women sleeping on a pillow

Is it Better to Sleep Without a Pillow?

Pillows are a standard part of sleep, and there are many types of contouring pillow shapes, thin or thick pillows, and various sizes to provide the ultimate comfort and relief as you rest.

There are also benefits to sleeping without a pillow, which should be considered carefully, as you’ll find pros and cons to ditching a fluffy, soft pillow for a good’s night sleep.

The most common reasons people may sleep without a pillow are to improve their position to relieve back or neck pain or simply enjoy quality rest.

While this option is an excellent alternative for certain conditions, there are a few drawbacks that you’ll want to keep in mind when you try sleeping pillowless.

How to Begin Sleeping Without a Pillow

If you’re accustomed to sleeping with a pillow, whether a standard size or body pillow, you may find it challenging to adapt to sleeping without it. The following tips are helpful in getting adjusted to sleeping pillowless:

  • Instead of switching from a large, thick pillow to none, gradually reduce your head support with a smaller or thinner pillow, or a folded blanket, until you feel comfortable sleeping without it.
  • Your mattress’s quality is essential, even more so if you sleep without a pillow. It’s important to review each mattress review online to find a quality, firm mattress for adequate support.
  • Use pillows to support other body parts, whether you raise your legs, change your sleep position, or add a mattress topper to increase your back and spine comfort.
  • Observe your body’s comfort level as you sleep. Does sleeping with a smaller pillow or without one help you rest soundly, or do you find it more difficult? While it may take a while for your body to adapt, it’s crucial to note any discomfort or issues that may arise while sleeping differently.
woman sleeping in a blue hammock

The Advantages of Sleeping Without a Pillow

Do you sleep in a neutral position or move frequently? Are you used to sleeping with lots of cushions or barely using them as you rest?

It’s important to consider how you sleep and whether you need or prefer sleep without it. There are significant benefits when you sleep pillowless. 

Neck and Shoulder Pain Relief

Sleeping pillowless can reduce pain in your neck or shoulders, especially if you’re a stomach sleeper, though it’s important to position your head so that you’re not straining your neck.

The benefit of sleeping on your stomach is turning your head to one side and can extend your neck, which can ease discomfort.

If you sleep in this position with a pillow, this will place you in an unnatural position, whereas without a pillow, there is less pressure on your neck and spine due to a minimal angle, which also decreases strain.

Improve Your Posture

While pillows are designed to give your spine support so that you sleep in a neutral position, some people sleep with different types of pillows or in positions that don’t produce the same beneficial results.

If sleeping on your stomach feels comfortable, you may find that pillows elevate your head and neck, which places your spine in an unnatural position that impacts your posture.

Sleeping with your head flat against a firm mattress can promote good posture and helps alleviate stress on your spine and neck.

Fewer Sleep Wrinkles

Pillows, even the soft, fluffy variety, can lead to sleep wrinkles, which can cause your skin to look visibly aged. While it’s often temporary, you may wish to avoid this unpleasant outcome, especially if you’re concerned with reducing visible wrinkles due to sun exposure, age, smoking, or other factors.

While moisturizing your skin, eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, and smoking cessation can also reduce wrinkles, you’ll find that sleeping without a pillow may help your skin to look and feel refreshed.

pillows stacked on a bed

The Drawbacks of Sleeping Without a Pillow

While there are a few advantages to sleeping without a pillow, it’s worthwhile to consider the drawbacks, as these can impact health conditions, sleeping patterns, and other factors.

Lack of Support

Stomach sleepers benefit without a pillow, though if you sleep on your side or back, you’ll experience a noticeable lack of support, which can negatively impact your neck, spine, and back. Essentially, your typical sleeping position will determine whether you will reap the rewards of ditching a pillow.

You may find greater advantages to switching to a thin or memory foam pillow. It’s essential to consider existing medical conditions, such as musculoskeletal pain, a sore neck, and sleep apnea.

If you have a health issue that requires medication or sleeping aids, it’s essential to consult with a sleep specialist to determine which environment is best for you, whether it’s choosing a more comfortable pillow or reviewing a mattress guide to find the ideal bedding for a night of quality sleep.

Difficulty Breathing

Since pillows elevate your head and open your airways, sleeping without one can make breathing difficult, which is primarily an issue if you have sleep apnea or a respiratory illness.

When you sleep pillowless, your head will sink into the mattress, which constricts breathing and causes interrupted sleep.

Numb Arms, Shoulders, and Hands

When you rest without a pillow, the weight of your head can cause parts of your body to feel heavy and go numb when you wake up due to a lack of support. While this is often temporary for a short time, it can be unpleasant and affect sleep quality.


Before you enjoy a night’s rest without a pillow, you might want to experiment with different sizes and shapes to determine which option is best.

In some cases, the quality of your sleep can vary depending on whether you have the right or wrong pillow, the best mattress, or not enough support for your spine, head, and neck muscle.

Whether you consult with a sleep expert or try a few variations with or without pillows, you’ll eventually find the right fit for a great night’s rest.


  • Nature Sound Retreat

    We're the group of holistic healers with a passion for sound therapy, meditation, and the benefits that music and noise can offer our bodies and minds. With over 10 years of experience teaching others about inner peace and how to achieve it with ease, we hope to share that knowledge on Nature Sound Therapy for you to enjoy for yourself.

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