Is sleeping without a pillow a good idea? Sleep experts explain
The Joint’s Dr. Kevin Lees, D.C. is featured in an article from Real Homes on the pros and cons of sleeping without a pillow.
Original article published by Real Homes on June 7th, 2023 on RealHomes.com
By Eve Smallman
I love my super-comfy pillow. Resting my sleepy li’l head on it and scrolling through TikTok with a hot choc is a highlight of my day. But what happens if you end up in a sitch when you’re pillowless? It can happen, and you’ve gotta be prepared.
I’m talking crashing on your friend’s floor after a night out, rolling up to an Airbnb that isn’t all that, and even just falling out with your boo and sleeping on the couch. There are lots of reasons why you may want to sleep without a pillow. You may even just want to give sleeping a go without one, just to test out any potential health benefits. That’s okay too!
I’ve spoken to experts to find out why you might want to sleep without a pillow, the pros and cons of doing so, and how it can affect your sleep and body. So, whether you’re hunkering down for a night’s sleep sans cushioning or debating doing so, you’ve got all the deets you need.
Head on down for everything you need to know…
WHY SLEEP WITHOUT A PILLOW?
Okay, so it turns out there are lots of reasons why someone may want to sleep without a pillow, besides necessity. “Some pillows can be too thick, pushing the head and neck forward or to the side which can lead to neck pain or headaches,” explains Dr. Kevin Lees, director of chiropractic operations at The Joint Chiropractic. “Stomach sleepers may feel any pillow is uncomfortable, putting pressure on their neck and making it more difficult to breathe.”
In fact, for stomach sleepers, it can be a pretty good idea. “The main reason to sleep without a pillow is that it could help improve sleep posture for stomach sleepers,” says Jill Zwarensteyn, certified sleep science coach at Sleep Advisor. “Not using a pillow can help maintain the natural shape of the spine and neck, preventing the head and neck from curving upward, which could otherwise lead to neck strain.”
PROS OF SLEEPING WITHOUT A PILLOW
Sleep on your tum? Listen up. There are lots of good reasons for you to sleep without a pillow. Lees says: “Stomach sleepers often twist their neck to allow for easy breathing, and a pillow will also push the head and neck backward, increasing pressure on the lower neck and upper back.” Because of this, he says that sleepers may feel less neck pressure and breathe easier without a pillow.
There’s also a host of benefits for other sleepers as well. “Opting for no pillow can offer improved comfort, better breathing, reduced tension on pressure points, and decreased friction to cause facial wrinkles and acne,” adds Carlie Gasia, certified sleep science coach at Sleepopolis.
CONS OF SLEEPING WITHOUT A PILLOW
Unfortunately, not every kind of sleeper can benefit from going without a pillow. Both back and side sleepers need support to help keep the spine in a neutral position. “Not having any support can lead to the neck bending to the side or back at an awkward angle,” Lees tells me.
If you sleep in these positions and sleep without a pillow, you could injure yourself and have a poor night’s sleep. “You’ll be more at risk of neck pain, stiffness, and headaches without a pillow because of the unevenly distributed pressure on your neck muscles,” adds Dr. Chris Winter, a sleep health expert at Mattress Firm. “To help keep your neck and spine neutral, it’s best to use a pillow.” Got it.
HOW CAN SLEEPING WITHOUT A PILLOW AFFECT A PERSON’S HEALTH?
Depending on how you sleep, sleeping without a pillow could improve sleep posture and, in turn, improve sleep quality. “This can result in a person waking up feeling more rested, with reduced neck pain,” explains Zwarensteyn. “If this better posture is achieved without a pillow, you should feel relief in the back and neck where a pillow was causing strain.”
Good neck support is a key sleep aid, which a pillow def provides for a lot of people. “If the neck isn’t properly supported, this may lead to neck pain, headaches, shoulder pain, or even radiation and numbness in the arms,” says Lees. “Some may find sleeping on their back without a pillow makes it difficult to breathe.” He also adds that pressure on the joints in the neck can also lead to more chronic problems over time, including inflammation and spasms. That does not sound like fun.
Comfort is also one of the most important things for a good night’s sleep, and should keep in mind when experimenting without a pillow. “Ultimately, it’s about what makes you feel most comfortable and allows you to sleep in a healthy posture,” adds Zwarensteyn.
Stomach sleepers can definitely benefit from sleeping without a pillow, as it has a host of advantages for them. For those who sleep in other positions though, it can have some major side effects. Luckily, these come from not having a pillow long-term, so if you only have to deal with one night without one, don’t stress. And if you are thinking of sleeping without one full-time, def consult with your doctor — health comes first always, bestie.
IS IT OKAY IF I SLEEP WITHOUT A PILLOW?
For a couple of nights, yes it’s totally fine to sleep without a pillow. Long-term, there can be benefits for stomach sleepers, but there can also be neck pain and discomfort for those who sleep on their back or sides.
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF SLEEPING WITHOUT A PILLOW
Stomach sleepers can enjoy a range of benefits when sleeping without a pillow, such as improved posture, less neck strain, and breathing easier. Other sleepers may also find it reduces tension on pressure points and decreases friction that causes wrinkles and lines.
About The Joint Chiropractic
The Joint Corp. revolutionized access to chiropractic care when it introduced its retail health care business model in 2010. Today, it is the nation’s largest operator, manager and franchisor of chiropractic clinics through The Joint Chiropractic network. The company is making quality care convenient and affordable, while eliminating the need for insurance, for millions of patients seeking pain relief and ongoing wellness. With 800+ locations nationwide and nearly 11 million patient visits annually, The Joint Chiropractic is a key leader in the chiropractic industry. Ranked number one on Forbes’ 2022 America’s Best Small Companies list, number three on Fortune’s 100 Fastest-Growing Companies list and consistently named to Franchise Times “Top 400+ Franchises” and Entrepreneur’s “Franchise 500®” lists, The Joint Chiropractic is an innovative force, where healthcare meets retail. For more information, visit www.thejoint.com.
The Joint Corp. is a franchisor of clinics and an operator of clinics in certain states. In Arkansas, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming, The Joint Corp. and its franchisees provide management services to affiliated professional chiropractic practices.
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