed: too much heat generated when touching, one partner’s tossing or turning, the crater in the middle of your mattress. Psychologists say this position may indicate that both people possess a strong sense of independence, but it could also indicate distance or a disconnect in the relationship.
The Travelodge study also highlighted other sleep positions, in order of prevalence:
The Cherish: The second most common position was back-to-back with physical contact, with 23 percent of the couples saying they preferred it. As explained by relationship psychologist Corrine Sweet (whose name is just too perfect for her job), “Once the first flush of lust wears off, it’s more likely that the need for a good night’s sleep predominates, so sleeping back-to-back becomes the favored position in bed…[i]t indicates the couple feels connected, but independent enough to sleep separately.”
Spooning: Eighteen percent of couples surveyed slept facing the same direction with one partner placing a “protective arm” over the other, which is universally known as spooning. Generally speaking, the “big spoon” is thought to be assuming a protective or nurturing role.
The Lover’s Knot: This position, accounting for 10 percent of couples, is where you and your partner are face-to-face with legs intertwined (although the study found that only two percent of couples maintained this position throughout the night). Sweet said this position is a sign of intimacy and frequent sexual activity.
The Romantic, aka the Royal Hug: This favorite of romantic comedies occurs when one partner (typically the man) lies on his back and places his arms around his partner, who rests her or his head on his chest. Sweet indicated that this position, which only four percent of respondents preferred, is most common in the early stages of a relationship — and after sex.
Pillow Talk, aka the Honeymoon Hug: This position, when a couple sleeps face-to-face without touching, was favored by just three percent of those surveyed. Sweet says this position reveals a need for intimacy, but also that the couple values their independence.