Is Sleeping Without a Pillow Bad?
While some people may love the feeling of sleeping on a super fluffy pillow, others may find big pillows or pillows in general uncomfortable. If you don't like how pillows feel, there's a real temptation to try sleeping without one.
While there are some notable benefits to sleeping without a pillow, there are also some key drawbacks you need to consider. Whether or not sleeping without a pillow is good for you comes down to your sleep position, and how it relates to your spine.
In this article, we're going to outline who benefits from sleeping without a pillow. We'll also talk about who should stick to using a pillow for good posture and overall health.
Let's get started!
Benefits of Sleeping Without A Pillow
The main purpose of a pillow is to keep your spine in a neutral position while you sleep. If you sleep on your back or on your side, sleeping with a pillow is a must.
When you sleep on your back, if you lay down on a flat surface, your neck is forced backward. The best type of pillow for back sleepers is one that's just fluffy enough to support your neck without overextending it.
For side sleepers, you run across the same sort of scenario. A pillow is helpful in keeping your neck and spine in a neutral position.
Stomach sleepers --listen up!
You're the type that benefits from sleeping without a pillow, and here's why.
Sleeping Without a Pillow Can Be Great For Stomach Sleepers
Humans aren't designed to sleep on their stomachs, but some people love this sleep position nonetheless.
When you sleep on your stomach, the position of your body puts more stress on your neck. Sleeping on your stomach puts your spine in an unnatural position, which prevents your spine from maintaining its natural curve.
When you add a pillow on top of this, it only accentuates the stress, although there are some pillows designed for stomach sleepers.
According to a study by the University of Rochester Medical Center, when you sleep on your stomach, the majority of your weight is put on the middle of your body, which causes excess stress to your back and neck.
By sleeping without a pillow, you keep your head and neck in a more flat position, which can reduce stress and promote better posture and spinal alignment.
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Does Sleeping Without a Pillow Help Neck Pain?
As a kid, you could jump out of a tree, land on your faces, and feel fine the next day.
As an adult, sometimes it feels like you took a beating just by sleeping in the wrong position. Many people who struggle with neck pain have issues because of how they sleep.
Whether or not sleeping without a pillow can help with neck pain again comes down to how you sleep. When you sleep on your stomach, you likely turn your head to the side, which puts your neck in an even more awkward position.
If you sleep like this, using a pillow will only make the awkward angle worse. In this case, sleeping without a pillow will likely help alleviate neck pain.
If you sleep on your back, however, sleeping without a pillow puts your neck into a more unnatural position than if you had a pillow. Sleeping on your back without a pillow can cause neck pain, not relieve it.
Drawbacks Of Sleeping Without a Pillow
While there are some benefits to sleeping without a pillow, depending on your preferred sleep position, there are also some key drawbacks you need to keep in mind.
No pillow = Bad Posture For Most People
Generally speaking, sleeping without a pillow is bad for overall posture. Pillows were created to help keep your spine aligned, and by choosing not to use one, you're not getting those benefits.
If you're sold on sleeping on your stomach, using a pillow under your head might not be a great choice, but you can put the pillow under your pelvis and stomach instead. By putting the pillow here, you raise the lowest parts of your body, so they're more aligned with where your head is. This puts your spine in a more neutral position and can help relieve pressure.
In any other sleeping position, opting to not use a pillow isn't ideal. If you're a back or side sleeper, make sure you use a pillow.
It Can Cause Neck Pain
For most people, sleeping without a pillow is going to do more harm than good. Unless you sleep on your stomach, sleeping without a pillow will throw off the alignment of your spine and cause neck pain.
Sleeping on your back overextends your neck, and you need the pillow underneath to bring your spine back to a neutral position. Without a pillow, your neck stays overextended all night, which basically guarantees you're going to wake up with neck pain.
Tips For Sleeping Without a Pillow
If you'd like to try sleeping without a pillow to see if it's right for you, it's going to take some getting used to. This is especially true if you've slept with a pillow your whole life.
Here a few tips to start transitioning to sleeping without a pillow if you think you're the type of person to benefit from it.
Start slow: If you sleep with a fluffy pillow, and you want to try sleeping without a pillow, try sleeping on a flatter pillow first. You can also use a folded up blanket and unfold it as you get more comfortable with the chance.
Don't throw away your pillows, support other parts of your body: If you sleep on your stomach and are transitioning to sleeping without a pillow, try putting the pillow under your pelvis instead. This keeps your body in a neutral position that you'll most likely find comfortable.
Invest in a good mattress: This is key. If you struggle to get quality sleep, the issue might not be your pillow, it could be your mattress. You should be shopping around for a new mattress every 5-10 years, depending on the type of mattress you have.
Sleeping without a pillow can be great for some people, but not for others. If you're a stomach sleeper, try moving the pillow down to your pelvis, instead of under your head.
If you're a back or side sleeper, your best bet is to stick with the pillow, however, you can experiment with different types of pillows for your sleep style to see which works best for you.
Courtney is the reason The Sleep Shop exists. She’s a Seattle native with a passion for healthy sleep. She graduated from Seattle Pacific University with a major in marketing. She started The Sleep Shop to help friends and family choose a good mattress, and helped grow the site to what it is today. She does most of the product testing and reviews.