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Should You Sleep Without Pillow?

If your pillow gets hot during the night and you decide to ditch it, you’ve either hated sleeping flat or loved it. Sleeping preferences differ, which is why someone could potentially enjoy sleeping on the pillow, while others find sleeping on pillows, especially those with therapeutic ergonomics essential. If sleeping without pillow ever crossed your mind, this article may help you decide whether you should try it.

There are a lot of reasons why one would pick to sleep without a pillow. Some people find big and fluffy pillows amazing, especially if they sleep on their side and back. After all, pillows were made to conform to the healthiest sleeping positions and those who sleep on their stomachs could potentially find them uncomfortable because their head is elevated way too high.

That said, while sleeping without a pillow isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, it sure does come with certain benefits. Keep in mind, however, that sleeping with a pillow could only feel uncomfortable to you if you haven’t found a certain pillow that meets your comfort demands.

Sleeping Without Pillow: Benefits

There are certain benefits of sleeping without a pillow. Below we listed them. It’s worth mentioning that some of them are based on research studies, while others are varying based on personal preferences.

It Can Help Better the Posture (Stomach Sleeper)

stomach sleeper sleep without pillow

Image Source: Terry Cralle, MS, RN, CPHQ

Reading this may confuse you because the sole purpose of pillows is to keep your spine in a neutral position and prevent uncomfortable pains when you wake up. They are specifically good because the neck is aligned with the rest of the spine, and with that in mind you won’t wake up with discomfort or feeling dull.

The research studies couldn’t focus much on whether sleeping without a pillow is good for the spine, but they often focused on the best type of pillow that can enhance the posture.

However, for stomach sleepers, this particular position may be extremely helpful and beneficial.

This is based on research conducted at the University of Rochester Medical Center, which suggests that positioning yourself on back and side and sleeping on the pillow may be unbeneficial because it promotes unnatural position. It’d add stress to the back and cause the spine to curve.

Not for stomach sleepers, however. Rising the pillow above their natural position may cause discomfort in stomach sleepers and cause them to wake up sore. Sleeping on the stomach with a low-level pillow could be a potential replacement. Still, the best option for promoting a healthy spine position is to sleep on your stomach.

It Can Be Good For Your Neck (Restless Sleeper)

Similarly to the benefits for your spine, the likelihood of sleeping without pillow reducing neck pain is good only if you sleep on your stomach, and maybe even eliminate it.

That happens because our head faces the side when we sleep on the stomach, causing the neck to push backward.

Should You Sleep Without Pillow, Terry Cralle, MS, RN, CPHQ, stomach

Image Source: Terry Cralle, MS, RN, CPHQ

If you’re a restless sleeper, that can create a weird and unwanted angle which could result in intense neck pain for sleepers on the side or back. To maintain the natural position of your neck, as well as the alignment with your spine and the rest of your body, it’d be best to sleep on your stomach and without a pillow.

It’s a benefit, but the researchers have to still conduct certain studies that could back these claims. It’s worth adding that research that is lacking at the moment could also point out potential risks of keeping the neck in this position even without the pillow. Most other studies focus on low-rise pillows which would be beneficial on stomach sleepers.

Another thing is that a lot of people prefer to use the thick pillow for sleeping because they are restless sleepers and they’ll sleep in all three positions through the night. Because of that a thick or stacked up pillows may be good for their necks when they are on their back or side. But even then, stacking up a lot of pillows can cause discomfort in the long run.

If you are a restless sleeper, perhaps it’d be better to sleep on either a low rise pillow or no pillow at all.

You May Feel More Rested

Sleeping without a pillow may count as some sort of a self-discovery trip. That’s because sleeping without any kind of neck and head support such as pillow will allow your body to search and find them sleeping position that it’ll rest the most in.

Sometimes, that’s for the better or for worse.

There are pillows without the necessary support, which adds up to the back and neck strain, leading to you waking up tired and exhausted in the morning. Without a pillow, your body will find the best position to restore the body tissues and provide necessary rest for you to go on about your day.

Another bad thing about back and neck pain is that if you continue to experience it, your body will get used to it, and from acute, it’ll turn into chronic pain. If the pain you’re experiencing affects your sleep cycle to the point you find unbearable, it’s best to consult a professional and schedule a doctor’s appointment.

Waking up tired could lead to sleep deprivation and even to a more serious sleeping disorder, so sleeping without a pillow for a few nights should let you test whether sleeping without pillow feels more restorative on you.

Finally, don’t forget to stretch!

It May Benefits Your Face

A lot of people suffer from acne or wrinkles and never have an idea that it can all be caused by a bad pillow or sheet. When we sleep, we press our face on the pillow and drag it across the pillow as we change the sleeping position.

Such sleeping hygiene can result in our skin not being able to breathe or hydrate. As a result, our face may feel sweatier, greasier, and more oily because our pores get clogged with dust or other dirt.

However, keep in mind that removing the pillow at times may not be enough if you don’t sleep on a clean, silky, or cotton sheet.

A lot of people advise that the silk retains less dust and thus is safer and healthier for stomach sleepers.

It May Reduce Head Deformities in Babies

baby sleeps without pillow

Image Source: Terry Cralle, MS, RN, CPHQ

Babies’ heads are extremely sensitive. They are young, fragile, and elastic, so they are prone to deformities if the baby is put in a wrong sleeping position. On most occasions, the doctor may advise you not to use a pillow for your infant, it may even prohibit you to use it.

A lot of children don’t use the pillow until they’re at least six months old. The main reason for that is because babies’ neck muscles aren’t too strong and the baby can’t hold the head up well enough, so sleeping on the stomach is healthier and more neutral for them. It can even lead to babies changing the position to their side which can be extremely dangerous.

In reality, while sleeping on the pillow for infants younger than six months is mainly prohibited, a lot of babies don’t use the pillow at least until they’re two years old. After that, they should be able to choose for themselves.

Reduces Stress

Lastly, sleeping on your stomach without the pillow may help you reduce the stress caused by a wrong or inconvenient pillow. When we sleep on a pillow that doesn’t suit our needs, we wake up often, looking for a position that will help us sleep properly. The chronic lack of sleep and even insomnia can appear as a result of sleep deprivation, causing the stress to jump and hinder our daily activities.

Sleeping Without Pillow: Drawbacks

As you can see there are several important benefits of sleeping without a pillow. However, given that it works only with a certain sleeping position, it may be extremely risky for people who sleep on the back or sides. With that in mind, we highlighted the risks of sleeping without a pillow.

Bad for Side and Back Sleepers

correct and incorrect sleeping position on her side

Image Source: Terry Cralle, MS, RN, CPHQ

As mentioned above, if the only position you can sleep in is back or your sides, sleeping without the pillow may bring you more bad than good.

Because of such odd positioning, you may end up sleeping in an unnatural position which will lead to waking up in pain in discomfort. We’re not saying that you need to stack super-heavy pillow or use multiple pillows, but find the perfect balance that will suit those sleeping positions.

It May Maximize Certain Conditions

If you’re suffering from certain underlying conditions, the doctor may advise you to keep your head tilted and elevated to a certain degree. Additionally, if you have certain cardiovascular conditions sleeping without a pillow may worsen them and potentially result in:

  • Congestion in the lungs
  • Ischemic stroke
  • Glaucoma
  • Heart Failure

Snoring And Sleep Apnea

Sleeping on the back or side without a pillow can result in retraction of the tongue, which can easily result in snoring.  If you suffer from obstructive sleep apnea, the condition may even worsen, causing the need for using the SPAT machine which has shown itself effective in minimizing the symptoms of sleep apnea. The snoring on the other side may affect the way your sleeping partner sleeps as well as disrupt your sleep hygiene.

Potential Osteochondrosis Diagnosis

Sleeping on a flat surface may result in potential risk for developing osteochondrosis of the cervical spine. That’s because of the unnatural posture while sleeping on the side.

The head is located at an elevation and a higher angle compared to the mattress. If you find yourself sleeping on the side quite often, perhaps you shouldn’t give your pillow up.

However, not every pillow is suited for side sleepers so we advise you to take extra caution when choosing the right model for side sleeping, especially if you suffer from certain sleep conditions.

If on the other side you prefer a flatter surface, you should start with a low-level pillow, and then progress to using a towel that is rolled up and then finally transitions towards pillow-less sleeping. The sleeping position you’ll use when sleeping without pillow also depends on how your mattress is and feels.

How to Sleep Without Pillow?

Now that we have finally presented all pros and cons of sleeping without a pillow, it’s time to determine how to start. For some people, it may be as easy as removing the pillow and sleeping as if you didn’t change anything in your sleep hygiene. For others, it may be a little more challenging for that.

Similarly to the tips, we presented above, all you need to do is prepare some sheets or pads that could temporarily impersonate the height your pillow normally provides. As you start to get used to the lower height, you should start dumping the accessories one by one, until you finally feel comfortable by sleeping without a pillow.

You can even fold up a piece of cloth or a smooth towel that will make up for the height loss. It’s just important to keep your head and neck leveled with the rest of your back when you’re laying on your stomach.


In the end, ditching your pillow for good shouldn’t be extremely hard. However, you should know whether sleeping without a pillow is for you or not. We hope that this article helped you determine that.

If you feel more comfortable sleeping without a pillow then you should do that. If you sleep on your back, side, or suffer from snoring or a chronic condition, then letting your pillow go is not the best of ideas.

Finally, it’s important to listen to your body and see its requirement. If you have a smart mattress like Eight Pod or you sleep with sleep-tracking wearables then you should see the result getting rid of pillow yields for your sleep hygiene and eventually consult a doctor, if needed.

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