Human beings have a preferred side of the bed they sleep on, and those sides are sacrosanct — this is a universal, self-evident truth, right? Clearly not to a certain brand of perv who has never met a bedside he or she couldn’t ditch in a heartbeat. This absolute barbarian, this loathsome sadomasochist, can, at the drop of a hat, pass out on either side of the bed with no questions asked and, bewilderingly, no complaints come the morning light.
They switch sides of the bed. Regularly.
Feel free to doubt the gruesome story of a man called Steve who says he and his partner, Amy, do precisely this sort of nasty side-swapping business in the privacy of their own home bed. And worst of all, they like it.
And people were like, ?
Trying not to make too big of a deal out of it, someone tried to tell him, gently, that this is absolutely bananas.
Some people never got the human handbook, it seems. This is not how people work.
And kudos to this Colin person for taking one for the team and trying to make sense of it for Steve. “It’s a bit like saying, ‘I think I’ll go sleep in the neighbor’s house tonight,'” he tweeted.
And Steve just didn’t get it:
Even Keith Olbermann tried to get in on this:
And people were like, ?
And other people were like, ?
Clearly, most people are so devoted to their “side” that they will demand compliance from loved ones whose sides are incompatible. It’s like calling shotgun:
People who sleep totally alone still have sides:
And side incompatibility tears people apart every second of every day:
Some people didn’t even believe him:
And then other Side Freaks revealed themselves:
So I reached out to Terry Cralle, a registered nurse and certified sleep educator, to explain this madness. Cralle admitted she herself would have a difficult time with this situation.
“I am one of those folks who consistently does what we call ‘assuming the position,’” Cralle says. “When it’s time to fall asleep, I always sleep on the left side of the bed (from a facing-the-bed view), and I sleep on my right side (cannot fall asleep facing bed partner — too hot) with head just so, arms just so, etc. I can’t imagine changing that around.”
That’s still the case for her even in an unfamiliar environment, such as a hotel room, even without her usual comforts. “I think the habit/consistency/routine/familiarity of being so particular about that goes a long way in getting me comfortable and helps me fall asleep,” she said. “especially in an unfamiliar environment.”
Cralle points toward some research that found in reality, most people aren’t this nutty about their side of the bed. The survey found that 40 percent of Americans have always slept on the same side of the bed, but that means 60 percent are sleeping on a side of the bed they didn’t consciously choose. About 20 percent said of those people said that if they could get a do-over, they’d pick the other side. More people sleep on the right side of the bed, and it’s men who outnumber women on this preference by an eight percent lead.
What’s more, almost half of the people surveyed said when they first moved in with their partner, they both wanted the same side of the bed, and 79 percent of them caved (usually the man) to the other’s preference. About 20 percent of people find it extremely challenging to switch sides, and for a smaller percentage of 5 to 6 percent, it’s as big of a deal-breaker as liking the wrong sports team.
But again, only 20 percent of people said it would be extremely difficult to switch. Which means that our horror at hearing about Steve and Amy might be misplaced. Maybe we’re ignoring the fact that many of us have probably changed bed sides before, or we’re just the vocal minority in the bed-side wars.
Most people are not that attached to a certain side of the bed. What we are all probably attached to is whatever familiar comforts we need to fall asleep, which could be the side of the bed or some other object or condition.
Cralle said that some people may sleep on whatever side of the bed is nearest the bathroom, for instance, which means that everyone has a different “consistency” they gravitate toward, which can be as simple as the nearest preferred resource. In the survey, participants noted that most of them prefer the side of the bed near, in order of importance, an outlet, the bathroom, a window or a door.
Steve came back on Twitter to give a little more context to that effect:
In other words, for them, it’s not the side that matters as much as having their preferred sleeping aids, and in Steve and Amy’s case, that’s their pillows and books. And for you it can be whatever you like.
“It’s about what works for you!” Cralle says. “Consistency is a major component of sleep health. We want sufficient sleep on a consistent basis (not just on the weekends) and we need a consistent bedtime and consistent bedtime routine, and of course, doing what makes you relaxed and comfortable for bedtime and sleep.”
Cralle says that we should consider that if we don’t sleep well, or if our bedpartners don’t sleep well, the side we’re on could still be the culprit. “Swapping sides for a few nights may be an easy way to see if that helps matters,” she writes. She also wonders if they may need a new mattress, and that’s what prompts their constant side-swapping.
Of course, just because it turns out that swapping sides isn’t so unusual, that doesn’t mean Steve and Amy aren’t still total freaks in the sheets. But at least it’s on their terms. And since they’re already paired up with each other, none of us has to worry about it causing trouble in our beds.