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Sharing a bed

Does the way we sleep reveal the true nature of our relationship? Wonders Tim Dowling.

india Updated: Feb 06, 2010 20:36 IST

It’s one of the first things to go in the war of attrition between romance and pragmatism – the idea of spending all night, nose to nose, tightly entwined in a lover’s embrace. The arrangement represents a commitment to passion that simply cannot be maintained for more than a few days, before someone says, “I love you and everything, baby, but I really need some sleep.”

According to Evany Thomas, author of The Secret Language Of Sleep, there are 39 distinct sleeping positions, ranging from common or garden Spoons to the more exotic Stairway. It’s tempting to interpret these as manifestations of the nature of the relationship of the couple – it’s hard to look at the Springloader, say, without thinking that somebody has some issues – but let’s not forget that these people are unconscious.

Individuals come into relationships with odd sleeping habits of their own, habits that must, ultimately be accommodated. Finding a mutually satisfactory layout is usually a matter of trial and error. Who among us has not experienced the barely coherent, middle-of-the-night debate about duvet coverage, edge proximity or position, relative to the N-S axis?

No single arrangement is going to last for the full seven hours. For security’s sake, you may need to expand your repertoire experiment with the Scissors, the Zipper, the Koala and Tree. On some nights you may need them all.

That doesn’t mean the positions themselves aren’t interesting. Devotees of the Conjoined Twins formation might well feel they have a healthier relationship than Cliffhanger couples, though in reality they probably just have a much smaller bed. There are several positions – Starfish being the most obvious – where one half of the couple is clearly getting the worst of the bargain, and one is tempted to speculate if these roles are replicated or reversed during the day.

Ironically, the most peaceful of the arrangements has the most troubling name: Crime Scene. Here the couple lies side by side in the haphazard attitude of two shooting victims. It makes sense when you think about it: just as dead people sometimes look as if they are only sleeping, so people in a deep, untroubled sleep sometimes that they appear to be dead.

One thing is for certain – any couple that can fall asleep in that position must be truly contented… Or utterly exhausted.

The Guardian