Is It Better For Your Neck And Spine To Sleep With Or Without A Pillow?

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Most of us have experienced sleep deprivation. This can be devastating and prevent us from performing even the most straightforward daily tasks (learn tricks to beat it). Do you sometimes wake up with a sore neck? And do you often greet the day with a terrible headache? Perhaps you experienced rapid heartbeats and anxiety in the chest when you woke up early for no reason?

Sadly, these are only some of the signs that you aren't getting quality sleep. What you might not know is that the cause of these issues can be the pillows you sleep on. It seems like a perfect crime. No, one will judge pillows because of their softness. Do you believe that they are indispensable for a good night sleep? Think again. They can harm you without you suspecting anything.

We will guide you to as to why you should get rid of your good old pillows and start sleeping without them. Without any pillow for that matter. You may ask why?

Can't sleep without a pillow?
If you wish to continue using a pillow while you transition to a pillow-less sleep, check out our recommendations for neck-and-spine-friendly pillows and other comfortable pillows for every sleeping position.
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Because It Will Benefit Your Neck and Your Back

Sleeping without pillows will help your back extend, and you will rest in a natural position without any consequences or aches. Using a pillow that is too soft can strain your neck muscles and even decrease the blood flow to your head. If your head tilts downward on a pillow that doesn’t provide adequate support for your head, then your airflow through the respiratory system will be significantly reduced. Because of this, you will most likely wake up the next morning feeling light-headed or even with a headache.

On the other hand, using a thick pillow or even stacking more pillows underneath your head and neck will deform your position of the spine and induce pain in your back. Sleeping like this for long periods will only cause chronic back pain and frequent muscle strain. If you are suddenly starting to experience any sort of pain in the morning, get rid of your current set of pillows immediately. Try to sleep one night without any head and neck support to see if the back or neck pain is gone the next morning.

Find out more about down vs. feather pillows.

back and neck pane

You Will Feel Well Rested In the Morning

Not using any neck and head support during sleep will allow your body to find an optimal position for rest. When we use pillows that do not provide proper support, our body has to compensate by engaging neck or back muscles. This leads to even more strain at a time when your body is supposed to recover from everyday stress. Muscles and tendons will work overtime, and the added pressure will accumulate and manifest as pain.

When they get excessive strain for long periods of time, the pain becomes chronic. To get rid of this persistent pain you must get professional help from your doctor and change your sleeping habits. Some of the symptoms include restless sleeping, frequent waking up during sleep and often changing your position in bed. All of this leads to sleep deprivation and induces increased anxiety and stress. Make sure to gently stretch out in the morning as soon as you wake up. This will benefit you and your body.

Your Face Will Thank You for Getting Rid Of Pillows

There is no way your skin can benefit from being pressed on the pillow for hours at a time. Do not fool yourselves, please. By pressing your face onto the surface of a pillow will prevent it from being able to perspire and breathe. You are preventing the pores on the skin to have access to air. This results in an increase of perspiration and aid in the forming of all the grease and oil on your face. Blackheads also form in the skin's pores because added dust and impurities on the pillow's surface come in contact with your face.

Not to mention grime that can colonize your pillow if you don't clean it often, that can attack your skin during the night.

skin problems

Okay. So How Do I Start Sleeping Without Pillows?

Well, I am glad you asked. It is quite simple. There are good ways of getting rid of them permanently and never going back to using them. For a start, you can use a folded cloth. This can be any thicker cloth that, when folded, will give you some height while sleeping. Make sure it isn’t too high when you fold it over. Start with the height that will keep your neck and head leveled with our back when you rest on it. It is okay if your head is tilted slightly upward. Then, during the next few weeks, reduce the height of your new resting cloth until you feel comfortable when your head and neck are completely in line with your body.

Is Sleeping Pillowless for Everyone?

If you’re tempted to make the change and begin phasing out your old pillow in favor of a more natural feel, you might be wondering if this is the best option for everyone. After sleeping with a pillow for your whole life, you’re likely to become accustomed to it, so you might feel some pain at first. However, if this pain persists or becomes unmanageable you’ll want to see your doctor for a second opinion. 

Not every sleeping position will feel as comfortable without a pillow, especially if you have existing neck injuries. The benefits may outweigh the initial discomfort for some, though for others it might not be the right choice. The decision ultimately depends on user preference. 


Once you settle in and start sleeping this way, you will never even think about going back to using pillows anymore. Given the positive feedback from users who saw improvements in their back ache problems and neck pain, we can safely say that even occasional sleeping this way can benefit and help relieve some of the issues regarding spinal and neck-related injury or any other type of discomfort. If you find that you cannot get used to sleeping without pillows, it is always easy to go back to your usual routine of sleep.

Further Reading for those who still prefer a good pillow:

Author: Sleep Advisor

Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.

Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.

The Sleep Advisor