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Is It Better To Sleep Without A Pillow?

Sleep Science · 04/01/19

Sleeping with a Pillow resized - Is It Better To Sleep Without A Pillow?

Is It Better To Sleep Without A Pillow?


If you are among those who would often wake up to throbbing neck pain, you might be wondering if sleeping without a pillow can benefit you. There are several kinds of literature available on the web that enumerates the benefits of sleeping without a pillow, but should you believe any of them? Pillows per se are not innately evil. Together with your mattress, they play a vital role in supporting healthy spine alignment while you sleep. The question now is if you should sleep without a pillow, what position should you be in when you sleep?


Sleep Without A Pillow


Why Sleep Without Pillows


If you sleep without pillows, your back will thank you as you help it extend itself. You will also be able to sleep in a natural position minus the dreaded aches the next day. Using a super soft pillow can strain the muscles located in the neck, and it can also reduce blood flow towards the head. When the head is tilted downward on a pillow, the airflow to your respiratory system will be reduced; therefore, you will most likely wake up the next morning with a headache.

On the contrary, when you use a thick pillow or prop more under your head, it will disturb the spine’s alignment and position and cause back pain. Sleeping in this position for an extended period of time can result in severe back pain and muscle strains. When you begin to experience any pain the following day, get rid of your pillows as soon as possible. Instead, try to sleep one night without any head or neck support, and you will see your back and neck pains vanish the next day.


Feel Well-Rested The Next Day

Not using pillows while sleeping will enable your body to find an ideal position for resting. Often, when we use pillows that do not provide the right support, our body is forced to compensate by using our neck and back muscles. This overcompensation can result in additional body strain, especially when your body should be recovering from daily stresses. The muscles and tendons in the body need to be recovering while we sleep from the everyday stress we endure; however, with the added pressure that accumulates over time due to improper alignment, it can result in unwanted aches and pains.

When the strain goes on for an extended time period the pain becomes severe. To do away with the recurring pain, you should seek medical assistance as well as alter the way you sleep. Some of the symptoms include frequent waking up in the middle of the night, restless sleeping, and tossing and turning in your bed all night. All of these factors lead to sleep deprivation and other related health problems.


Your Skin Will Thank You


There is no way your skin can ever benefit if it is pressed against a pillow for 7 to 8 hours daily. By doing so, you are preventing your skin from being able to breathe. Essentially, you are hindering the pores of your skin to have access to air and proper circulation.

This, in turn, results in excessive perspiration and clogging of pores, which will eventually produce blackheads, acne, and other unsightly blemishes.

Furthermore, if you do not change your pillowcase often, the dirt and grime that accumulate in your pillow is guaranteed to cause skin problems and irritations. You will start to notice significant improvements in the quality of your skin once you start sleeping without a pillow.


Sleeping Positions

Your sleeping position determines the type of pillow you should be using if you cannot sleep without one. Sleeping is not a static activity. When a person sleeps, there is plenty of movement from one position to another.

However, there is a tendency for the person to revert back to the original sleeping position. In most cases, the sleeper may go through different motions but will almost always be in the same sleeping position.


Sleep Without A Pillow


Back Sleeper

If you happen to be a back sleeper, while you are laying down, you will notice small gaps that often develop between your back and the mattress, and also around the neck and the bed.

The memory foam mattress addresses the small spaces in the lower spine area by allowing the hips of the back sleeper to sink down into the mattress as the foam contours to the lower back of the sleeper.

Sleeping without a pillow will surely leave an uncomfortable space between the sleeper’s head and the mattress. A very thick pillow can create the opposite effect, as you tilt your head forward and with your chin to your chest.

Back sleepers can keep their neck level with the rest of their spine with the aid of a contouring pillow, which will be useful in filling up those small spaces. If you are a back sleeper, you can use rounded pillows, cervical pillows, or those with built-in neck support for better sleep. You can also prop a small pillow under your knees to support your spine and avoid back pain.


Verdict: Back sleepers must NOT sleep without pillows, except when the back sleeper has back pain and utilizes a firm mattress with a little contouring.


Side Sleepers


Sleep Without A Pillow


Even though many people and health experts consider side sleeping as the healthiest of all sleeping position, this can become problematic when you do not have the right pillow support. If you sleep on your side you will need a pillow to work in conjunction with your bed to help keep your spine upright as you sleep. Contouring mattresses will enable side sleepers’ pressure points to sink into the bed comfortably; however, without the pillow, the weight of your head will press your neck down and will misalign your spine.

Opting to sleep on your shoulder is not a good choice either, as it places excessive pressure and leads to numbing sensations in the shoulder and arm muscles. Moreover, it works unevenly, as only one side is being impacted. If you have a tendency to sleep on your side you will need a support pillow that is thick enough to support your neck and shoulders.

Cervical pillows and contour memory foam pillows will help support the neck of the side sleeper and you should use a pillow with a high loft between the neck and the other one just beneath the head. The proper pillow will provide the needed support for the side sleeper and at the same time keep the neck and head straight and aligned with the spine.

Pillows that are too thick can create a certain elevation for the neck and head and leave it out of alignment, whereas a pillow that is very thin or very soft will easily flatten out. Side sleepers can get some help when they have a thin pillow propped in between their knees and will keep their spine straight and relieve muscle strains all the way to the hip area.


Verdict: Side sleepers must NOT sleep without a pillow.


Stomach Sleepers

At last, we have come to one sleeping position that will really benefit from sleeping without using pillows, and they are the stomach sleepers. Sleeping on your stomach will help prevent snoring and or sleep apnea.

But, of all sleeping positions, this is the unhealthiest because in this sleeping position the neck is twisted, and the head is not aligned correctly with the spine. Sleep experts suggest that stomach sleepers use a very thin pillow or no pillow at all when sleeping. Some feel very uncomfortable sleeping without pillows; in this case, they can always use a thin pillow.

But, when stomach sleepers can sleep without entirely using one, it can be of help to them. With or without a pillow, these kinds of sleepers can benefit from a thin pillow placed behind the hips to help align the spine.


Verdict: Stomach sleepers can benefit from sleeping without pillows. They can, however, use thick pillows in their hip area to help align their spine.



At this juncture, whether or not you choose to sleep with or without a pillow boils down to your sleeping needs and personal preferences as a sleeper. The most crucial thing to remember is that you must find the right pillow and mattress combination for comfortable sleep every night. But, there are some specific guidelines to follow in order to achieve better sleep without pillows:

  • Side sleepers must always use a thick pillow to support them in their sleep.
  • Back sleepers must use thin pillows, even if they are sleeping on very firm mattresses. However, sleeping without a pillow can be more comfortable with the right mattress 
  • Stomach sleepers must sleep with no pillows at all.     


Sleep Without A Pillow


As soon as you have settled in and started sleeping this way, you will never go back to using pillows. Especially where there are positive feedback and testimonies from users who saw great health benefits in sleeping without one and where they were able to bid goodbye to their back and neck pains, sleeping without pillows is a great thing to do regardless of the way you sleep. Nonetheless, if you are unable to sleep without pillows, you can always go back to your customary way of sleep.


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