Spoon. Leg hug. Tangle. Liberty love.
These all sound like names of wrestling moves, but they’re actually couple sleeping positions—which, when you think about it, are kind of like wrestling moves so the position names are kind of appropriate…? We digress.
Most of us are particular about how we can and cannot sleep, so when you introduce a new factor into the equation (i.e., a new partner), you stand to learn a lot about yourself, your new sleep-mate, and your relationship in general. According to Patti Wood, a body language expert with more than 30 years of experience, the body language we use when sleeping with a partner can precisely pinpoint what's going on in our relationships when we are awake.
Get comfy, because we’re about to get personal.
The most recognizable sleep position is a classic for a reason. The big spoon / little spoon dynamic sends nonverbal communication between partners: the little spoon’s body language says “I trust you” and the big spoon’s body language says “I’ll protect you.” However, this position is typically only consistent through the whole night for sound sleepers who can adapt to any sleep conditions. Additionally, the consistent physical closeness of spooning encourages vulnerability between partners and strengthens their emotional bond.
Back to Back
Also known as Liberty Love, this is a position that might seem distant or disconnected at a glance, but actually shows a level of comfortable independence between partners. It’s likely that these partners have perfected their own tried-and-true sleep positions and they both feel secure enough not to force a “closer” position when sleeping. Also, if the back-to-back sleepers have gone to bed at the same time, this position may further show a level of closeness. “Sleeping together at regular times has been shown to help in a couple’s relationship,” notes a study published in the Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine.
The Tangle position is extremely intimate and is mostly observed in new relationships. Couples that sleep with their arms and legs wrapped up tend to do so when intense emotions are at play—such as after physical intimacy or at the beginning of a romantic relationship. While rare, there are some couples that maintain this sleep position throughout their relationship, but it isn't necessarily a good thing. According to New York psychotherapist Elizabeth Flynn Campbell, “[the couple] could be overly enmeshed, too dependent on each other to sleep apart.” Of course, this is not definitive evidence, so if you and your partner sleep this way, keep doing what feels right.
Patti Wood says if you play footsie with your partner in bed, or you love to intertwine their legs with yours (in a “Leg Hug”), it means you crave an emotional or sexual connection. A pair of tangled legs is also a sign the two of you can't get enough of each other—even when you're sleeping. “It means your lives are intertwined, that you function as a pair. You probably finish each other's sentences and take care of each other,” Wood says.
If you sleep with a partner, pay attention to the positions you fall asleep—and wake up—in. You may even notice you change positions through the night, so you and your partner could be sending all kinds of messages in your REM cycles. If you like to sleep alone, there’s a lot to learn about those positions, too.