Your partner’s sleep position could be affecting your health – here’s why

Sleep expert gives verdict on these 6 couples sleep positions

Couple spooning in bed, sleep & wellness tips
(Image credit: Cottonbro Studio / Pexels)

If you share a bed with someone, you’ll have definitely had your fair share of rested and restless nights. Tossing and turning, being too hot or cold and needing the toilet are all things that keep you awake at night – and that’s just if you sleep on your own!

When sharing the best mattress, taking into account another person who has their own schedule, circadian rhythm and sleep preferences is important because it affects how well you sleep and your overall health and wellbeing. From spooning to starfishing, yours and your partners’ sleep positions are held for several hours during sleep so if you’re in an awkward position, this can have a lasting negative impact on your neck, back and spine.

To understand more, we spoke to Alison Jones, sleep expert at leading mattress brand Sealy who gave us tips on the most popular sleep positions for couples and how they affect you. 

1. Spooning

Couple sleeping in a spooning position

(Image credit: Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels)

Expert verdict: Good for you & your partner

Starting off with the most popular couple’s sleep position: spooning! Spooning is where both partners sleep on the same side with one person hugging the other from behind with their arms wrapped around them. While you might not believe this is a comfortable position, (for example, some big spoons wake up in the night with a dead arm), it’s a surprisingly good position to sleep in. According to Aliso, this is because “sleeping on your side is moderately supportive and good for breathing as it doesn’t obstruct your airways as much as others.”

To make the most of this position, Alison’s biggest tip is to correct your posture and spinal alignment by placing a firm pillow between the knees. If you tend to run hot at night, especially when you’re in close contact with someone else, try to find a mattress that uses cooling technology to combat overheating and temperature regulation – many of the options in our best memory foam mattress guide do this. 

2. Face to face

Couple sleeping in a face to face position

(Image credit: Pavel Danilyuk / Pexels)

Expert verdict: So-so for you & your partner

Next is the face to face sleep position which has its positives and negatives. When sleeping face to face, you’re very close to your partner even if you’re not touching or holding each other. Its main benefits are overall body support as you’re on your side (see 5 tips for side sleepers if you enjoy this position) which helps with alignment and pressure on joints and muscles – as long as you have enough room to move your limbs.

However, if you like your space when you sleep, this might not be the position for you “as it means direct contact and deep breathing is in your face all night. A solution to this is to adopt the position in the lead up to sleep but move into something more comfortable as you start to drift off.”

3. Back to back

Couple sleeping in a back to back position

(Image credit: Gary Barnes / Pexels)

Expert verdict: Good for you & your partner

Back to back or the ‘moon landing’ position  involves sleeping on your side with your backs against each other. This is a great position for those who don’t like too much physical contact while they sleep but still want to be close, and it “supports your body by relieving pressure on the internal organs and muscles.” Back to back also allows you to adjust and reposition your body throughout the night without disturbing your partner too much. For more side sleeping tips, check out our guide to the best mattress for side sleepers.

4. Sweetheart cradle

Couple sleeping in a sweetheart cradle position

(Image credit: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels)

Expert verdict: Bad for you & your partner

Moving away from side sleeping, the sweetheart cradle position is when one person sleeps on their side with their head on their partner’s chest. While this position has its benefits as it provides intimate contact which is good for releasing oxytocin aka the love hormone, it’s not great for spinal alignment. “Each person has pressure applied to either their body or neck. Whilst it may feel cosy, it’s not advised to hold the sweetheart cradle for long, as it will result in neck pain, numbness in your arms and may cause more permanent back problems”, says Alison.

5. Intertwined

Couples legs intertwined in bed

(Image credit: Ron Lach / Pexels)

Expert verdict: Good for you & your partner

In the intertwined sleep position, both people lie facing each other with their heads at the same level and their legs overlapping each other. It’s a good position for cuddling and is best achieved by using soft pillows to keep your head low to the mattress to ensure your neck is as flat as possible to avoid neck ache. Another tip to make sure you’re fully rested in this position is to focus on your legs. “Whilst the top half of the body may feel supported, having your legs raised or locked in a set position may mean the spine isn’t in a neutral position” says Alison, so you should give your legs enough room to move freely if needed.

6. Starfish

Man lying in a starfish position

(Image credit: Ron Lach / Pexels)

Expert verdict: So-so for you & your partner

The starfish is a popular position if you sleep on your own in terms of “sleep quality and impact on the body, as it gives you the space you need to truly relax, resulting in you waking up feeling rested and refreshed.” Spreading out like a starfish on your back is the best way to achieve this position as “sleeping on your back is great for back pain and supports your spine, alleviates aches, pains and avoids wrinkles as face to pillow contact is minimal.”

However, it’s not ideal if you’re sharing a bed with someone as you and your partner might not have enough space to move your arms and legs freely through the night. If you or your partner snores, this is also a position to avoid as it can increase your snoring due to your outspread arms and open airways. For more sleep tips, take a look at these 5 tips for back sleepers.

Bethan Girdler-Maslen
Home Editor

Beth is Home Editor for T3, looking after style, living and wellness. From the comfiest mattresses to what strange things you can cook in an air fryer, Beth covers sleep, yoga, smart home, coffee machines, grooming tools, fragrances, gardening and much more. If it's something that goes in your house, chances are Beth knows about it and has the latest reviews and recommendations! She's also in the know about the latest deals and discount codes from top brands and retailers.

Having always been passionate about writing, she’s written for websites, newspapers and magazines on a variety of topics, from jewellery and culture, to food and telecoms. You can find her work across numerous sites, including Wedding Ideas Magazine, Health & Wellbeing, The Bristol Post, Fashion & Style Directory, TechRadar, CreativeBloq and more. In her spare time, Beth enjoys running, reading, baking and attempting craft projects that will probably end in disaster!