Because your subconscious mind controls the way you sleep with your partner, sleep body language can be an amazingly accurate way to assess what's going on in your relationship—even if you can't or don't articulate those things while you're awake, says Patti Wood, a body language expert with more than 30 years of experience and author of Success Signals, A Guide to Reading Body Language.
Of course, there are always exceptions—if you are and always have been a sleep kicker, you can't blame your partner for sleeping far away from you. But when you or your partner's sleep position suddenly changes, use these clues to decode what it means:
You're the little spoon.
In this position, your partner envelops you in a way that feels simultaneously intimate and secure. Because it involves some serious butt-to-penis contact, "it's a very vulnerable position that's sexual, but says, 'I trust you,'" Wood says.
You're the big spoon.
This says you're protective of your partner and maybe even a bit possessive.
You spoon a few inches apart.
New couples tend to have the most physical contact in bed, but when the novelty of bed-sharing wears off, it's common to revert to the positions that make you feel most comfortable and produce the best quality sleep, says Paul Rosenblatt, author of Two in a Bed: The Social System of Couple Bed Sharing. Sometimes, that means spooning a few inches apart. It's like the big spoon saying, "I've got your back, you can count on me," but it's not as sexual as spooning closer, Woods says.
Your partner cradles your head on his chest.
A face-up sleeping position indicates confidence and self-assurance. When your partner sleeps on his back with your head in his arms, it says, "I have the power and I'm using it to protect you," Wood says. When you, in turn, face your partner in a fetal position, it shows you depend on him. If you sleep with your head on his chest and the rest of your body sprawled out, it sends the message that you want to make decisions for yourself, Wood says.
You face each other.
When you sleep face-to-face, it's an unconscious attempt to look your partner in the eye throughout the night. If your partner suddenly starts facing you, there's a good chance he feels distant and wants to connect, or is hungry for more intimacy—especially if he presses his pelvis against yours.
You sleep on your stomachs.
Because sleeping on your stomach protects the front of your body, the position could be a sign of anxiety, vulnerability, and lack of sexual trust, Wood says. Unless there are back or neck issues, people tend to face the bed because they don't want to or are afraid to face their emotions, Wood says. If your partner suddenly starts sleeping face down, you can cozy up to make him feel more protected.
You sleep on opposite sides of the bed.
This says you're independent or have a desire to be more separate. If you're typically snuggly sleepers though, this position could be a red flag that something isn't right, whether that means stress at work or an untold secret.
That said, many people start out snuggling to warm up or show affection, then gravitate toward opposite sides of the bed for a random reason—it could be because your partner has sharp toenails, kicks in his sleep, or moves around too much, or because you get hot when you sleep skin to skin, Rosenblatt says.
Also worth noting: Some couples actually get along better when they stop trying so hard to snuggle all night—probably because it can enable you to sleep more soundly and without interruption, which improves your interactions the next day.
If you don't like to touch while you sleep, schedule 15 minutes in the morning or at night to snuggle up and in turn strengthen your relationship, suggests Wood.
You sleep facing away from each other with your butts touching.
This position suggests you're a confident couple that appreciates your own space: The facing away from each other hints at the ability and desire to be independent, while the butt touch shows you still want to stay sexually connected, Wood says.
For what it's worth, lots of people prefer to sleep facing the outside of the bed to avoid breathing face-to-face, Rosenblatt says. So this position could mean you're sick and tired of your partner's snoring (not your partner himself).
You sleep with nothing touching but your feet or legs.
Being far from the brain and the first part of your body to react in the case or a flight or flight response, the feet are the most honest portion of the body, under the least conscious control, Wood says. If your partner plays footsie with you in bed, it means he craves an emotional or sexual connection.
You sleep with your legs and arms totally entwined.
When you sleep with arms and legs tangled, it's a sign that you can't get enough of each other—even while you sleep. "It means your lives are intertwined, that you function as a pair. You probably finish each other's sentences and take care of each other," Wood says.
You sleep different distances from the headboard.
People who sleep closer to the headboard tend to feel more dominant and confident, while those who place their heads further away from it could be more subservient and have lower self-esteem, Wood says. Couples who sleep with their heads at the same level are on the same page. Heads that touch are even better: It's a sign that you have like minds and know what's going on in each other's heads, Wood says.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.