Pillow or No Pillow? Implications for Better Sleep

Posted by Darian Dozier on Dec 2, 2022 7:11:00 PM

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Some sleepers are pillow lovers while others are quite the opposite. Does it make a difference for your health? Potentially. You may be tempted to sleep without a pillow if you have neck or back pain. However, if you have trouble breathing at night due to heart issues, then you may want a pillow at night. There's no hard rule to whether or not sleeping with a pillow is good for you. Continue reading to learn about the advantages and disadvantages of sleeping with a pillow! 

Advantages of Sleeping without a Pillow

Pillows can help keep your neck and spine in a neutral position, improving your sleep. There is not much research on if sleeping with or without a pillow improves your sleep. However, stomach sleepers may do better without the pillow.

When you sleep with a pillow and you lay on your stomach, you put your neck and spine into extension. This is not an optimal position to put your body into for a comfortable sleep. Sleeping without a pillow can help your spine stay in alignment. 

However, this doesn't translate to other sleeping positions. If you sleep on your back or side, it may do you more harm than good to sleep without a pillow. Whatever you need to do to keep a straight posture is the best option.

Disadvantages of Sleeping Without a Pillow 

Regardless of what type of sleeper you are, sleeping without a pillow may still cause posture issues and neck pain. If you are a stomach sleeper, you may benefit from putting a pillow under your pelvis and stomach. This will lift the middle of your body and decrease the pressure on your spine from the center of your body.

You can also have neck pain if you don't sleep with a pillow, especially while turning your head, which still puts a lot of force and strain on your joints and muscles. If you sleep on your back or side, you're at risk for worsening or you neck and back pain as your back and neck will be overextended all night.  

Tips for Transitioning to No Pillow

If you have always slept with a pillow, but seriously think you'll benefit from not having one, there are some steps you can take to help with the transition. 

Gradually reduce your head support instead of abruptly changing it. You can try using a folded blanket or towel. Support the rest of your body with pillows to help distribute the pressure and ensure your spine stays in a natural position. Choose the right mattress. Having a really soft mattress that sags can cause your spine to change alignment and create back pain. 

If you are struggling to sleep and would like more guidance on changing your environment, please click the orange button to talk to one of our sleep health experts. 

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