Can You Wake Up On the Wrong Side of Bed?

(Last Updated On: August 28, 2022)

Have you ever woken up and just felt acutely like garbage? Like, more garbage than usual. If you wake up happy and ready to tackle the day consistently we’re jealous. Anyway, if it’s especially noticeable that you’re shuffling around in a worse mood than usual, people might ask if you’ve woken up on the wrong side of bed. By definition, if you prefer a certain side of the bed (we all know which side is the right one), you can get up on the wrong side. But that’s not really the point of the expression is it? Can you actually wake up on the wrong side of bed and ruin your entire day?

Who Decided There Was a Right Side?

Many point to Roman superstitions regarding the left and right when it comes to getting out of bed. If you remember that the word “sinister” comes from the Latin for “left,” you have a good idea of what the Romans thought of anything left-related. Making the directional left “bad” probably had a lot to do with the dominance of right-handedness, and we all know how people react to things that are different. 

The Romans didn’t much like the left side, so much so that nobles had servants who stood by the door and made sure people entered their home right foot first. No stretch to say they probably wanted to start the day away from the left too. All this is probably why many attribute the idiom to Roman superstition

Roman superstition might have some bones to pick with the beliefs of feng shui, in which the left side of bed is associated with wealth. 

What’s the Right Side?

Luckily, if you’re not superstitious, you don’t have to figure out whether or not the left or the right side of your bed is better. Though there is some evidence that suggests sleeping on your left side is a little better for you

Studies suggest that you can get up unusually poor-feeling, though not for no reason. It turns out that anticipating stress is enough to screw you up the next day. Going to bed thinking you’ll be stressed out the next day can be enough to ruin the following day. Stress anticipation can also mess with your working memory, though stress anticipation in the evening doesn’t seem to correlate with a reduction in working memory the next day. It’s more that anticipating a stressful day when you first wake up messes with your memory later in the day. 

Obviously saying “just don’t be stressed” isn’t particularly helpful, and the knowledge that being stressed out all the time absolutely destroys your health isn’t particularly new. If you’re American, following up with the knowledge that Americans are (almost universally) chronically overstressed because that’s the life we’ve constructed for ourselves is… just more stressful.

So it’s easy to imagine that “getting up on the wrong side of bed” is a pretty regular occurrence. 

We also have natural sleep cycles. We run through different stages of sleep, from light sleep to the deeper rapid eye movement wherein you’re more likely to dream. On average, people go through this cycle a handful of times per night. Waking up during the deepest phases in your sleep (normally by being interrupted by an alarm) is a pretty good way to get up on the wrong side of bed as well

Speaking bed, see what you know about bed dimensions here.

About the Author:

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Kyler is a content writer at Sporcle living in Seattle, and is currently studying at the University of Washington School of Law. He's been writing for Sporcle since 2019; sometimes the blog is an excellent platform to answer random personal questions he has about the world. Most of his free time is spent drinking black coffee like water.