Is It Okay To Sleep Without A Pillow?

We often hear stories of people waking up with neck and shoulder pain. Can you imagine climbing into bed expecting to feel well rested for the next day only to wake up feeling tight, sore muscles aching all over?

The culprit for the pain seems to be the pillow. And yet we are recommended to have one under our heads when we fall asleep. Why is that?

Can we get away with not using a pillow for sleep? What are the consequences, good or bad, of not sleeping with a pillow? How do pillows actually help us?

Are Pillows Necessary?

Sleeping with a pillow can have a lot of benefits, such as helping with acid reflux and snoring. The angle our heads can be a relieving position.

However, sometimes they aren’t necessary. Between the three common sleeping positions (side, back, and stomach), sleeping on our back and stomach may not warrant a pillow.

Adding an unnecessary pillow can lift our head enough that closes the airways to our lungs. We find that those with sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder that involves the blockage of our upper airways, can cause serious problems to our heart health and affect our day-to-day life. And all this is due to the reduced or blocked airflow to our respiratory system.

Pillows also tend to collect a lot of dust, dirt, oils from our face, and dead skin cells. By eliminating the use of a pillow, we avoid clogging our facial pores.

Ultimately, the most important consideration is whether we are sleeping well with our without a pillow.

If we find ourselves waking up with neck or shoulder pain, then a pillow might be required. If we feel better without a pillow, then it might be better to leave it off our beds until we need them again.


  • They relieve the pressure we place on the back of our heads
  • The tension in our neck and shoulder muscles is reduced
  • They fix our posture and spine alignment


  • Inducing muscular pain in the neck and shoulder
  • Promoting poor posture
  • Causing bad hair day, everyday
  • Pillow cases can cause acne

The Advantages Of Sleeping With A Pillow

There are several reasons for the importance of using a pillow for sleep:

They Relieve the Pressure We Place on the Back of Our Heads

Our heads are relatively round compared to the rest of our body. When we lay flat on our beds, the weight of our head applies its pressure onto a single point of contact.

Although skipping the pillow won’t flatten our heads, the pressure can make sleeping uncomfortable without a cushioning pillow under our head.

In turn, the pressure may be felt down our neck muscles as we unconsciously try to balance and position our head throughout the night. We may wake up with tight neck muscles the next morning.

The Tension in Our Neck and Shoulder Muscles Is Reduced

The neck and shoulder muscles are intertwined when it comes to sleep. This connection is often felt due to the body positioned in awkward ways during long hours of sleep.

With the right pillow, the neck, shoulder, and head, is provided with adequate cushioned support allowing those parts of the body to angle itself just enough to become comfortable, without extending, rolling, or twisting too far in one direction or another.

They Fix Our Posture and Spine Alignment

In the long run, improper posture can cause a grief of chronic physical pain. We don’t need to look far to find that those who work in front of a desk for long hours tend to strain their neck and shoulder muscles from overexertion.

The same can be applied to sleeping without a pillow, as our neck and shoulders work to balance the heavy head.

Other muscles and body parts can adjust in response, which can cause the sore and aching feelings of waking up from an awkward sleeping position.

The Disadvantages Of Sleeping With A Pillow

Despite the stories of what the wrong pillow can do to you, sleeping with one is still the better decision. There are several reasons why you might want to skip the pillow:

Inducing Muscular Pain in the Neck and Shoulder

Sometimes we have a pillow that isn’t right for us. Other times, they simply don’t work. It could be the height our heads are elevated up to, or the lack of support for the muscles. Whichever the case, a pillow may cause your muscles to work extra hard and flex the entire night.

Some more ecstatic sleepers may find themselves pulling and pushing their pillows throughout the night. The incorrect placement of the pillow can cause muscular pain on one side of the body over the other.

When you have too many things on your bed (a single pillow could also be too much), you might find yourself sleeping on even surfaces that causes morning aches and pain.

Promoting Poor Posture

Try sleeping on your back with a pillow, then removing it but maintain your neck level. You might notice your head is not aligned with the rest of your body. The ears can be elevated too far from the shoulders.

Side sleepers may not have a problem with this, although a predominant position tends to be the fetus (curling the entire body).

Much of the modern life is spent sitting either at a desk or on our sofa. Improper sitting and improper use of the pillow can cause hunchback. Upper back, shoulder, and neck pain can be indicative of poor posture. The last thing we want to do is make our posture worse.

By removing the pillow underneath our necks, or using a thinner one that let’s our head naturally tuck the chin in, we can improve our hunchback posture while we sleep

Causing Bad Hair Day, Everyday

If you are intimately familiar with bed hair, you might blame be blaming your pillow. And there seems to be some

When we lay down, the hair on the backside of our head is pressed into the pillow, while the top part is free to droop down with gravity.

This creates a peacock-like hairdo that is appalling and embarrassing.

Individuals with longer hair may become culprits to the messy all-over-the-place bed hair.

There isn’t a scientific answer to what causes bed hair, but some people are confident our pillow might have something to do with it.

If the pillow doesn’t seem to be helping our hair, get rid of it.

What about silk pillow cases?
We’ve heard some rumor on how silk pillow cases can help with your hair AND your skin. The argument is that softer fabrics like silk or satin can help reduce the friction applied to your face, and although this might prove true, the degree of “exfoliating effect” to your face is a scientifically untested hypothesis.

Can pillows cause hair loss? This one we weren’t able to find any scientific evidence from as well. There are a lot of anecdotal evidence (individual stories) how hair loss was averted, but we find it difficult to believe.

There are a multitude of reasons for hair loss, and we do naturally shift around in our sleep as we sleep. This can create friction, regardless of whether there we use a pillow or not.

While it makes sense that changing your pillow case frequently (say, every week) can help with skin care, we aren’t too sure how much of an impact silk can play a role for the skin or our hair.

About Pillow Cases Causing Acne…

Our face will thank us as we rid ourselves of our pillow. Pillow cases are not washed often enough. They build up dust, dirt, oil, and dead skin cells that can clog our pores and causing acne.

By getting rid of our pillows, we allow better airflow to our skin and allowing it to breathe better. This means less sweat clogging our pores, less blackhead buildup, and less contact surface that can affect sensitive skin.

We can switch out our pillow case more often, but maybe it’s easier to simply relieve ourselves of the entire cushion.

Our Final Thoughts

Everyone has different needs and preferences. Pillows aren’t necessary for sleep, but they can be great.

They do provide a lot of support that might be necessary for some people. For other people, it might be a more of a nuisance or hinder so getting rid of it might be best.

There is no right or wrong answer as to whether you should sleep with a pillow or not. Whether you do or do not is entirely up to you. Try it out, and let us know which is best for you in the comments below!

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

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