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How to Sleep Without a Pillow

sleep with pillow

Sleeping Without a Pillow: Should You Really Do It?

When someone tells us that sleeping without a pillow is a great way to stay healthy, we instantly feel like that person is crazy.

I mean, we are not cavemen, so why would we ditch our pillows when we have the chance to enjoy all the delights of modern civilization?

Well, let’s not be skeptical, as sleeping without a pillow can actually be beneficial. After all, just like animals, our bodies are biologically wired to sleep like that. Want to know more? Keep reading, and perhaps you will spend the next night without a pillow too (and will love it!).

Benefits of Sleeping Without a Pillow

sleeping without a pillowIt isn’t a secret that a proper sleeping position is beneficial for your posture, spine health, sleep quality, mood, and overall well-being. Now, while this can be achieved using a proper pillow, there are situations when your pillow can become your enemy.

You see, to sleep in the right position (with a proper spinal alignment), you need to get yourself the right pillow. You need to find something perfectly thick and high enough for your specific (most frequent) sleeping pose. And while this task might seem easy, it takes a lot of time, plus countless tries and errors.

Here’s the thing, though:

You can avoid going through so much trouble by simply sleeping without a pillow.

And while this can save your time (and money), it might also bring you some other benefits. They may include:

  • Reduced allergies. It isn’t a secret that our pillows collect dust, sweat, dead skin cells, hairs, and other stuff. Can you imagine how much buildup there is in your pillow? And your head touches it every night! This might lead to the dust mite allergy, with rashes, coughing, itchy skin and eyes, etc. By ditching your pillow, you can protect yourself from these unpleasant symptoms.
  • Improved spinal health. When sleeping on a pillow, your head and neck get elevated, which creates a curve in the spine. And that isn’t healthy at all. In fact, our spine needs to be aligned properly, without any extra curves or twists. And when you are lying down without a pillow, your spine remains in its natural position, which means it can keep its healthy state.
  • Fresher face. No matter how comfy your pillow may be, it is not doing any favors for your skin. By laying your face on it (given the fact that moving during the night creates friction), you put pressure on your skin. This results in some extra wrinkles and lines. Additionally, the bacteria on the cover (and the dust hidden in the pillow filling) can irritate your skin, which is especially dangerous for acne-prone people.
  • Lower chances of neck pain. You see, when sleeping on an unsuitable pillow, you will experience improper back alignment, which results in reduced blood flow, tense neck muscles, and, consequently, neck pain. By ditching your old pillow, you will allow your neck to remain in its natural position, thus reducing the risk of waking up in pain.
  • Less stress. When sleeping on an improper pillow, you might feel uncomfortable during the night. This leads to tossing, turning, fewer hours of sleep, and, as a result, irritation and bad mood in the morning. By ditching your old pillow, you can ditch all these issues and become less stressed.
  • Fewer (or no) headaches. An unsuitable pillow can create a neck curve and reduced blood flow to the head. As a result, you wake up with a headache. And probably with a desire to throw your old pillow away. That’s actually a good idea since sleeping without a pillow keeps your neck and head in a neutral position, which means no more headaches in the mornings.
  • Better sleep quality overall. When you don’t use a pillow to support or elevate your neck and head, your body naturally finds an optimal position during the night. As a result, you sleep better and feel more rested in the morning. I feel like this single reason is enough to start sleeping without a pillow!

How to Sleep Without a Pillow

Have you now decided to ditch your old pillow? Yay! Get ready to start sleeping better!

Here’s the thing, though:

You need to proceed with this gradually. By removing your pillow right away, you will put yourself (and your body) under stress, which is always bad. You need to give your body some time to adapt to this new sleep habit so that you could smoothly change the way you sleep.

What you might want to do is gradually decrease the support (the thickness of your pillow). How do you do that, you may ask?

It’s pretty simple:

Get a towel (or a cloth, or a thin blanket) and fold it so that it would be just as thick as your pillow. Then, start to unfold it after each night (or every couple of nights), making your towel thinner every time.

Continue until you are ready to get rid of it and sleep without any support for your neck and head. By then, your body will be prepared for your new sleeping habit. The neck and the head will naturally find the most optimal position, and the benefits will not keep you waiting.

When You Actually Need to Sleep with a Pillow

While ditching your old pillow is potentially very beneficial, there are situations when you should abstain from such experiments. After all, completely changing your sleep may be very stressful, which isn’t a good thing when you are dealing with certain health conditions.

So, these are the cases when you probably shouldn’t get rid of your pillow:

  • Serious back issues. If you have some medical problems with your back (or neck, for that matter), it might be dangerous to leave it without support during the night. In such a case, the safest option is to continue sleeping on a pillow. But it’s still important to get a proper one. You might even want to consider an orthopedic pillow, something designed specifically for your condition and back issues.
  • Acid reflux. This is when elevating your head using a pillow is actually recommended. You see, by placing your head (and, naturally, esophagus) higher than your stomach (with the help of your pillow), you can actually prevent the acid reflux. So, if you often suffer from it, the condition might only get worse when sleeping without a pillow.
  • Shoulder pain. Now, you can actually try to give up sleeping on your pillow. But when suffering from shoulder pain, you should place your pillow in front of you and kind of hug it when sleeping. Make sure you don’t lie on the hurting shoulder (it should be the one hugging the pillow). If both of your shoulders are in pain, you should sleep on your back, without a pillow or on a really thin one.

What About the Sleeping Position?

The sleeping position does matter, especially when you are considering getting rid of your pillow and adopting a new sleeping habit.

So, here are some recommendations concerning the way you sleep:

  • Side sleepers are advised to always use a pillow. You see, when sleeping on the side, your spine needs to remain straight and neutral. However, when lying on one side, your neck is elevated (because you are basically lying on your shoulder), and the head falls down. This creates a curve in the neck, which might lead to pain and other issues. So, your pillow (preferably a thick one) needs to fill the space between the shoulder and the neck so that your neck does not curve. However, you can still try to sleep without a pillow but using your arm as one, just like cavemen did. Perhaps, you will feel comfortable this way.
  • Back sleepers are safe to ditch their pillows. When lying on your back, you do not actually need the support for your head and neck. Your spine will align naturally, your head will rest on the mattress, and your body will be in a proper straight line.
  • Stomach sleepers can also benefit from sleeping without a pillow. In fact, when sleeping on your stomach using a pillow, your head, neck, and sometimes chest are elevated, which creates an unwanted curve in the spine. By getting rid of your pillow, you can save yourself from this issue, allowing your spine to remain properly aligned.

6 thoughts on “How to Sleep Without a Pillow”

  1. Great info! I have major issues with my neck that would take too long to explain! I have started with no pillow the last two nights. I presently roll a small towel under the nape of my neck. I also have a tempurPedic mattress so the alignment is easy to achieve. I have been desperate for relief of my pain and I will continue to try this and see what happens!! Can’t be any worse than it is now!!

  2. *** Alcohol drinkers need to watch & not sleep on their back. FYI Always put a dru Mmmm k or passed out person on their side on case they vomit in their sleep & could choke to death.

  3. Wow…some great information here.
    I will be trying the gradual no pillow introduction using a rolled towel.
    I suffer from a stiff neck and back pain after every nights sleep.
    So I am looking for something to stop all this pain.
    Thanks again for your helpful suggestions.


  4. Interesting article. My body has been ditching the pillow while I’m asleep for the last few weeks and I’ve noticed that my neck and shoulders don’t hurt when I sleep without it. (Which is what prompted me to google “sleeping without a pillow” and here we are!) Thank you!

  5. What about the distribution of blood during sleep? Sleeping without a pillow should provide the brain with slightly more blood. The brain is the one organ that needs more oxygen than any other organ!


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