In general, pillows are thought to be an essential part of healthy sleep since they can help keep your neck and spine in neutral alignment in bed. Additionally, a good pillow should provide support for your head, neck, and shoulders while reducing pressure points, notes Grant K. Radermacher, doctor of chiropractic at Ascent Chiropractic in Brookfield, Wisc.
But there are some people out there who may find that they’re a lot more comfortable without a pillow. For instance, people who prefer to sleep on their stomachs or have a medical condition like sleep apnea or acid reflux often do better sleeping without a pillow, says Radermacher.
Ahead, we’ll explain when it’s acceptable to sleep without a pillow and the times when you should always use a pillow.
Sleeping without a pillow: pros and cons
Benefits of sleeping without a pillow
So, is it better to sleep without a pillow? The answer is: sometimes. According to Radermacher, there are a couple of benefits when it comes to forgoing a pillow during sleep. These include:
- Stomach sleepers, in particular, will find that lying directly on the mattress and skipping the pillow altogether actually keeps their spine in a more neutral position than sleeping with a pillow. This can help improve posture, reduce neck and back pain, and allow them to breathe more effectively.
- As mentioned, skipping the pillow can ease symptoms of conditions like sleep apnea or acid reflux, which can flare up at night.
Drawbacks of sleeping without a pillow
As you can imagine, there are also a couple of negative aspects of sleeping without a pillow. Radermacher lists:
- For most people, going pillow-less leaves the head and neck unsupported, which can lead to pain in the joints and soft tissues in your neck and upper back.
- Sleeping without a pillow can also contribute to the development of wrinkles and fine lines on your face and neck.
Who shouldn’t sleep without a pillow
If you’re considering tossing that pillow aside before hitting the sheets, you should know that there are some groups of people who should always sleep with a pillow no matter what.
Back and side sleepers
In general, back sleepers and side sleepers should always avoid sleeping without a pillow, says Radermacher. That’s because these positions require the spine to be in good alignment each and every night, which ensures that pressure will be off the spine.
People with spinal conditions
People who’ve been diagnosed with certain spinal conditions should also always sleep with a pillow. These conditions are ones that are particularly sensitive and/or painful. Radermacher says these can include herniated discs and scoliosis. “These conditions need extra support to maintain proper spinal alignment while sleeping,” he notes.
How to sleep without a pillow
Now that you understand who should and shouldn’t go without a pillow, there are some tips you can keep in mind for pillow-free sleeping, according to Radermacher. He says:
- Gradually reduce your dependence on your pillow by starting with a folded blanket or towel and working your way up to sleeping without any head support at all.
- If you’re a stomach sleeper, place a pillow under your stomach and pelvis to help keep your spine in a neutral position. If you sleep on your back, stick a pillow under your knees.
- Choose a firm, supportive mattress and avoid soft, saggy mattresses that can wreak havoc on your spine.
At the end of the day, if you’ve been deemed OK to sleep without a pillow, the choice is really up to you, your sleeping preferences, and how you feel most comfortable at night.
Is it better to sleep with or without a pillow?
Have you ever wondered, “Is it good to sleep without a pillow?” Well, good isn’t quite the right word. While there are some positives of sleeping without a pillow, those benefits are really dependent on certain types of sleepers. Overall, sleeping without a pillow comes down to personal preference, and in your world, maybe it’s “good” to skip the pillow and feel better while you sleep.
What are the benefits of sleeping without a pillow?
If you’re a stomach sleeper (which Radermacher says should be generally avoided in favor of spine-aligning back or side sleeping), you may find that going without the pillow keeps your spine in a better, more neutral position. He says this can help improve posture, reduce neck and back pain, and allow you to breathe more effectively. Dealing with sleep apnea or acid reflux? You may find that omitting your pillow may help reduce symptoms.
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