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Sleeping Without a Pillow: Benefits & Disadvantages


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Writers at Sleep Authority are supported by a research team conducting in-depth research about the topics. The editorial team reviews them for accuracy and facts to ensure the most authentic and accurate content is published. Sleep Authority does not offer any medical advice, and you should not rely solely on our content for your course of treatment. Consult your medical professional to discuss any health concerns, chronic conditions, treatment options, or diagnoses.


December 26, 2022

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The pillow we use during sleep has a significant effect on our sleep quality, while not sleeping with one also has advantages and disadvantages. Sleeping without a pillow can be an adventure for some while a daily practice for others. This detailed article will discuss the role of pillows in our sleep and the merits and demerits of sleeping without a pillow. 

Benefits of Sleeping Without a Pillow

Sleeping without a pillow can improve your health and sleep quality. Let’s understand the benefits of sleeping without a pillow.

Effect on Posture

According to research by the National Library of Medicine, stomach sleepers risk stressing their neck as the sleeper moves the neck in a particular direction in this position. Adding a pillow puts the neck at an awkward angle that makes the sleeper uncomfortable. Hence, stomach sleepers should prefer sleeping without a pillow.

The sleeping position of the side sleeper drops a large gap between the head and the sleeper’s pillow. A firm pillow aligns the neck, back, and spine perfectly, which reduces the stress in the sleeper’s neck.

Thanks to the natural position, back sleepers have their head, neck, and spine aligned in a straight line by default. According to a study, a medium loft pillow elevates the head and reduces stress on the sleeper’s back and neck.

Effect on Neck and Back Pain

Any person sleeping in a specific position for a long time may develop stress in various body parts such as lower back and neck joints. According to research, pillows reduce this stress by raising the head and neck to a convenient position and by aligning the spine with the neck and back. 

However, stomach sleepers are an exception in this. Stomach sleepers can reduce neck and back pain by eliminating the pillow. The flat surface of the mattress provides the necessary alignment of the spine, neck, and back. Sleeping with a pillow for the stomach sleepers puts the neck at an uncomfortable angle, increasing the stress in the neck.

Effect on Skin and Hair

According to research, there are more wrinkles when the face pushes against the pillow than sleeping on a bare mattress. The best way to eliminate wrinkles is by sleeping on the back, as there is no contact with your face with the pillow or the bed in this position.

Sleeping with pillows leads to hair damage as the cotton pillowcases absorb the oils supposed to strengthen the hair. However, there is no concrete research to support the relationship between pillows and hair health to date.

Disadvantages of Sleeping Without Pillow

Although there are not many clinical studies about sleeping without a pillow, it is safe to say that the disadvantages of sleeping without a pillow differ from person to person. Pillows are an excellent way to reduce heartburn or obstructive sleep apnea symptoms for some people while sleeping without pillows is a source of many health disorders for others. Let us understand the disadvantages in more detail.

Poor Posture

Sleep posture is affected adversely when sleepers sleep without a pillow. When you sleep on the back without a pillow, the head, and neck dip at a lower angle, which leads to stress in the neck and shoulders. A side sleeper sleeping without a pillow leads to overstretching in their neck, which affects the natural spine alignment.

Stomach sleepers are the most comfortable without a pillow. Eliminating the pillow aligns their head, neck, and spine, reducing the neck and shoulders pressure.

Neck and Back Pain

Without a pillow, the cervical spine of the side and back sleepers may experience soreness. It may lead to neck pain and lead to tension headaches.

For stomach sleepers sleeping on the stomach without a pillow, neck pain from sleeping is not eliminated entirely. Moving the head during sleep may lead to muscle stiffness.

How to Sleep Without a Pillow?

Sleeping without a pillow might be a good idea for you, soft, but shifting suddenly on a flat surface may be very uncomfortable. Let’s understand the tips for sleeping without a pillow to help you adjust comfortably without a pillow.

Start Slowly

To begin, you can use a thin pillow or folded blanket. It adjusts your body with a flatter surface.

Examine Your Bedding

Examine if your mattress suits your sleeping style and body size. Having a good pillow may not support your sleeping pattern. However, a good mattress can surely provide you the necessary support and comfort for sleeping without a pillow.

Consider Using Body Pillows

Stomach sleepers can use body pillows such as thin pillows under their lower body section. It helps to align their spine with the back and the neck.

Choosing the Right Pillow for Each Sleeping Position

Using the wrong pillow may lead to health issues such as sleep loss and physical aches, such as neck or back pain. Using the right pillow before deciding to quit the cushion is always a safe option.

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers need to get a firm, thick pillow that fills the gap between the neck and the mattress. A light pillow may not align the head and neck with the spine. On the other hand, a solid cushion raises the neck at a very acute angle, which may be uncomfortable for the sleeper.

Another option for side sleepers is to use an adjustable pillow composed of light materials such as shredded memory foam or buckwheat grains. The sleeper can add or remove the materials according to their height preferences.

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers have a small gap between their neck and the pillow.  A medium-thick pillow holds the neck and the spine regulated in a straight position. Medium-thick pillows composed of latex or memory foam are some good pillows for sleeping on your back because they levitate their heads at a perfect height.

Back sleepers can also lay a rolled blanket under the neck to fulfill this significant gap. They can also set a thin pillow under their lower back to decrease the strain in the cervical spine.

Stomach Sleepers

Some stomach sleepers who cannot sleep without a pillow can use a soft pillow that helps attain spinal alignment. Cushions made from down fibers are soft and reduce the gap between the head and the mattress. It helps ease neck support while sleeping and is considered the best way to sleep for neck pain.

The Final Word

Sleeping without a pillow may be a good bet for stomach sleepers. However, it may not be a good idea for side and back sleepers to sleep without a pillow. But the most important thing is that you should feel comfortable in bed.

For sleepers with neck, back, or spine problems, sleeping without a pillow may be unsafe. In the end, it is your decision whether you want to go with a pillow or no pillow. However, we recommend you speak to the doctor before omitting the pillow.


No, sleeping without a pillow does not affect your height. Your height is genetically determined.

For stomach sleepers, sleeping without a pillow decreases the pressure on your spine and improves posture while sleeping. For other sleeping positions sleeping without a pillow is not recommended.

According to sleep experts, you should sleep with only one pillow under your head.

Pillows align the neck, head with the rest of the body, which supports good posture.

Sleeping without a pillow is good for stomach sleepers, but it may be bad for side and back sleepers, leading to stress in the neck and shoulders.

You must ensure that your head is placed correctly on the pillow and your head, neck, and spine are aligned in a straight line.

No, pillows are essential and provide the necessary support to your neck in back and side sleeping positions. However, in the stomach sleeping position, a pillow may lead to stress in the neck.

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