What this kitten teaches about sleep

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Do you sleep like this adorable Japanese kitten named Tetsuro, flat on your back with your hands by your sides?

Experts call this the “soldier” position and say it’s good for your back, as it stretches out your vertebrae and puts less stress on the spine.

But that supine position can also worsen snoring and sleep apnea, a condition in which you actually stop breathing for some seconds, which happens when gravity causes the soft palate and base of the tongue to slacken and collapse into the rear of the throat.

Sleep apnea leads to periods of brief awakening, which hurts overall sleep quality. It can also lead to irritability and health issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and depression.

According to the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project, sleep apnea plagues more than 25 million Americans. It’s connected to being overweight and is a growing health problem in American society as our collective BMI rises.

Those issues don’t seem to bother Tetsuro. He took the internet by storm after his owner posted numerous pictures and videos of his unusual sleeping position (for a cat, anyway). He’s even taken over his human’s office chair.

He’s not the only feline to be found this way (my own cat adopts this posture on occasion), but he does seem to be one of the few who prefers it over the more common curled fetal position.

In people, studies show that the fetal position is also the most popular, with more than 41% of us curling up at night like kitties (well, most kitties).

According to sleep researcher Chris Idzikowsk, director of the Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service in London and author of “Learn to Sleep Well,” many of those who adopt the fetal position are women, more than twice the number as men.

If you curl up (or even stretch out a bit) on your right side, be warned: studies have found that sleeping on your right side can worsen gastric reflux, or GERD. So if acid upset is a concern for you, turn over on your left, or sleep on your back or stomach.

Speaking of sleeping on your stomach, that’s not ideal for most of us. Because our beds aren’t made with holes for our faces, that position is the worst for our cervical vertebrae (side sleeping seems to be best) and can increase lower back pain.

So if you’re waking up in the am with back or neck pain, do whatever you can to kill the tummy sleeping habit.

What sleep says about your personality

In early research, Idzikowski linked sleep positions to personality traits, by comparing a person’s sleep stance to the results of their personality tests. Even though the connection is considered at bit wiffy today, it’s still fun to consider.

For example, if you sleep on your stomach that supposedly means you are outgoing, a bit brash and possibly anxious. If you prefer fetal position, you could be tough on the outside but soft on the inside. If you sleep on your side but with your arms out in front of you, however, that could mean you are suspicious and cynical.

But if you sleep on your back but with your arms up over your head (like a starfish), you’re supposedly always ready to listen and help, the essential elements of a good friend.

And finally, if you sleep like Tetsuro, on your back with your hands down, that means you’re probably a well-adjusted person, who knows what their goals are in life.

If Tetsuro’s goal is to become one of the cutest sleeping kittens on the internet, I’d say he’s well on his way.

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