The Truth on Sleeping Without a Pillow

Romeo Vitelli
Romeo Vitelli
Expert Writer
Received his doctorate in Psychology in 1987, spent fifteen years as a staff psychologist in Millbrook Correctional Centre. In 2003 went into full-time private practice. read more
Reviewed By
Medical Advisory Team
Medical Advisory Team
Includes well-known professionals, who together provide decades of sleep medicine experience that enables Talk About Sleep to fulfill its mission of creating access to high- read more
Last updated: September 07, 2023
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You’ve probably heard that sleeping with a pillow isn’t the best choice – this is quite a widespread idea – but not many know exactly why this is. As a matter of fact, there are many advantages to sleeping with and without a pillow – so when it comes to choosing the best sleeping position, it all depends on you personally weighing up the pros and cons of both sleeping styles and choosing the one that suits you!

So, is sleeping without a pillow good for you? Let’s find out…

Benefits of sleeping without a pillow

The Truth on Sleeping Without a Pillow

Sleeping without a pillow eliminates neck pain

If you’re a back sleeper, sleeping on a pillow can disrupt the natural curvature of your spine, cause neck discomfort and, over time, severe neck pain. Ditching the pillow can be a great solution – especially when you have one of the best mattresses for neck pain, which keeps your spine in its most natural position throughout the night.

If a pillow is simply a must in your bedroom, and if you’re a die-hard back sleeper, the best choice for improving the quality of your sleep and your overall posture is a high-quality orthopedic pillow. Why? It offers the optimal support for your neck, shoulders, and head, keeping them all perfectly aligned throughout the night.

Sleeping without a pillow improves posture

The Truth on Sleeping Without a PillowIf you’re used to sleeping on very soft pillows, it can do more harm than good. An overly soft pillow cannot withstand the weight of your head and neck, resulting in their improper positioning as you’re sleeping. Your neck crushes the pillow into the mattress, misaligning the cervical vertebrae of the upper section of your spine. On the other hand, if you sleep without one, you can avoid this issue altogether.

But what if you just can’t imagine sleeping without your favorite pillow? To avoid any, negative effects, simply opt for a firmer pillow – some of the best pillows for combination sleepers will work for you whether you sleep on your back, on your stomach or on your side – or all three!

Keep your skin clear and prevent aging

The Truth on Sleeping Without a PillowSleeping on a pillow has been shown to cause acne breakouts and wrinkles. This is because your skin’s natural oils, sebum, and dirt and dust particles all mix together on your pillow cover, creating a very pleasant environment for bacteria to thrive in. This is all transferred to your face and neck, resulting in pimples. One solution is washing and changing your pillowcases more frequently, to remove all dirt and grease, which may not be visible but creates a very visible problem.

Additionally, if you’re a side or stomach sleeper, your skin will more often than not be crumpled by the weight of your head against the pillow – sometimes, you might even wake up with tell-tale red marks and lines on your face.

This is all bad news for the quality of your skin: as you sleep in this way night after night, the end result of the friction between your skin tissue and the pillow is premature aging and wrinkles.

Silk pillowcases can help prevent sleep lines and creasing. These pillowcases also receive rave reviews from those trying to improve the quality of their hair, with many consumers reporting they have far less split ends and hair damage!

Disadvantages of sleeping without a pillow

Side sleepers need pillows

The Truth on Sleeping Without a Pillow

If you’re a side sleeper, sleeping without a pillow is probably not for you. A pillow will provide the support your head and neck need, preventing them from hanging down at an awkward and uncomfortable angle. Over time, sleeping on your side without a pillow increases your risks of neck osteoarthritis, as the vertebrae erode each other.

Sleeping without a pillow is bad for Glaucoma

Glaucoma is an eye disease that results in a gradual loss of sight, caused mainly by increased pressure within the eyeball (intraocular pressure). This pressure reaches its peak when you’re lying down – so whether you have Glaucoma, or you’d like to prevent it, keeping your head slightly elevated with a pillow can help reduce eye pressure and keep your eyes healthy for many years to come. For the best incline, sleep on a special wedge pillow to keep intraocular pressure within the optimum range.

If you have acid reflux – don’t sleep without a pillow

The Truth on Sleeping Without a PillowKeeping your head elevated slightly above your stomach is essential if you suffer from heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as gravity will prevent the acid from reaching your throat and upper parts of the esophagus. A wedge pillow, as discussed above, will help in this matter, as well as sleeping on your left side. Another great option is finding the best body pillow for your height, as it will raise your body in all the necessary places, and keep you comfortable and symptom-free all through the night!

Physiological and psychological comfort

The Truth on Sleeping Without a PillowYou may simply be used to sleeping on a pillow, and sleeping without one can feel very awkward and uncomfortable, which can result in a low quality of sleep, disrupting your day-to-day life. Don’t throw out your pillow just because someone may have told you that sleeping on it is bad. Your comfort is all that matters, so if you simply can’t imagine your life without a pillow, or like to hug one as you sleep, then take a look at some of the best king size pillows available for pillow-lovers such as yourself!

In conclusion

Sleeping with and without a pillow both have their advantages and disadvantages. Getting rid of your pillow can help you to improve your posture and say goodbye to neck and back pain. Some even claim that due to the elongation it provides your spine, sleeping without a pillow can even make you taller, although this is yet to be proven. However, if you sleep on your side or simply can’t imagine sleeping without your favorite sleeping accessory, then it’s a better idea to keep your beloved pillow. Sleeping with a pillow provides the necessary neck and head support for side sleepers and lowers intraocular pressure, reducing the risk of developing eye diseases as we age. In the end, it’s all down to you and your individual preferences and what you personally find comfortable.

Sweet dreams!

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