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Sleeping Without a Pillow: The Ultimate Guide

By: S I
Updated on: April 05, 2024

  • Sleeping without a pillow can potentially reduce wrinkles by minimizing facial skin compression, particularly when using silk pillowcases that can compress skin overnight.
  • A thinner or lower loft pillow, folded blankets, or towels can be used as gradual steps toward transitioning to pillow-free sleep, allowing the body to adjust to a flatter sleeping surface.
  • Stomach sleepers might benefit from using a slim pillow under their hips to help maintain a more aligned spine during sleep without necessitating a full pillow for the head.
  • The choice to sleep without a pillow or with a specific type of pillow should consider individual sleep positions (side, back, or stomach) and the need for spinal alignment and support for the head, neck, and shoulders.

A good night’s sleep is essential for our overall well-being, and many of us consider our pillows integral to our sleep routine. However, it may come as a surprise that sleeping without a pillow can have its own set of benefits and drawbacks. This comprehensive guide will explore who should consider sleeping without a pillow, the potential pros and cons, and provide tips on transitioning to pillow-free sleep. So, if you’re curious about whether ditching your pillow could improve your sleep, keep reading!

Should You Sleep Without a Pillow?

Pillows have traditionally been used to cushion the head and support the neck’s natural curvature. However, not everyone may find a pillow necessary for achieving optimal sleep posture. The decision to sleep without a pillow depends on various factors, including your sleep position, posture, and overall comfort. Let’s delve into the benefits and drawbacks of sleeping without a pillow so you can decide what works best for you.

Potential Pros of Sleeping Without a Pillow

Sleeping without a pillow might be good for some people and has advantages.

Improves Posture

Every way you sleep affects your body posture differently and determines if using a pillow is necessary or not. While stomach sleepers may benefit from sleeping without a pillow to maintain a more neutral position for their head, neck, shoulders, and upper back, back and side sleepers generally require a pillow for proper support and alignment.

Relieves Neck and Back Pain

Using a pillow while sleeping can sometimes cause spine misalignment and result in back or neck discomfort, especially for stomach sleepers. Sleeping without a pillow might help stomach sleepers feel better in their neck and back. However, it’s crucial to know that turning the head to the side while sleeping can still lead to discomfort.

Prevents Wrinkles and Hair Damage

Sleeping with one side of your face pressed against a full silk pillowcase can compress the skin and contribute to wrinkles. Sleeping without a pillow can reduce facial skin compression, making it an effective choice for preventing wrinkles. Additionally, pillows may cause friction and absorb natural oils, potentially damaging hair. While research on this topic is lacking, choosing a smoother material for your pillowcase may help mitigate this concern.

Potential Cons of Sleeping Without a Pillow

Sleeping without a pillow can also have potential drawbacks or cons for some people:

Impairs Posture

Maintaining neutral spine alignment is crucial for good sleep posture. Sleeping without a pillow can impair posture, especially for side sleepers requiring adequate support to align their heads, necks, and upper backs. Back sleepers may have poor posture and also experience discomfort as their heads sag backward without the support of a pillow.

Worsens Neck and Back Pain

The absence of a pillow might cause side and back sleepers to experience neck and upper back discomfort upon waking up. The unnatural position and lack of proper alignment can lead to joint and muscle tension, potentially contributing to headaches and lower back pain. While stomach sleepers may experience some relief from pain, lying on the stomach with the head turned to one side can still strain the neck.

Hinders Breathing

A pillow slightly raises the head and body pillow, helping to open up the airway and facilitate easier breathing, especially for side and back sleepers. Without a pillow, the head and neck can sag, constricting the airways and potentially causing breathing difficulties, snoring, and aggravating symptoms of sleep apnea.

Factors to Consider Before Sleeping Without a Pillow

Before deciding to sleep without a pillow, it’s important to consider several factors, including your sleep position, mattress support, and overall health. Let’s explore these factors in detail to help you make a well-informed choice.

Your Sleeping Position

The three main sleep positions are side sleeping, back sleeping, and stomach sleeping. While stomach sleepers may benefit from sleeping without a pillow, side sleepers typically require robust support to maintain good posture and alignment. Back sleepers may be able to sleep without a pillow, but they may experience discomfort as their heads naturally tilt downward, putting pressure on the spine-aligned neck.

Your Mattress Support

The firmness and support of your mattress also play a crucial role in your sleep comfort, whether you choose to use a pillow or not. Firm mattresses provide less yielding surfaces, and while some sleepers enjoy support from flat surfaces and minimal contouring, they may still prefer a pillow for cushioning. Softer mattresses, on the other hand, can offer adequate cushioning for the head without the need for a pillow. It’s essential to select the right mattress firmness level for your body type and sleep position, especially if you decide to sleep without a pillow.

Your Health

Consider any pre-existing health conditions before eliminating your pillow. Certain sleepers, such as those with sleep apnea, joint issues, acid reflux, or serious back pain, may experience negative effects from sleeping without a pillow. If you’re unsure whether sleeping without a pillow suits your health, it’s always wise to consult your doctor.

Transitioning to Pillow-Free Sleep

If you’ve decided to give sleeping without a pillow a try, it’s essential to approach the transition with care. Here are some tips to help you ease into pillow-free sleep:

Ease Into It

Transitioning to pillow-free sleep can feel extreme initially. Start by using a low loft pillow, a lower loft pillow, or a folded blanket or towel to observe how your body responds to the change. If you experience no pain and sleep well, slowly shorten your pillow or stop using it completely.

Use Pillows Elsewhere

While you may not need a pillow for your head, consider using pillows for other parts of your body to enhance comfort and improve alignment. If you sleep on your stomach, you can put a pillow under your hips to help your back stay aligned. For back sleepers, tucking a pillow under the knees can keep your spine in line and ease pressure on your lower back. Many side sleepers find placing a pillow between their knees helps improve their posture.

Try a Different Sleeping Position

If you’re a side sleeper who typically requires a pillow for support, consider experimenting with sleeping on your stomach without a pillow. This alternative sleep position may offer better comfort and alignment without the need for a firm pillow, either.

Choose the Right Mattress

Regardless of whether you decide to sleep without a pillow, having a quality mattress that provides proper support is crucial for a good night’s sleep. Consider your sleep style, body weight, and sleep quality, and comfort preferences when selecting the right mattress type and firmness level.

See Also: What to Do With Old Pillows

How to Start Sleeping Without a Pillow

Transitioning back to sleeping without a pillow might feel daunting, but there are methods to ease the adjustment:

  • Take Small Steps: Start by using a thinner pillow or a folded blanket to allow your body to get used to a flatter surface over time.
  • Assess Your Sleeping Arrangement: Ensure that your mattress suits your sleeping style and body size. A quality pillow cannot compensate for a mattress that doesn’t provide adequate support for proper posture. A well-suited mattress can significantly enhance comfort and make the shift to sleeping without a pillow more manageable.
  • Explore Body Support: For individuals who sleep on their stomachs, using a slim pillow under the hips can be beneficial. This action helps elevate the midsection, promoting a more aligned spine during sleep.

These strategies can help make sleeping without a pillow more manageable and comfortable.

Choosing the Right Pillow

If you wake up feeling stiff and sore, your pillow might be the culprit. First, check if your pillow suits your sleeping style. Changing your pillow could be better than having no pillow at all, especially if it’s old. Here’s what you need to know:

Side Sleepers

If you sleep on your side, go for a firm, thick pillow. It should support the gap between your back, neck muscles, and shoulders. A pillow that is too thin might not keep your head and neck level with your spine. And if it’s too thick, it can tilt your head at a high angle. You can also try placing a thinner pillow between your knees to ease back pain. Some side sleepers like pillows they can fold for extra height. Adjustable pillows made of shredded memory foam or buckwheat work well because you can add or remove filling as needed.

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers need a medium-high pillow to align their neck with their spine. If it is a very thin pillow that’s too thick, your neck might curve too much forward. Pillows made of memory foam or latex with medium firmness work well. You can also use a cervical pillow or a rolled towel under your neck to fill the gap. Placing a thin pillow under your knees or lower back can ease pressure on the lower spine for some back sleepers.

Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers can use a soft, low pillow to keep their head and neck aligned. Plusher pillows made of down or alternatives keep the head closer to the mattress, reducing neck strain. Avoid higher or firmer pillows as they elevate the head and neck at an uncomfortable angle. For those who switch positions, a combination pillow with different areas for side and back sleeping might be useful.


Is sleeping without a pillow good for everyone?

Individual preferences and physical conditions vary. While some find it beneficial, others may not feel comfortable in a natural position or may experience neck strain. Consulting with a healthcare professional is advisable.

Can pillowless sleep improve posture?

For some individuals, sleeping without a pillow may contribute to better spinal alignment and posture. However, results vary depending on personal factors and sleep habits.

How do I adjust to sleeping without a pillow?

Start gradually by reducing pillow height or trying different sleep positions. Give your body time to adapt, and if discomfort persists, consider seeking guidance from a healthcare provider.

Is it normal to experience initial discomfort when switching to pillowless sleep?

Yes, it’s common to experience discomfort initially as your body adjusts to the new sleep habit. Being patient and keeping at it is really important during this time of change.

Are there specific sleep positions better suited for pillowless sleep?

Certain sleep positions, like back or side sleeping, might be more comfortable for pillowless sleep. Experimenting with different sleeping positions can help find the most suitable one.

Can pillowless sleep alleviate neck pain?

For some individuals, pillowless sleep has helped reduce neck pain by promoting better spinal alignment. However, it’s essential to consider individual differences and seek professional advice if needed.


Sleeping without a pillow can have its own set of benefits and drawbacks, depending on your sleep position, posture, and overall comfort. Stomach sleepers might feel better without a pillow, but side and back sleepers usually need a pillow for good support and to keep their spine aligned properly. It’s important to consider factors such as your sleep position, mattress support, and overall health before making the decision to sleep without a pillow. If you decide to try it, be sure to ease into the transition and pay attention to how your body responds. Remember, the most important thing is to find the sleeping arrangement that helps you get the best sleep.


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