Which Is Better: Sleeping With or Without a Pillow?

Sleep. It’s essential to good health and wellness. In fact, sleep takes up at least 1/3 of our lives and time here on earth. (If you live to be 75, you’ll sleep for about 25 years!) The vast majority of people sleep with a pillow at night, but is that really the best choice? Some say no, and that’s the subject of today’s article; Which Is Better: Sleeping With or Without a Pillow?

Yes, some people sleep without any pillow at all and claim it’s better for their health. Scientists agree with them, to a point, and agree that there are some benefits to sleeping sans your fluffy head support. Below we’ll take a look at why and the supposed benefits of sleeping without a pillow. Enjoy.

Sleeping Without a Pillow Can (Possibly) Improve Your Posture

One of the most significant benefits touted by those who don’t use pillows is that sleeping without one can improve your posture. That might be true, at least for people who sleep mainly on their stomachs. 

The reason why is that when you sleep on your stomach, your spine is forced into an unnatural, twisted position. Most of your weight is put squarely on your mid-body, and it places excessive stress on your neck and low back. In short, your spine can’t maintain its natural (and incredibly important) curvature. 

Sleeping without a pillow in this position can reduce some of that stress, helping you to sleep better and wake up more refreshed and with less back and neck pain. 

On the other hand, if you sleep on your back or side, a pillow can still be beneficial as it keeps your spine correctly in alignment. So, again, if you sleep on your stomach, ditching your pillow might be a good idea. In any other position, though, a pillow offers helpful support. Over the years, it may help you to maintain or even improve your posture.

Even On Your Stomach, a Pillow Can Be Helpful

Yes, tossing your pillow if you sleep on your stomach can, for some people, be a good thing. However, with or without a pillow, you’ll still be forced to turn your head to one side or the other when sleeping, which can stress the joints and muscles in your neck and upper back.

To lessen this neck stress, using a pillow under your pelvis is a great idea. By doing so, you lift your body slightly, which decreases the amount of pressure on your neck and low back. So even if you sleep better without one under your noggin, a pillow can still be helpful if you’re a stomach sleeper.

Sleeping Without a Pillow Can Cause Neck Pain

If you sleep on your side or your back, a pillow is still recommended. That’s because, in those positions, your neck will be forced into an unnatural position without a pillow, which could cause stress, strain, and pain (as well as migraines and other headaches). Also, without a pillow, the pressure on your neck and upper-back muscle will be tremendous, especially after a few hours in this unnatural position. That’s why, if you sleep on your side or back, a pillow is still recommended. (Waking up with a headache is the absolute worst.)

Does Sleeping Without a Pillow Help Your Hair?

This is a question that many people ask even though, frankly, if you sleep well, the last thing you should worry about is your hair.  Then again, hair is vital (at least for some) to feel good about yourself, so anything that might help it is a good thing. 

Is one of those things sleeping without a pillow? Probably not, although the type of pillowcase you use might make a difference. The reason why is that cotton absorbs oil, which is naturally present in all hair. If your pillowcase absorbs too much oil, your hair may get ‘frizzy’ and dried out. Switching to a silk pillowcase is thus a better choice as it doesn’t absorb your hair’s natural oils.

Sleeping Without a Pillow Might be Unsafe For Some People

For most people, ditching their pillow could be a good thing or might cause some extra pain and strain. For a minority, though, sleeping without a pillow could be dangerous. That includes anyone who has moderate to severe scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine. Without a pillow, the symptoms scoliosis causes (there are many) could be further exacerbated and cause life-threatening results. 

Take Your Time When Changing from Pillow to No Pillow

One caveat when ditching your pillow is to do it gradually. If you’ve been sleeping with a pillow your entire life and you suddenly chuck it away one day, your body is going to be very upset, at least for a while. You’ll likely have increased neck and low back pain and wake up feeling like crap. 

Instead, take your time, be safe and try a few of the tips below:

Use a folded towel. 

Rather than using no pillow right away, use a folded towel (or small blanket) and, as you get used to it, unfold the towel to make it flatter every night until you no longer need it at all.

Make sure your mattress is high quality and supportive.

Having an inferior-quality mattress is one of the worst things for your body, your sleep, and your life. (Remember, you’ll be on that mattress 1/3 of your life!) That’s why if your mattress is low quality (or old as the hills), replacing it is an excellent idea and will give you much better support while sleeping, pillow or not.

Support your body with pillows

Yes, your head pillow is gone, but you can still use pillows to support the rest of your body, including your legs and knees. For example, while sleeping on your back, put a pillow under your knees. On your side, place one between your knees. (Knees play a big part in this one.)

Last Words

Here’s the thing; not a lot of research has been done to determine if sleeping without a pillow is actually better for you than sleeping with a pillow. The most important things to keep in mind are that you’re comfortable and can sleep easily without waking. Also, in the morning, you feel refreshed and recharged rather than stressed out, stiff, or in pain. With or without a pillow, that’s the most important outcome to achieve

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