Does sleeping without a pillow effect snoring? Is it better to sleep with or without a pillow? These questions answered and more. Find out what the science says.
Some people love sleeping on big, fluffy pillows, others prefer to rest their head on ones that are thinner or firmer. There are also dedicated anti-snoring pillows.
Regardless of the differences in personal preference, it’s true to say most people like to lay their head on a pillow at night.
However, there are also people who find sleeping without a pillow is the best way to wake up feeling energized and refreshed.
If the idea of ditching your pillow gets you shaking your head, don’t worry about it. You are not alone. An army of pillow-huggers all over the world will be right by your side.
Nevertheless, there are valid arguments to support the idea of making your bed a pillow-free zone.
As with so many other things in life, there is no one rule that fits all. What works well for one person may be a disaster for the next. Obese or overweight people should sleep with a pillow as it can be a cause for snoring.
The way you choose to sleep is a very personal thing. It’s not about finding the “best way to sleep“, it’s about finding the best way for you. Some people choose to forgo the bed altogether and sleep on the floor – not ideal if you ask me,
If you always get a good night’s sleep and spend your days feeling bright-eyed and busy-tailed, be it with a pillow or without a pillow, you’ve obviously found the best way to go.
If you find it hard to drop off, wake up often during the night, and have a reputation for being a breakfast table grouch, it’s clear something is wrong.
Many things can interfere with sleep. Not surprisingly, there are also plenty of ways to remedy the problem. Sleeping without a pillow is just one of them but it won’t be the best one for all.
Article Update: MADs are the most popular and widely sold devices to help stop snoring. Which MADs come top in recent polls?
What Will I Learn?
Pillows and Posture
The best way to sleep is to ensure your spine and neck are as straight as possible. In certain circumstances, going to sleep without a pillow is the best way to do it. Sleeping without a pillow is not recommended for women who snore while pregnant though.
Let’s not lose sight of the fact that one of the main things a pillow does is elevate the head. You may not always need this.
Some people will tell you sleeping with a pillow is a good way to keep your spine in a neutral position. If you push them further, they may go on to say pillows support good posture by aligning your neck with the rest of your body.
There’s a lot of truth to these claims. The right pillow can go a long way to doing these things. The problem is some pillows are thicker than others.
The number of pillows you use can make a difference as well. Many people use two pillows instead of one. Some people even sprinkle a few drops of essential oils such as lavender or fennel on their pillow.
There are also anti-snore products that are designed to be used with pillows – Smart Nora for example.
According to Rochester University good sleeping posture helps your back
Using too many pillows or sleeping on ones that are too thick can elevate your head to the point your neck and body are no longer inline. The resulting poor sleeping posture could cause neck pain.
Think about how straight your spinal column is likely to be when you are lying on your back, resting your head on a couple of big pillows.
Now think about how straight it’s would be if you were lying flat on your back with a thinner pillow under your head. There every chance your sleeping posture may be far better minus the big pillows.
However, if you prefer to go to sleep on your side, a good, thick pillow can lift your head up sufficiently to compensate for the width of your shoulders. By doing so it will support a better sleeping posture by keeping your vertebrae in line.
Sleeping Position is Important
If you are presently considering the pros and cons of going to sleep without a pillow, you may want to spend some time thinking about your normal sleep position.
Do you like to sleep on your back, turn on your side, or spend the night on your stomach? Your normal sleeping position should be the main deciding factor when you are considering the benefits of going pillow-free.
Although it’s possible to sleep in a sitting position, unless you are on an overnight coach journey or transatlantic flight sleeping in a chair is not ideal. The best way to sleep is lying down and there are only three ways to do it:
- Lying on your back
- Lying on your side
- Sleeping on your stomach
However, according to the Sleep Council, there are six. That doesn’t include sleeping in a sitting position.
Nor does it include any radical sleep endeavors such as snoozing on your feet or while standing on your head.
The Sleep Council details six positions instead of three because there are a few different ways you can sleep on your back. The same is true of sleeping on your side.
Depending on the way you sleep, using a pillow may be very good for you or extremely bad.
Lying on Your Back
There are two main ways to sleep on your back:
When you sleep in the Soldier position, you are flat on your back with your arms at your sides and your legs slightly apart.
Why’s it called Soldier? The Sleep Council doesn’t explain. I’m guessing it’s because, when viewed from above, you are in a kind of marching position.
Sleeping flat on your back in the soldier position may be a good way to alleviate lower back pain, but there’s a flip-side. It also increases the likelihood of snoring.
When you sleep in the Starfish position, your hands are above your head instead of down by your side. You may have one or both of them under your head or beneath your pillow.
Starfish is one of the least popular sleeping positions and, like Soldier, it may increase the likelihood of snoring.
Nevertheless, sleeping on your back in either position is a good way to prevent night-time attacks of acid reflux.
When you are sleeping on your back, it’s generally best to use a pillow. However, you may want to think twice about using more than one or going too thick. Doing so may overly elevate your head, leading to neck pain.
Lying on Your Side
There are three ways to sleep lying on your side:
There’s no big mystery about the Log sleeping position. Your legs are straight and your arms are by your sides. It puts your body in such a straight position, you could be said to be sleeping like a log.
When you are sleeping like a log or adopting any other side-sleeping position, it’s always best to use a pillow. It’s the only way to keep your neck and spine in a nice straight line.
Depending on how broad your shoulders are, you may even need to use two pillows instead of one.
Fetus is one of the most popular sleeping position of all. You lie on your side and pull your knees up towards your chest.
Your arms will be bent at the elbows and placed in front of you. When people sleep in this position they often have one hand underneath their pillow and the other on top.
According to a survey performed by sleep specialist Chris Idzikowski, 41% of all sleepers favor the Fetus position.
The Yearner sleep position is different again. The arms reach more to the front, mimicking the effect of offering an embrace. One arm is often below the pillow while the other is on top.
When you sleep in the Yearner position, your legs are pulled up slightly and your knees are bent.
Sleeping on Your Stomach
There’s only really one way to sleep on your stomach. The Sleep Council calls the position the Freefaller.
When you adopt this sleeping position, you will be lying on your stomach with your head turned to one side and your arms wrapped around your pillow.
Sleeping in the Freefaller position is a good way to reduce snoring, but it places extra pressure on the neck and back. A lot of chiropractors say laying on your stomach is one of the most unhealthy sleep positions there is.
If you normally sleep on your stomach in the Freefaller position, it’s probably best to try sleeping without a pillow. Doing so will help take some of the pressure off your neck.
Sleeping Without a Pillow: Additional Advantages
If you normally sleep with a pillow, unless you spend most of your nights sleeping on your stomach, going pillow-free is probably a bad idea. Your first consideration should always be your sleep posture.
However, there are also a few popular arguments against sleeping with a pillow so it’s only right that I mention them here.
Pillows collect dust. They do the same with dead skin cells and hair. Additionally, they may soak up sweat.
All these things can be absorbed deep into the pillow over a period of time. For this reason, it’s sometimes argued that sleeping with a pillow may increase the likelihood of dust mite allergies and all the unpleasant symptoms the allergies present.
Better for the Face
Some people argue, sleeping on a pillow is bad for the skin. In part, this argument is made due to the possible presence of bacteria and dust mites in the pillow.
However, certain people also worry about the pressure of the cloth on the skin. They think it’s bad for the complexion and may cause problems with acne, wrinkles, and lines.
Additional Arguments For Sleeping Without a Pillow
It’s actually quite surprising what a bad rep pillows have with certain individuals.
Other benefits associated with going pillow-free include:
- Less neck and back pain
- Fewer headaches
- Better quality of sleep
- Less stress
There is no proof sleeping without a pillow can do any of these things. Unless you sleep on your stomach, getting rid of your pillow will likely make any existing problems worse.
However, if you are using old or poor quality pillows, you may be more susceptible to neck pain than normal because you may not be getting enough support from your pillows.
Old and poor quality pillows may also affect your sleep quality, leading to stress and headaches. In all these cases, binning your pillow is only half of the answer. The other half of the answer is to buy new and better quality pillows.
Sleep is important if you don’t get enough you could spend your time walking around like a zombie or feeling tired and depressed.
When you don’t get enough sleep or only get poor-quality sleep it can affect your mental and physical health in many negative ways.
Even when you have no problem bagging enough Zs, you may still have neck aches or other problems if your sleeping posture is poor.
That’s where the right choice of pillow can come into play. Even if the right choice happens to be no pillow at all.
The main thing to remember is posture is king. Depending on your sleeping position, a pillow can either improve your posture or make it worse.
Should you be sleeping with a pillow, or throwing your pillow away? No one answer fits all. Take note of the way you sleep and then decide.
If you find you change position a lot retain your pillow to use when you are sleeping on your side or back.
When you want to sleep on your stomach, move your pillow to the side or toss it onto the floor. Cuddle it if you must, just be sure your actions are in line with what’s best for your spine.
If you normally suffer from neck or back pain or have scoliosis or any other spine condition, sleeping without a pillow may not be a good idea. We suggest you have a talk with your doctor before you get rid of your pillow.