If you're someone who frequently awakes in the middle of the night trembling in terror, you might want to consider swapping sides. According to research done at Yüzüncü Yil University, those who sleep on their left side experience more nightmares than those who sleep on their right.
In the study, conducted by Dr. Mehmet Yucel Agargun and colleagues, they looked at the sleeping positions and dream patterns of 60 healthy adults and found out that those who had lain on their left sides experienced the greatest number of nightmares.
The theory is that sleeping on any side causes an imbalance, but the left side results in more intense emotions and feelings of insecurity, which are strong associations with feminine qualities in traditional Chinese medicine. The right is more masculine and grounding, and evokes dreams of safety and relief.
According to more recent research by Dr. Calvin Kai-Ching Yu of Hong Kong Shue Yan University, which looked at the sleeping positions and dream patterns of 670 adults, people who sleep facedown on their stomachs have more exciting and positive dreams overall.
Sleeping belly down provides a wide-range of positive dreams, covering everything from seeing UFOs to wandering around naked. Most common are dreams about love affairs, most likely dreams about dating celebrities, or more realistic (and erotic) experiences with your significant other.
While it's not exactly known as to why this happens, it's thought that pressing your face into your pillow leads your brain to think about sex, while results in love-related dreams.
Interestingly, stomach sleepers are in the minority when it comes to favorite nighttime position. According to research from Professor Chris Idzikowski, most people choose to stay on their side or back throughout the night, rarely rolling onto their stomach. This is most likely attributed to the fact that sleeping facedown restricts breathing—and let's face it, being unable to inhale isn't very comfortable.
When back-sleeping with your face up on your pillows, your head rests at an uncomfortable and unnatural angle. This position can cause your tongue to rest itself on your throat, and as your tongue moves, it creates snoring, which can actually wake you up.
Not only do back sleepers typically snore, but they also tend to toss and turn more while asleep. This movement throughout the night also tosses sleepers' dreams around, and as a result, they tend to erratic and unpredictable dream patterns.
Unlike the common erotic dreams of stomach sleepers and the nightmares faced by those who stay on their left side, back sleepers report having a random variety of dreams.
Often, those who awake on their backs don't recall having any dreams at all. So, if you're not a fan of dreaming, sleep on your back, but if you want to create a dream journal, do anything but.
Now that you know what positions shape your dreams, shake things up by choosing a new way to sleep. If you're tired of facing the same nightmare every night, try sleeping on your stomach for more pleasant dreams. Can't stand the slight suffocation that occurs on your stomach? Roll onto your side and try out a few scary dreams.
Whatever you choose, keep in mind that you can alter your nighttime experience by moving around. And if you don't want to leave it up to chance, try lucid dreaming (made easier with some lucid dreaming goggles).
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