Why do we choose a particular side of the bed to sleep on? Experts explain.

TikToker Angelina Murphy, who posts her home renovation videos on her platform, recently caused some controversy when she revealed that she and her husband don’t have their own side of the bed and simply “randomly” choose where they sleep each night. The post was flooded with comments from people surprised at this sleeping arrangement.

One commenter wrote: “What you’re telling me is that you just go through life every day not knowing which side of the bed you’ll sleep on that night. WHAT?!” Another wrote: “What kind of chaos is this?!?!” while another described the situation as “absolute anarchy.”

Others tried to understand how this could be practical when it came to whose pillow you slept on and how it works with bedside tables. The post clearly hit a nerve as people feel strongly about a consistent side of the bed.

Why do people choose a certain side of the bed?

As it turns out, Murphy isn’t alone. While a Reddit thread from 2022 received similar reactions when user Zee_has_cookies asked, “Are there any couples out there who don’t have a specific side of the bed and end up messing it up night after night?” – including more than one user who called the idea “insane “ – others shared that they do compromise, albeit for practical reasons.

“We used to do it when the bed was against the wall because we had no other place for it,” one Reddit user explained. “We simply picked a side based on who got up first or who went to bed last.” Another user wrote: “One side of our bed is next to the power outlet and therefore the charger for our phones, so the person who gets up first “I have to sleep there so she can turn off her alarm.”

A Saatva survey 2018 confirms this: 75% said proximity to a power outlet to charge their devices influenced which side of the bed they chose, while for others it was proximity to the bathroom (67%), a window (58%) or the door was decisive (48%).

But for those who have a fixed side of the bed, that doesn’t necessarily mean they give it much thought. In the same survey, more than half of respondents said they had never consciously decided which side of the bed they would sleep on.

I have shared a bed with my wife for almost two decades. I also can’t say exactly how we decided on our bed sides. When we had a sleepover in college in Boston, we were young and bedtime was sexy. So who cared where we ended up?

But when we moved in together a few years later, our sides of the bed were official. Five different bedrooms, pregnancies for each of us or moves from apartment to house have not changed this, regardless of proximity to the bathroom, radiator or bedroom door.

“We are creatures of habit”

Paul RosenblattProfessor Emeritus of Family Social Sciences at the University of Minnesota and author of Two in one bed: The social system of couple bed sharing, says that choosing a particular side of the bed may not be as random as we think. “For some people there may be unconscious elements when they sleep, but the unconscious can be very real,” he tells Yahoo Life. “For example, you may not know that you are choosing the side of the bed you slept on as a small child, but it may still feel right and be important to the person.”

I remember in college I slept on the left side of my bed because that’s where my nightstand was. I still sleep on this side today. Maybe it really is that simple. “Almost everyone I interviewed had one side of the bed where they always or almost always slept,” Rosenblatt says of his research.

Gina Senarighi, a couples therapist, relationship coach and author, points out that some people choose a certain side of the bed because it makes them feel safer. “I work with a lot of women and queer and underrepresented people,” she tells Yahoo Life. “There is a lot of trauma in our small communities, and I have worked with many people who choose their side of the bed based on how they can protect themselves – or their partner.”

Once you’ve chosen this page, you’re also less likely to change it. As Senarighi puts it, “We are creatures of habit and crave routine.”

However, even Senarighi shares that she and her partner regularly switch sides of the bed. Like me, she has children who disrupt her sleep, and changing positions offers a temporary solution.

Rosenblatt points out that it’s normal for couples to switch sides of the bed after becoming parents or traveling. These days, my wife and I often wake up not only on the wrong side of the bed, but sometimes in a completely different bed. That’s because our boys are tirelessly looking for cuddles every evening. Even in our king-size bed, four people is a lot. Eventually they will grow out of this behavior – and then we can return to our bedtime routines.

Whether it feels intentional or not, how we choose where we sleep helps us sleep more comfortably. But regardless of which side of the bed you choose (or not), both Senarighi and Rosenblatt agree that getting a good night’s sleep is important.

As for me, I’m sticking with my side of the bed – it’s worked for nearly two decades – and hope my kids return to their side one day soon.

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