Everyone has different preferences when it comes to pillows. Some people love a pillow that is plush and allows their head to sink in, while others prefer a pillow that is flat and gives them just enough lift. But is it better to go without a pillow when you sleep?
Pillows help to align your head, neck and spine for a comfortable sleep and reduce the risk of neck and back pain. Some people believe that sleeping with no pillow is good for your skin, hair and sleep. Others claim that sleeping without a neck pillow can alleviate neck pain. There is limited research on the subject, but it could be a good reason to remove your pillows from your sleeping set-up.
We’ve talked to experts about whether a pillow is right for you and your sleeping needs. According to them, certain sleeping positions make sleeping without pillows more comfortable. We will discuss the pros and cons below, but we recommend that you consult a professional before making any changes.
Is it better not to use a pillow when you sleep?
It depends on how you sleep. Before you decide whether to use a pillow or not, you should know the position in which you sleep.
You can sleep with or without a sleeping pillow depending on your style of sleep. The amount and height of pillows that you use doesn’t really matter as long as your spine, head, and neck are supported. Dr. Kevin Lees , director at The Joint Chiropractic , explains that your neck also needs support. It’s important to choose a pillow that fits your sleeping position and keeps your head at the correct height.
Dr Lees explains if sleeping without a cushion is better for you based on your sleep style.
- Back Sleeperscan use thinner pillows unless they are in a hunched position or have a large upper back curve, explains the expert. It may be better for back-sleepers to sleep without a cushion.
- Side sleeperswill need a thicker cushion to ‘fit between the bed and shoulder’. You should choose a pillow that is large enough to support your neck and keep it in a natural position.
- Stomach Sleepers “may not need a cushion at all, or only a thin one” says Lees. If you lift your head too high, a plush pillow can be hard on the neck and lower back. In this case it is best to sleep without a cushion.
Dr. Kevin Lees D.C
The Joint Chiropractic
(Opens in new tab).
Kevin Lees, D.C., a chiropractor who has spent more than 20 years in the clinic, joined The Joint Corp. in 2020 as Manager of Auditing and Quality and was promoted Director of Chiropractic Operations by 2023. Dr. Kevin received his Doctor of chiropractic from Cleveland University Kansas City in 2000.
What are the advantages of sleeping without a neck pillow?
There is little scientific evidence to support the idea that sleeping flat is better. However, there are some anecdotal accounts that suggest it is. There are obvious benefits to posture, but there are also some less obvious ones for hair, skin, and sleep.
A pillow can cause neck pain for those who sleep on their stomach. Removing the pillows will make stomach sleepers feel more comfortable. The correct loft pillow can help relieve neck and back pain. Pillows are designed to keep your neck in a proper position while sleeping.
If you are a stomach sleeper, you may find that not using a cushion relieves tension. A flat surface will keep your neck and head in alignment when you lie on your back. If the mattress is firm enough to prevent the head from sinking below the shoulders, back sleepers can also benefit by not using a pillow.
The skin benefits are even more surprising. It is well known that sleeping on a pillow, especially one without a velvet pillowcase, can irritate your skin. As your face is pressed against the pillow, bacteria and fabric friction can cause acne and wrinkles. If you have sensitive cheeks, sleeping on a cushion can leave impressions.
There are also claims that sleeping with a pillow on can damage hair. Pillowcases absorb oils and cause friction, which can lead to hair breakage. If your pillow is causing your hair to be frizzy and dry, switching to a silk case or sleeping without a cushion may be the best option for you.
The dangers of sleeping without a neck pillow
If you don’t sleep well, sleeping without a pillow may affect your spinal alignment. The most common sleeping position is on your side. This requires a thicker cushion to lift your head, and fill the gap between your bed and shoulders. A pillow is necessary to prevent the neck from being overextended when sleeping. Bad sleeping posture can disrupt sleep and cause discomfort.
Consult a professional if you are already experiencing neck pain. Sleeping without a neck pillow can cause severe discomfort and aggravate pre-existing back pain. Dr. Lees warns that too much or too little thickness of a pillow can cause your neck curve forward, backwards or even to one side. This can increase the stress on your neck joints and the muscles around your neck and upper-back. Neck pain can also lead to tension headaches, and other health issues.
Best pillow for every sleep style
Casper Original Pillow
(opens in a new tab)
Coop Home Goods Original Pillow
(opens a new tab)
Nolah Queen Squishy Pillow, 2 pack
As long as you keep your neck in the right position, sleeping on your stomach is also healthy. The worst position to sleep in is on your stomach. Your neck is at a strange angle and your shoulder may be out of alignment with the rest your body.
How can you sleep without a pillow?
Firm mattresses are best for you.
If you find sleeping without a pillow to be better for you, and your neck, then you might also consider whether sleeping on the floor is better for your back. If you have serious back pain, however, this should always be discussed with a doctor.
We understand how important it is to choose a chiropractor that is right for you. It is our belief that educating our patients is a very important part of the success we see in our offices.