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Benefits and Effects on Spine and Posture

While some people love to sleep on big fluffy pillows, others find them uncomfortable. You might be tempted to sleep without one if you often wake up with neck or back pain.

There are some benefits to sleeping without a pillow. However, these advantages aren’t one-size-fits-all. Sleeping without a pillow may only help if you sleep in a certain position.

Read on to learn about the pros and cons of pillowless sleeping, including tips on how to do it.

Depending on how you sleep, you may feel better after sleeping on a flat surface.

Can sleeping without a pillow help posture?

Pillows are meant to keep your spine in a neutral position. They align your neck with the rest of your body, which supports good posture.

As such, research has only focused on the best type of pillow for posture. Scientists haven’t studied how sleeping without a pillow specifically affects the spine.

But stomach sleepers may benefit from ditching the pillow.

According to University of Rochester Medical Center, sleeping on your stomach puts your spine in an unnatural position. That’s because the majority of your weight is in the middle of your body. It adds stress on your back and neck, making it hard for your spine to maintain its natural curve.

Sleeping without a pillow can keep your head flat. This may reduce some stress on your neck and promote better alignment.

But this doesn’t apply to other sleeping positions. If you sleep on your back or side, sleeping without a pillow may do more harm than good. It’s best to use a pillow to keep your spine neutral.

Can sleeping without a pillow alleviate neck pain?

If you’re a stomach sleeper, sleeping without a pillow may also reduce neck pain.

When you’re on your stomach, your head is turned to the side. Your neck is also extended backward. This puts it at an awkward angle, causing pain and discomfort.

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In this position, using a pillow would only increase the awkward angle of your neck. But sleeping without one can minimize the unnatural position while decreasing strain on the spine.

Despite this potential benefit, research is lacking. Most studies about pillows and neck pain focus on the best type of pillow for pain. If your neck hurts after sleeping, talk to a doctor before going pillowless.

Is sleeping without a pillow good for your hair?

There aren’t any known links between using a pillow and hair health. Therefore, researchers haven’t studied how sleeping without a pillow affects the hair.

But there is some talk about how the material of your sleep surface can affect your hair. The idea is that a cotton pillowcase absorbs your natural oils, which can make your hair frizzy. Silk is allegedly better for your hair.

Otherwise, whether you use a pillow probably won’t affect your hair.

Despite the potential benefits of sleeping without a pillow, there are also drawbacks.

Poor posture

When you sleep on your stomach, scrapping the pillow can better align your spine. However, it won’t completely offset the unnatural position. It’ll still be difficult for your spine to be neutral, since most of your weight is in the center of your body.

To promote better posture while sleeping on your stomach, put a pillow under your stomach and pelvis. This will lift the middle of your body and decrease pressure on your spine, even if you don’t use a pillow for your head.

In other positions, sleeping without a pillow isn’t ideal. It puts your spine in an unnatural posture and strains your joints and muscles. It’s best to use a pillow if you sleep on your back or side.

Neck pain

Similarly, the link between sleeping without a pillow and neck pain has major caveats.

If you’re a stomach sleeper, ditching the pillow can help your neck stay in a more natural position. But it doesn’t eliminate the need to turn your head. This can strain your neck joints and muscles, causing pain.

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For other sleeping positions, skipping the pillow can worsen or cause neck pain. That’s because sleeping on your back or side overextends your neck. Without a pillow, your neck will stay in this position all night.

Plus, if you don’t use a pillow, the pressure on your neck muscles will be unevenly distributed. You’ll be more likely to experience neck pain, stiffness, and headaches.

If you’ve always slept with a pillow, it’ll take time to get used to sleeping without one. Consider these tips if you’d like to try pillowless sleeping:

  • Gradually reduce your head support. Instead of immediately removing your pillow, start with a folded blanket or towel. Unfold the towel over time until you’re ready to sleep without one.
  • Support the rest of your body with pillows. When sleeping on your stomach, put a pillow under your stomach and pelvis to help your spine stay neutral. Place a pillow under your knees when you’re on your back or in between your knees when you’re on your side.
  • Choose the right mattress. Without a pillow, it’s even more important to have a mattress with enough support. A mattress that’s too soft will let your spine sag, resulting in back pain.

Although sleeping without a pillow may help stomach sleepers, specific research is lacking. It’s generally recommended to use a pillow if you sleep on your back or side. However, what’s most important is that you feel comfortable and pain-free in bed.

If you have neck or back pain, or if you have spine condition like scoliosis, sleeping without a pillow may be unsafe. Talk to a doctor before scrapping your pillow.

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