Once upon a time we lay ourselves down to sleep with a pad and pencil, the better to write out our dreams. Now, it turns out, we can add insights to those symbols by writing down (presumably with the help of a close friend) the positions we sleep in. It's more than enough to make insomniacs of us all.

"The way we sleep reveals the way we live," writes Samuel Dunkell, a psychoanalyst, in Sleep Positions: The Night Language of the Body . It's another one of those expensive psychoanalytical parlor games that passes for professional expertise.

If you can believe Dr. Dunkell, we sleep full fetal ("like a tightly closed bud") because by day we are closed to life's joys and difficulties. We show royal inclinations by lying flat on our backs, a "king" or "queen" of day and night, free to be exposed, exuding self-confidence and acceptance of the world. A woman who fell asleep with a package of matches in her hand, guarding her genitals, did so to show "her potentiality for fiery sexual arousal."

Of course, if you can believe that you can believe almost anything, and there is more.

Sleeping around, Dr. Dunkell suggest, can even be scientific. He tells of an American patient who fell in love with a Frenchman. She was unable to deal with the problems inherent in a long-range love affair, and expressed her anger over their, uh, sleeping positions. After passionate loving, she told Dr. Dunkell, the Frenchman turned his back on her. Easy, said Dr. Dunkell: "Since the man had difficulty in relating to her in an open face-to-face way when they were occupying the same bed, it seemed unlikely that over the long run he would be able to respond fully to her genuine feeling for him, especially with the added problem of an ocean between them."

But the learned doctor stole that one from Robert Benchley, who once noted how intellectuals quickly figure out the answer to the most complicated problems. When nothing else works, Benchley said, you can always blame it on the currents in the Gulf Stream. (Morrow, $6.95)