Sleeping in a low power position may explain why you feel angsty or vulnerable in the mornings.
“If you wake up in a fetal position, you’re waking up on the wrong side of the bed,” said Amy J.C. Cuddy, assistant professor at Harvard Business School and famed TED speaker.
40 per cent of people sleep in the fetal position, which is when you lie on your side with your arms and legs pulled toward your torso, said Cuddy said last week at Marie Claire’s luncheon for powerful, well-connected women. Researchers found that the fetal position is most adopted by highly emotional and sensitive people. More than twice as many women sleep in this position compared to men, according to sleep specialist Chris Idzikowski, Ph.D., and author of the book “Learn to Sleep Well.”
How much does the way you sleep actually influence your success? Cuddy argues that if you spend a lot of time in a low power position, it affects the way you think and feel. You may wake up feeling sensitive and vulnerable without understanding why, which is not a good way to face a chaotic, competitive workplace.
“Basically, our bodies change our minds, our minds change our behaviours, and our behaviours change our outcomes,” said Cuddy. She compared the way you sleep to the effects of smiling. You smile because you’re happy, but studies have shown that you become happier when you smile. It’s a cycle.
When we sleep, we also tend to wrap our arms around ourselves, which makes us feel safe. This, however, is a another low power position. Staying in this position throughout the night may be detrimental to our emotional state the next morning.
The ideal sleeping position is similar to the power poses Cuddy talks about, but simply on your back or stomach instead. Lying in an open position with your arms and legs outstretched will make you feel bigger and, therefore, more powerful. You can also put your hands behind your head, which is a power pose that Cuddy often mentions in her talks.
What should you do if you can’t fall asleep in the more open, expansive position that encourages self-confidence?
According to Cuddy, this will increase your abstract thinking abilities, pain threshold, risk-tolerance, and levels of testosterone, the dominant hormone that makes you feel more confident and powerful. Feeling powerful will make you more assertive, accept criticism more gracefully, present more captivating and enthusiastic speeches, and, overall, turn you into a high performer.
You can do these poses anywhere, said Cuddy. Right before leaving the house, in an elevator, or even a bathroom stall. Just make sure you’re alone so that you can really focus on the change in your body chemistry.
The goal is to kick up your hormones, even if you’re manipulating it. “Don’t fake it ’til you make it. Fake it ’til you become it,” said Cuddy.
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