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The 4 Stages of Sleep and What Science Says About Your Sleeping Position

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There are 4 distinct stages of sleep. Knowing sleep science and more about your own sleep position can help you sleep better and longer. Here are the 4 stages of sleep:

Stage 1

This is the lightest stage of non REM sleep (which is the deepest level). During this stage you will often sense slow eye movements and frequent awakenings or arousals. This is when the body begins to relax and brain wave activity begins to slow. This is the stage where sudden jerks or muscle spasms can happen. This is actually the best stage to be woken up from as you cycle through all the stages each night. On average it usually takes about 7 minutes to fall into stage one and then you spend 5-10 minutes here as we go through Alpha and then Theta brain wave states.

Stage 2

This is the first actual stage of sleep. You do not awake as many times as during stage 1 sleep and slow moving eye rolls stop. Brain waves continue to slow but have specific bursts of activity called ‘sleep spindles.’ This is thought to protect the brain from waking up. Body temperature decreases and heart rate slows. This is also where you transition from Theta to Delta waves.

Stage 3

This stage is known as ‘deep non-REM sleep.’ This is the most restorative stage of sleep. In the brain, researchers have found that stage 3 sleep consists of delta waves or slow waves. It is usually difficult to wake someone in this stage. Parasomnias or sleepwalking, sleep talking and night terrors occur during this stage of sleep. During this time you go into the slowest sleeping brainwave activity cycle called Delta Sleep.

REM Sleep (Stage 4)

REM sleep, also known as rapid eye movement, is often called the dreaming stage of sleep. Typically the eye moves rapidly under the lid, moving from side to side. Brain waves are also the most active. According to the National Institute of Health REM starts about 90 minutes after you fall asleep and at this point your voluntary muscles become paralyzed to keep you from harming yourself if you try to act upon what’s happening to you in your dreams. Interestingly, awakenings and arousals happen more easily in REM. And if you are woken up in REM it makes you feel groggy or overly sleepy.

According to Diana Walcutt, Ph.D, our brain has different frequencies during each stage:

Those are the 4 stages of sleep…but what about sleep positions?

Researchers, psychologists and sleep scientists alike have been studying the most common sleep patterns to get an inside scoop about what they mean. It turns out, there are nine different sleeping positions, and each can tell a lot about the sleeper’s personality. Let’s take a look at each position, from most to least popular:

What the Most Common Sleeping Positions Say About Your Personality

1. The Fetal Position

The fetal position is when you curl your knees in toward your chest like you’re tucked into a safe little ball.

In a study conducted by Chris Idzikowski, director of the UK’s Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service, 41 percent of the sleeping participants adopted this position. In fact, double the amount of women slept in the fetal position compared to men in this experiment.

 Personality Traits: Those who find comfort in this natural position can be described as having a hard shell: tough on the outside, but a huge softy on the inside. They typically are shy when you first meet them, then tend to open up and relax quickly.

2. The Log

Fifteen percent of people seem to find passing out like a log (lying on their side with their arms by their side) as the best way to catch some precious z’s. Does this boring, stiff sleeping position mean the sleeper is boring too? No! In fact, the opposite is true.

Personality Traits: People who sleep like a log are known as social butterflies. Although they are friendly, carefree, and popular, these social, trusting people are known for being gullible.

3. The Yearner

As if reaching out for something, the yearner is the position where you sleep on your side, but have your arms stretched out in front of you.

Personality Traits: People who sleep like this are a little complicated: they are open-minded, yet cynical; slow and suspicious when making a decision, but stick to it once their minds are made up.

4. The Soldier

Exactly as it sounds, the soldier position is where you sleep on your back with your arms by your sides. Only eight percent of sleepers claim to get the most sleep this way.

Personality Traits: Those who find themselves sleeping this way typically are quiet, reserved and hold both themselves and other people to high standards and strict moral codes.

5. The Freefaller

Having trouble imagining this one? It’s where you’re lying on your stomach with your arms wrapped around your pillow and head turned to the side. Sleeping on your stomach is something many people find uncomfortable, but those who enjoy this position wouldn’t have it any other way.

Personality Traits: Freefalling sleepers are bold and sociable on the outside, but typically don’t have the thick skin to deal with criticism or absurd situations.

6. The Starfish

Another position that looks just the way it sounds: starfish sleepers sprawl out over the entire bed, comfortable and carefree. Another familiar term to describe it would be “spread-eagle“. If you’re one to stretch out like this, chances are you’re a great friend.

Personality Traits: Starfish sleepers always are eager to lend an ear or give a helping hand to their friends in need. They don’t necessarily like being the center of attention, but don’t mind if they find themselves there from time to time.

7. The Stargazer

This position may not be the most popular, but it’s definitely a favorite position of mine. Stargazers find themselves lying on their back with their arms wrapped around their head.

Personality Traits: They make their friends a priority and do anything in their power to help those they hold dear to them. People who sleep in this position tend to have a positive, “happy-go-lucky” outlook on life.

8. The Pillow Hugger

Pillow huggers love to get snuggly and cuddled in bed, and are similar in personality to those stargazers above–they hold in high regard the close, personal bonds in their life.

Personality Traits: Whether it be family, friends or a significant other, pillow huggers cherish those relationships over everything else.

9. The Thinker

Last but not least, this position is similar to the fetal position, except you’ll always have a hand gently resting on your chin.

Personality Traits: Emotions run high and tend to vary between two extremes for whoever finds themselves sleeping in this position.

It’s fascinating to see the truths behind personality types and sleeping positions, and just as your personality doesn’t change over time, neither does the way you sleep

Only five percent of people reported that they sleep in a different position every night, while all other people and positions remained consistent.

Before you go to bed tonight, check out the position you find yourself in right before you fall asleep. Does your position and personality type match up?

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