Popular keywords

Sleep calculator

Discover how much sleep you really need

Sleeping Without a Pillow: Pros, Cons & Tips

Fact Checked
Up to date
Update: May 17, 2023
5 min read

Written by

Manya Mishra
Content Writer
Sleeping Without A Pillow

Pillows are designed to promote healthy head, neck, and spine alignment. And while some people love to sleep on big fluffy pillows, others may find it uncomfortable. So for those feeling uncomfortable, there’s another option: Discard the pillow.

Although this might seem like a drastic change of events, there are some benefits to sleeping without a pillow. Some people say sleeping without a pillow may prevent wrinkles, improve hair texture, and even cure neck pain.

But before eliminating the pillow from the sleep routine, read on to learn more about the pros and cons of pillowless sleeping, including tips on how to do it, and make an informed decision.

Potential Benefits of Sleeping Without a Pillow

Sleeping without a pillow might only work for some and not everybody. And though there aren’t any in-depth studies, here are the commonly cited benefits of sleeping without a pillow, depending on how a person may sleep.

May Help Stomach Sleepers with Spinal Alignment 

Although stomach sleeping might not be an arguably good sleeping position because it can strain the neck and the spine, and adding a pillow may cause the neck to arch and the lower back to sink at a sharper angle. 

But stomach sleepers can benefit from going pillowless. The neck and spine may appreciate the straighter sleeping position, and stomach sleepers can achieve better spinal alignment either on a thin pillow or no pillow.

Might Reduce Neck Tension for Stomach Sleepers

As mentioned above, sleeping on the stomach can strain the neck uncomfortably. To undo the comfort, a stomach sleeper can try removing the pillow. This will keep the neck from straining or arching uncomfortably.

Possibly Improves Wrinkles and Hair

Studies suggest that face compression against the pillow during sleep may eventually contribute to wrinkles. Moreover, since the pillows are close to the face and head, it can cause the pillow to absorb body and hair oils over time; dirty pillows can damage the skin, as well as the hair. And going pillowless can prevent that from happening to some extent.

Combats Headaches

Pillows are intended to support the head and neck in a neutral position. However, a study reported that using any type of pillow, except for the latex one, can cause cervical stiffness, arm pain, and headache. And removing pillows might help combat the pains in the morning.

Alleviates Stress

It is easy to go wrong with a pillow, and if a sleeper sleeps in the wrong position, it might cause stiffness, headache, and arm pain. Sleeping wrong can also stress the neck and back, and going pillowless might help alleviate this stress.

Potential Drawbacks of Sleeping Without a Pillow

Sleeping without a pillow may have certain benefits, but it might not be all good for some sleepers. Here are some potential drawbacks of sleeping without a pillow.

Can Lead to Poor Spinal Alignment

Sleeping on the back or the side without any pillow or a flat pillow can lead to poor spine alignment. When the sleeper is on its side, there is a gap between the neck and shoulders; If a pillow doesn’t support that space, the neck can arch downward and misalign.

Similarly, sleeping on the back without a pillow, there’s a possible chance for the head to tilt back and unnaturally arch your spine. Thus, not all sleepers can go without a pillow. 

Can Increase Back Pain

As aforementioned, sleeping without a pillow can cause poor spine alignment. And due to poor spine alignment, the sleep posture is thrown off, causing the sleeper to experience a stiff or sore back in the morning.

May Cause Neck Pain

Sleeping posture is essential and prevents neck and shoulder musculoskeletal pain for the back or the side sleeper. And sleeping without a pillow can arch the neck sideways or backward uncomfortably.

May Cause Shoulder Pain or Numb Arms

When a sleeper decides to go pillowless, they might be tempted to sleep on their arm to support the neck and fill the gap between neck and shoulder. The human head typically weighs between 2.3 and 5 kilograms; this can heighten the risk of waking up with numb arms or stiff shoulders from supporting it all night.

Can Make Breathing Harder

The height of the pillow is a significant factor influencing lung capacity. When a pillow elevates the head slightly above the body at night, it allows for an open, unobstructed airway. Conversely, forgoing the pillow may cause the head to sink into the mattress and make breathing harder.

Who Should Not Sleep Without a Pillow

Because of the potential drawbacks of sleeping without a pillow, not everyone should ditch their pillow. For instance, the back and side sleeper needs a pillow to support the head and neck to keep a proper spine alignment. 

Moreover, if they discard their pillows, the head, one of the body’s heaviest parts, may hang into the mattress, arching the neck uncomfortably. Especially sleepers suffering from scoliosis or other spine conditions require a proper spine alignment when sleeping. And discarding a pillow could be dangerous, even if they are stomach sleepers.

How to Sleep Without a Pillow

After going through all the pros and cons, one question remains: how to sleep without a pillow? Following are tips if you’d like to try pillowless sleeping.

Gradually Ease Into It

Suddenly starting on a flat surface might be uncomfortable; gradually ease into it. Take baby steps, and start with a thin pillow or folded blanket. This will give the body time to adapt to a flatter surface.

Use Pillows to Support Other Areas of Your Body

If pillows under the head are out of the question, no one said anything about pillows under the legs or beside the body. When sleeping on your stomach, put a pillow under the abdomen and pelvis to help the spine stay neutral. Back sleepers can place a pillow under their knees and the side sleepers a pillow between their knees.

Make Sure Your Mattress Adequately Supports You

Does sleeping without a pillow help posture? From what’s discussed, sure they do. However, if not under the head, some sleepers find it a nuisance to have pillows around the body. 

So, to make the sleep posture comfortable, ensure the mattress can adequately support the body. Choosing a mattress that’s too soft will let the spine sag, resulting in back pain, and a hard surface may result in stiff muscles. A medium-firm mattress might be an adequate choice.

How to Find a Pillow That Works for You

If not going pillowless, it is much better to find an appropriate one. Here’s how to choose a right pillow for yourself. 

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers require a firm and thick pillow to fill the gap between the neck and shoulders. Also, ensure the pillow loft and firmness are compatible with the mattress firmness. For example, a firm mattress is compatible with a medium loft pillow, and a soft mattress that sinks in is compatible with a low loft pillow.

Back Sleepers

Since there’s not much distance between the back of the head, neck and the mattress, a pillow with a medium thickness or a small pillow might be an appropriate choice. This will keep the head from dipping too low while filling the gap comfortably. 

Stomach Sleepers

Essentially, a stomach sleeper can go without a pillow. However, if this seems uncomfortable, there are extremely low lofted pillows, or one with great compressibility. This will keep the head closer to the mattress and the neck from craning into an unnatural alignment.

Final Words

Finally, is it good to sleep without a pillow? Although specific research is lacking, sleeping without a pillow may help stomach sleepers. But, as for side or back sleepers, it is generally recommended to use a pillow, especially if the sleeper has neck pain, back pain or a spine condition like scoliosis. 

Ultimately, whether the sleeper sleeps with or without a pillow is up to them. Refer to the above tips to know which pillow suits you best.


Is sleeping without a pillow normal?

Some people who sleep on their stomachs may benefit from sleeping without a pillow, but it is not recommended for everyone. Sleeping without a pillow usually puts pressure on the neck for back and side sleepers. 

What is the healthiest sleeping position?

You should sleep on your side or back rather than your stomach. Both of these sleeping positions make it simpler to maintain a supported, balanced posture, relieving pressure on the spinal tissues and allowing your muscles to unwind and recover.

What happens if you don’t use a pillow?

Your neck muscles will experience uneven pressure if you don’t use a pillow. The likelihood of getting headaches, stiffness, and neck pain will increase.


people like this article


Written by

Manya Mishra
Content Writer
Bachelor's Degree in English Literature 7 years of experience as a content writer Has experience writing for various industries, including health and wellness, travel, and technology

Read More About Sleep Hygiene
Illustration Of Sleep Hygiene
Update: June 7, 2023

  • 4 min read

How To Sleep With Mouth Closed
Update: May 26, 2023

  • 4 min read

How To Become A Morning Person
Update: May 25, 2023

  • 5 min read

How To Sleep Alone
Update: May 18, 2023

  • 7 min read

Sharing A Bed
Update: May 24, 2023

  • 9 min read

Revenge Bedtime Procrastination
Update: May 10, 2023

  • 5 min read