When we imagine our dream bed scenario, we each have our preferences, and how we envision our favorite pillow probably looks different for everyone.
Some love a big, fluffy pillow to sink their head into and others prefer a firm, flat one to keep them straight, while some on the other end of the spectrum completely, would rather no pillow at all.
Although most people assume that a pillow is an integral part of a well-made bed, not everybody sleeps with one.
The body’s natural shape can offer as much support and comfort as needed and if you’ve always found your pillow to be a hindrance in helping you drift off to sleep peacefully, you might have considered getting rid of yours.
Should you sleep without a pillow, though?
Sleeping without a pillow has its advantages, including improved spinal pain and alignment, but these benefits can’t be experienced by everyone. There are plenty of people who could ditch their pillow and still get a comfortable and safe sleep but it’s not a practice that works for people with conditions like sleep apnea, scoliosis, and more.
If you’ve never attempted to sleep without a pillow but think it’s something you could benefit from, we’ve got all of the answers for you about this unique practice.
This guide will look at the history of the pillow, why we use it, and what could happen to your nightly sleep if you decided to ditch it once and for all.
- 1 Should You Sleep Without a Pillow?
- 2 The History of Pillows
- 3 Can Sleeping Without a Pillow Improve Posture?
- 4 Is It Better For Your Neck?
- 5 The Benefits of A Pillow Free Sleep
- 6 Disadvantages of Sleeping Without a Pillow
- 7 Tips for Sleeping Without a Pillow
- 8 Related Questions
Should You Sleep Without a Pillow?
Sleep is a very personal thing and there are no two people out there who have all of the same preferences.
Some people like sleeping on a firm mattress covered in thick blankets, others like to sleep with a memory foam pillow with no bedclothes on at all.
These differences have all been fine-tuned to our comfort levels, allowing us to get the best sleep possible.
When it comes to pillows, an overwhelming number of people prefer to use them. However, just because it’s the norm, that doesn’t mean it has to be done.
If you’re in the category of people who find their pillow to be uncomfortable it might be time to try getting rid of it and seeing if you’re finally able to get a good sleep without one.
There are obvious caveats that concern the safety of sleeping without a pillow, so it’s not a recommended practice for everyone.
However, if your goal is to get spinal alignment, a better posture, and reduce the aches and pains that you wake up with each morning, ditching your pillow could be the solution you’ve been looking for.
The History of Pillows
Pillows haven’t always had a firm place in society, and especially not in the way they do today.
There are now so many options for pillows with different materials, fills, covers, sizes, and firmness levels to choose from, which is quite a stark comparison to how they were first used.
Looking back at history, the first instance of the pillow dates back to 7,000 BC in ancient Mesopotamia, known today as Iraq.
The purpose of these pillows was to keep the head elevated and away from bugs and crawling into the user’s mouth, ears, and nose, and as they were made of stone, there was nothing comfortable about them.
From there, other variations of the pillow were found, including in Ancient Egypt where they were used to prop up the heads of the deceased so that bad spirits were kept away.
Again, the materials used were harsher ones like stone, marble, and wood, so their primary purpose wasn’t to comfort.
It wasn’t until Ancient Greece and Rome that the hard pillow gave way to a softer cloth that had been filled with things like straw and cotton.
The first soft pillows were seen as status symbols that only the rich could afford and even King Henry VII had banned the use of pillows, except for pregnant women who were able to use them.
As time went on, the pillow became more commonplace, and as of today, there are hundreds of variations to choose from.
However, just as the ancient man slept without them for thousands of years, so too do many people today, and there are some benefits to reap by following this practice.
Can Sleeping Without a Pillow Improve Posture?
Having good posture is a health goal that most people aim for, and if you think your nightly pillow use might be hampering this, you could be right.
Pillows were designed for keeping your body in alignment so that your neck lines up with the rest of your body.
This, in turn, helps to create a straighter posture that is easier to carry throughout the day, but if you’re not sleeping in the right position then your pillow could be doing more harm than good.
The best type of sleeper to benefit from not using a pillow is the stomach sleeper, as all other positions may end up doing more harm than good.
Being in this position leaves your spine in an unnatural position and most of your weight is placed in the center of your body.
This adds unwanted stress to your back and damages the natural curve of the spine, so it can lead to poor posture.
Is It Better For Your Neck?
Whether sleeping without a pillow is better for your neck depends on a number of other factors, but in most cases, it’s not the safer option.
Most experts would recommend that a supportive pillow is ideal for people with neck issues and you can purchase some specifically for this issue, but if you’ve already tried them and are still having problems, sleeping pillowless might be ideal.
This is due to the awkward angle that they lay on when they’re on their stomach which turns their head to the side.
When you add a pillow to the position, the awkward angle is made even sharper, so you might benefit from getting rid of it altogether.
The Benefits of A Pillow Free Sleep
If you’re considering getting rid of your pillow once and for all and seeing what a pillow free sleep has to offer, you might be interested to hear the benefits.
Provided you’re in a safe category of people who can sleep without one, these are some of the advantages that the practice offers.
Better skin and hair
Some people believe that sleeping on a pillow causes wrinkles or makes their hair knotted or oily, although the evidence is still anecdotal.
If you’re someone who finds their hair or skin gets damaged from laying on a pillow, you might find sleeping without one relieves this.
For side sleepers, sleeping with a pillow can offer better spinal alignment due to the strange position the body is in.
For other sleeping positions it might not offer the same level of alignment.
If you’re someone who finds even the thinnest and softest pillow uncomfortable to sleep with, you could have a better quality of sleep without one.
Test it out at night to see if going with no pillow feels more comfortable.
Disadvantages of Sleeping Without a Pillow
Considering how many hours of the night we spend asleep, we want to consider all of the pros and cons when making a big change like getting rid of our pillow.
These are some of the potential disadvantages to this sleeping style that should be weighed up.
When we sleep on our back or side without using a pillow, our necks become overextended.
Staying in this position for the entire night means you’ll likely wake up with a sore or stiff neck in the morning.
Waking up with headaches is a common issue if you sleep without a pillow because of the stress your neck muscles have gone through in the night.
This is due to the pressure being unevenly distributed without a pillow to lay on, which results in headaches.
Lack of sleeping positions
Most people spend the night switching between a few of their favorite sleeping positions for comfort, but when you sleep without a pillow the only recommended one is on your side.
Therefore, you won’t be able to change how you’re lying in the night even if you feel it would be more comfortable.
Tips for Sleeping Without a Pillow
If you’re someone who’s always slept with a trusty pillow, taking it away all of a sudden can be a shock to the system.
To start sleeping without yours, you should do the process gradually to get the most benefits and do it safely and comfortably.
Check out these tips if you’re ready to make the switch to a pillowless sleep.
Choose a quality mattress
Your mattress is the most important factor in a night of healthy and comfortable sleep, especially if you don’t want to use a pillow.
Choose one that’s firm enough to support you as a plush one won’t give enough firmness underneath your spine.
Use a pillow somewhere else
Other parts of your body can benefit from the support a pillow brings even if you don’t want one underneath your head.
If you’re a stomach sleeper you might want to put one under your stomach or pelvis, or underneath the knees, if you usually sleep on your side. This will help with spinal alignment and comfort.
Don’t just start one night by removing your pillow altogether but rather take away the support gradually so your body can get used to it.
Either switch to a thinner pillow or just a folded blanket under your head until you feel ready to remove it altogether.
Speak to a health professional
Research is still lacking in regards to sleeping without a pillow so it’s not something you should jump into without clearance from a health professional.
Speak to your doctor or a spinal specialist to determine whether this type of sleep setup would be safe for you to experiment with.
Most people today prefer to sleep with their favorite pillow and there are so many varieties out there today that can alleviate just about any issue.
However, if you’re someone who would prefer not to use one and have been given the all-clear from your doctor, you can certainly try sleeping without a pillow.
We’ve answered some FAQs about pillows and their use to give you a better understanding of them.
What is the Best Pillow for Neck Pain?
Choose a pillow that contours around the natural shape of your neck if you suffer from neck pain.
This could be either a softer feather fill or something like memory foam, both of which cradle the neck but give it the support needed to keep your spine aligned.
A thinner pillow is better so that the angle of your neck isn’t too elevated above your body.
Why Does My Neck Hurt After Waking Up?
If you often wake with a sore neck, the most obvious cause is the pillow or mattress you sleep with.
The current pillow you’re using likely isn’t giving you enough support which leads to pressure in the neck and soreness and stiffness in the morning.
Consider switching to one made specifically to help with neck pain to see if it helps.
What is the Best Pillow Material?
Pillows are made with different materials for their covers and the fill used inside them.
Some of the most popular fill materials for pillows today are memory foam, feathers, down, and polyester fiberfill.
Each of these materials has pros and cons to consider when shopping for one that suits your sleep needs.