Pillows & Bolsters

Sleeping Without A Pillow: Is It Harmful?

girl sleeping without a pillow
Girl sleeping without a pillow
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For most of us, the best part of a bed is choosing the right pillows that we so lovingly put in place for a comfortable night’s sleep. However, some people who often wake up with sore neck and back pain see those cushions in a different light.

If you are one of them, the idea of sleeping without a pillow might seem tempting. But is it healthy to sleep without a pillow? What are the potential advantages and risks that come with it? Let’s discuss all that and more in this article.

When Did People Start Sleeping With Pillows?

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Before we delve into the origin, let’s answer the question: how did humans sleep without a pillow? In the past, people actually slept on their shoulders or arms for support. 

Then the invention of the first cushions dates back to ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman civilisations. They were made for the primary purpose of preventing creepy crawlies from sneaking into the sleeper’s mouth, ears, or nose. Back then, they were just made of stone or wood. It was not until the late 1800s that they became more widely used for comfort and support.

With the advent of the Industrial Revolution, materials such as feathers, down, and cotton became more readily available, making it possible to produce softer and more comfortable cushions or bolsters.

5 Benefits Of Sleeping Without A Pillow

woman in fetal position sleeping without a pillow
Image By Karolina Grabowska From Pexels

While it may seem like an unusual idea at first, there are some potential advantages of sleeping without a pillow, especially for certain positions. 

Spinal Alignment For Stomach Sleepers

Will sleeping without a pillow improve posture? If you are a stomach sleeper, it might. A firm and lofty support can cause a stomach sleeper’s neck to unnecessarily arch and the spine alignment to go off. This would result in body pain in the morning. 

So going without a cushion and opting for a straighter position makes more sense when you sleep on your stomach. When the spine is in a neutral position, the muscles and ligaments are not under constant tension, which can lessen the pain and stiffness while enhancing posture. 

Better Circulation

man having headache for sleeping without a pillow
Image By Andrea Piacquadio From Pexels

Do you often get morning headaches? It could be due to your head being elevated. This can restrict blood flow, which can lead to headaches or even poor sleep. So sleeping without a pillow for neck pain and headache might work as your body is in a more natural position.

Better Breathing

When the head and neck are at a higher position than the rest of the body, the airway can become restricted leading to snoring or sleep apnea. Sleeping without a bolster keeps the airway more open, potentially resulting in better breathing and more restful sleep.

Improved Skin 

woman looking at the mirror while touching her skin
Image By Andrea Piacquadio From Pexels

Some studies have indicated that skin distortion resulting from when your face is pressed against a rough fabric may contribute to wrinkles. Resting on your back without elevation may help prevent wrinkles to some degree since your face won’t be pressed against a surface. Alternatively, you can reduce the friction on your face by using smooth pillowcases.

When it comes to other skin concerns such as acne, it’s commonly known that the accumulated bacteria, dirt, and oils on your bedding can worsen skin conditions. Refraining from using them can help keep your skin clean and pores unclogged, eventually reducing acne. 

Some people might also wonder: does sleeping without a pillow reduce the appearance of a double chin? While there are no studies to prove this, it is believed that using low loft or nothing at all helps minimise the appearance of sagging skin.

Enhanced Hair

woman covering her face with her hair
Image By Bennie Lukas Bester From Pexels

Some people also believe that cushions, especially tossing and turning on them, cause dry and frizzy hair. If that’s something you find yourself observing, abandoning them might help you. 

You can also choose to go with a silk pillow which is far more gentle than other materials and doesn’t cause a lot of friction. Silk can benefit your hair and skin due to its smooth, hypoallergenic, and temperature-regulating properties. 

Weavve Home's silk pillows
Featuring Weavve’s Silk Pillow

Risks Of Sleeping Without A Pillow

On the other hand, there can also be disadvantages that come with the lack of cushion. Note that these probable negative impacts also depend on your sleeping position. 

Poor Spinal Alignment  

While not using a cushion can reduce the risk of back pain for stomach sleepers, it can do quite the opposite for other sleep positions. If you are a back sleeper choosing to sleep on a flat surface, your head will be tilted back, and your spine will be arched upwards. This completely throws off your neck and spine alignment.

girl lying on bed covering her face with blanket
Image By Karolina Grabowska From Pexels

Similarly, side sleepers going without a cushion will have their necks tilted downwards and unaligned with the spine. The minute you open your eyes, you’ll be greeted with a stiff neck and backache. 

Stomach sleepers are the only ones who possibly benefit from resting on a flat surface.

Neck And Back Pain

When back and side sleepers cast their bolster aside, their misaligned spine gives them a sore back in the morning. Their neck is also overextended putting strain and distributing the pressure on neck muscles unevenly. This leads to a stiff neck, fatigue, and tension headaches.


woman in white pajama lying on pillow
Image By cottonbro studio From Pexels

Some people may find it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep when sleeping without a form of elevated support. This is because the body may not be used to the new position, and it may take some time to adjust.

Who Should Not Sleep Without A Pillow?

While it comes with potential benefits, steering away from bolster or cushion might not be recommended for some resting positions and people with health conditions. 

Back And Side Sleepers

If you’re a back or a side sleeper, letting it go might not be for you. This is because laying on your back or your side will create a gap between your neck and shoulders, which is not healthy.

girl in white shirt lying on bed without a pillow
Image By cottonbro studio From Pexels

A well-supported neck means relaxed muscles and a good quality of sleep. Thus, not using any form of a cushion is not a wise decision for back and side sleepers. It fills up that gap and prevents unnecessary pressure on your neck muscles for support. 

People With Spine Conditions

Those with Scoliosis or any other spine conditions should not consider it as it can be quite unsafe. The elevation is integral in providing support and filling gaps between the back and the mattress. 

5 Tips For Transitioning To Sleeping Pillowless

Sudden changes always make you feel uneasy. But if you think taking a rest without an elevated cushion will benefit you, here are some tips to ease yourself into the transition:

Start Small

woman in pajama with pillow on her head
Image By SHVETS production From Pexels

Start by gradually reducing the thickness or loft. You can do this by removing layers or swapping fluffier cushions with thinner ones. Use a rolled-up towel or a small, firm bolster as a substitute to help you adjust.

Use Body Pillows

You can try them to support other areas of your body. Side sleepers can try them to feel supported. Similarly, stomach sleepers can experiment with placing a small thin cushion under the hips for a more aligned spine.

Test Out Different Sleep Positions

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Featuring Weavve’s Signature TENCEL™ Classic Set In Slate Grey

Experiment with different sleeping positions to find the one that is most comfortable for you without a bolster or cushion. If you’re a side sleeper trying it, switch to resting on your stomach. 

Make Your Sleep Environment Comfortable

Pay attention to your body and listen to any aches or discomfort you may experience. Adjust your position, mattress, lighting situation, or room temperature as needed to find a comfortable way to doze off without elevated support.

Be Patient And Consistent 

It may take some time to get used to the feeling, but with patience and consistency, you will be able to make the transition.

The Verdict: Should You Sleep Without A Cushion?

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The answer lies in your sleeping position and whether or not you have any spine conditions such as Scoliosis. Resting without it can have a variety of benefits, including proper spinal alignment for stomach sleepers, better circulation, better breathing, and fewer wrinkles. 

However, it can also come with some risks, such as back pain, neck pain, and poor spinal alignment for side and back sleepers. 

How To Improve Sleep With The Right Pillows 

girl on bed lying on grey pillows and sheets
Featuring Weavve’s Cotton Classic Set In Persian Grey

If going without a cushion is not your thing and you still have concerns, what’s going to help you have a restful sleep is picking the best pillow for you. 

It is important to find the perfect loft or height that keeps you comfortable and is ideal for your usual position. Moreover, take into consideration your preferred material or texture. 


Whether you’re looking for a silk, latex, or down alternative pillow in Singapore, Weavve Home has options for you! Check out our collection now. 

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