illustration of couple sleeping in bed together facing back to back

8 Couple Sleeping Positions and What They Mean

/ February 5, 2021

They say eyes are the window to the soul—but according to body language expert Patti Wood, your sleep position plays a deeper role when it comes to examining your subconscious needs and desires. This is especially true if you sleep with a partner.

“When you're asleep, your subconscious has all the power because you're not activating your neocortex, or the logical part of your brain," Wood explains. “Therefore, couples' sleep positions affect what's going on in their lives individually as well as what's going on in their relationship."

Just keep in mind these positions can change over time, especially if your relationship goes to a deeper level or you've been having more problems of late. “The positions can be fluid, so be sure to take note of the ones you use the most," says Wood.

Couple sleeping position meanings

Below, check out eight of the most common couple sleeping positions and what they have to say about your relationship—both good and bad.


According to Wood, this position, which consists of one partner wrapping their arms around the other while they're both facing the same direction, is most common at the beginning of relationships.

“This is a protective position, with one essentially taking care of the other in a relationship," says Wood. “It's also common for couples who are comfortable with intimacy since it's easy to go from the position to sexual intercourse at any moment." Overall, it's a fairly sweet position, indicating security.

The loose spoon, meanwhile, is similar to the spoon, but it involves a few more inches of space between the couple.

“This is a touch less intimate, but it still shows security," says Wood. Often, as the couple has been together longer, they gravitate toward the loose spoon to show they're still connected but also independent.

The chasing spoon, another variation, is a slightly lopsided version of the regular spoon. In this position, one partner has moved away from the center of the bed so the other is “chasing" them by moving closer.

“This could symbolize that one partner is actually reaching toward the other throughout the day for more time or attention, but the partner moving away in sleep wants more independence," says Wood. It could also suggest one partner is pursuing the other a lot more in their relationship, signifying an imbalance in emotions and effort.

Related: 5 ways to be a better sleep partner


A very intimate position, the pretzel involves two people wrapped up together, arms and legs tangled up like a knot.

“It's very interconnected and shows a reliance on each other," explains Wood. The pretzel is usually most often seen right at the beginning of a relationship due to intense attraction for one another but fades out over time. It could also signify codependency due to how tightly wound the couple is, so those who prefer this position should be mindful of that.

The unraveling pretzel is a variation on this couple sleeping position. In this position, the couple is wrapped in a pretzel at the beginning of the night, but then they unravel as the night goes on to find their own sleeping positions independent of one another.

“If it starts with a pretzel, it shows a combination of both togetherness and independence," says Wood. “Often, physiological causes like comfort make them unravel; it's not so much emotional." It could simply signify the couple got too hot, for example, not that there are any underlying issues in the relationship.

Back kissers

In this position, the couple sleeps with their backs facing one another, but there is contact along the spine and butt.

“Here, they're still sexually connected, sort of like hand-holding, throughout the night," says Wood. This sleep position strikes the balance of being connected with your partner but being independent enough to face opposite directions.

Liberty lovers

Here, the couple is still sleeping with their backs facing one another, but there is no contact between them at all.

“People may think this is bad, but it actually shows independence and security," says Wood. You're still a couple, but you're comfortable enough to sleep with some space between the two of you.

Related: The 8 biggest sleep problems couples face—and how to fix them

Leg hug

This position can mean a few different things, depending on whether both feet are hugging or whether one person is chasing the other's leg.

“I see this when couples have been married for a long time, as it shows connection in the legs while the bodies are apart," says Wood. “When both feet and legs are touching, it indicates a strong yet independent connection."

However, if only one person is chasing the other's leg, it could indicate wanting more intimacy than the other is willing to provide. It could also occur after a huge argument when one partner wants to make up as soon as possible.

In fact, Wood says, the feet can be the most honest body part since they're the first to react in fight, flight, or freeze mode. In this way, the feet can indicate deeper subconscious emotions, even while asleep.


In the nuzzle position, one partner chooses to sleep with their head on the other's chest, creating close intimacy and a sense of comfort between the two.

“This position means something different depending on who has their head on their partner's chest and who is sleeping with their back on the bed," says Wood. “It's a fairly nurturing position, but symbolically the person whose head is facing up shows self-assuredness in taking care of the other person. The one who has their head on their partner is the one asking to be taken care of but is still independent enough to do their own thing."

Related: 5 sleep tips for early birds who nest with night owls

Space hog

Unfortunately, if one partner is taking up a ton of space in bed, it isn't the best sign for your relationship.

“Often, this indicates a selfish partner who puts their needs over the relationship's," says Wood. “This person either wants to have more power and control or does have more power and control."

If the partner taking up space chooses to sleep higher up than the other, it could also indicate more confidence and a desire for a submissive significant other.

Stomach sleepers

“Couples sleeping on their stomachs, not touching one another, are usually doing it out of fear—it could be due to COVID, the relationship itself, losing a job—pretty much anything," says Wood. “Sleeping facedown protects the body, so it could also signify a lack of trust in the relationship."

Related: Why this couple sleeps in separate beds

FYI: It's OK not to sleep together

Some couples choose not to sleep together even if they live in the same house—and that's completely OK. Maybe you find your partner's snoring impossible to deal with, or you have such differing schedules (your partner may work nights while your job forces you to wake up at 6 a.m., for example) that you find it easier to crash on your own.

“It's fine not sleeping together, but I do want to emphasize that if you choose to do so, you find other ways or rituals to create intimacy," says Wood. “Spend some time together and lay together for a few minutes for pillow talk when you both can, for example, so that even if you're not sleeping together, you do have those moments of intimacy that are so important for a couple."

Are you a baby, yearner, or starfish? It turns out your favorite sleep position can reveal a whole lot about you. Here, learn what your sleep position can tell you about your personality

Nikhita Mahtani

Nikhita Mahtani is an New York City-based freelance journalist covering primarily health and design. She graduated with an M.A in Magazine Journalism from New York University and loves to debunk popular health myths. Her idea of wellness includes a sweaty spin class, wine with loved ones, and experimenting with new recipes in the kitchen.

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