Do you love sleeping on a fluffy pillow or two? Perhaps you are a fan of a tougher pillow with more support? You may even be a person who likes to forgo pillows completely. If you suffer from neck pain, back pain, or even certain types of leg pain, you may actually be better off sleeping without a pillow in terms of comfort. The question remains, is it actually healthy to go without a pillow when you sleep? In our article, we will see what doctors and specialists have to say.
It can be healthy to sleep without a pillow depending on what position you recline. Going without a pillow can help reduce stress on your neck by keeping your head flat, and it can also help encourage better spinal alignment according to some research. That being said, if you are a side sleeper or a back sleeper, not using a pillow can actually harm your spinal health.
While there is no universal answer to how healthy it is to sleep without a pillow, there are some clear benefits and drawbacks depending on your sleeping style. To better help you understand the medical and scientific views regarding the use of pillows during sleep, we have crafted an article that takes a deep dive into the topic. We will cover the science, the benefits, drawbacks, and even the best way to go about ditching your pillow when you sleep, so keep on reading to find out more.
What Is The History of Pillows?
The oldest records of the pillow dates back 9,000 years to Mesopotamia. In Egypt, people were dedicated to protecting their heads as they served as the spiritual center of their being. They were made of stone and the focus was more on purpose than comfort. It helps to prevent bugs from making a home in their ears and also helped with posture.
In China, the idea was similar although the decor of the exterior of the pillows was much more elaborate. If you take a trip to Japan, many of the older style pillows were no more than hard, raised implements that help keep their heads off of the floor.
In ancient Greece, there was more desire for comfort with pillows made out of fabric stuffed with straw, reeds, or even cotton. Although it may seem like a modern invention, even cavemen used raised stacks of twigs and leaves to create an incline on their sleeping areas.
Around the middle ages, pillow making was more common, but mostly only pregnant women and the king would use them otherwise they were seen as a weakness. Around the time of the Industrial Revolution, pillows had transformed into an essential item that you could find in every household and on every bed.
What are the Benefits of Sleeping With a Pillow?
There are many benefits to using a pillow as a sleep aid. The main benefit is that they help to put the human spine in a neutral position by aligning your body and your neck. This helps to support proper posture and reduce pain in the neck and spine during the day. There is even a lot of research that covers what type of pillow is best for your posture. For people who sleep on their side or their back, using a pillow is the best way to maintain spine neutrality.
Side sleepers also benefit greatly by using a pillow. When you sleep on your side not only is your neck curved and at a slanted angle, your lower back is also pulled down towards the bed. Using a pillow under your head in this position will help align the neck and encourage proper circulation. Unbalanced pressure on the neck muscles can lead to migraines and stiffness among other health concerns. Using a pillow helps to reduce this strain and further promotes more restful sleep.
Side sleepers should also place a pillow between their legs in addition to under their head according to chiropractors’ reports. This helps the pelvic region to remain neutral and it also helps to keep your spine from twisting during your slumber. Proper alignment has been proven to reduce the stress placed on back tissues and can even reduce sciatica pain.
For people who have breathing problems such as asthma or enlarged adenoids, sleeping in an elevated position can ensure that the air passages are clear and prevent that cloying feeling of not being able to breathe.
Is It Ok To Sleep Without a Pillow?
Sleeping with is a pillow is ideal for most people, but certain types of sleepers can get better benefits without a pillow. Specifically, people who usually sleep on their stomachs can do so without a pillow and not have to worry about affecting their overall posture or health.
University of Rochester Medical Center conducted a sleep study and the results showed that sleeping on your stomach creates unnatural spine positioning. There is extra weight placed on the middle of your body which stresses the neck and back. But not using a pillow, you are able to maintain flatness which reduces stress, promotes alignment, and helps soothe the natural spinal curve.
As a person who sleeps on their stomach, getting rid of your pillow can help reduce pain in your neck. The main reason is that while laying on your stomach your next is turned to the side, when you use a pillow it is also extended back at an awkward angle which can cause neck pain and poor posture.
Without the pillow, your neck and spine are able to fall into a more natural position that allows your whole body to maintain alignment. To prevent an excessive amount of weight on your spine, place a small pillow under your stomach and pelvic when you sleep on your stomach to better balance your body.
For those who sleep on their back or spine, it is important to use a pillow to maintain proper spinal alignment and to promote circulation to the brain. Although it is possible to sleep without a pillow in these positions, most often it will result in stiffness in the neck and back, soreness of the neck muscles, and even fatigue due to lack of proper sleep.
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One way to ditch the pillow even if you are not a stomach sleeper is by switching to a memory foam mattress. This type of material hugs the curves of the body and serves as a full-body cushion making pillows obsolete.
Is It Ok To Sleep Without a Pillowcase?
The majority of pillows are made with a fabric outer cover and some form of fabric stuffing, such as cotton or foam. Technically you don’t actually need a pillowcase in order to use a pillow functionally, but according to numerous studies, it is simply more hygienic. Pillowcases serve two main functions; to protect the pillow and help it last longer and also to keep you from getting sick.
As evidenced by several scientific studies, the body releases oils, sweat, dead skin cells, saliva, and even bacteria during our slumber. All of these things end up on your pillow and can lead to acne, fungus, and many other health complications over time. Not to mention, the more gunk that makes it to your pillow, the sooner you will have to replace it.
Pillowcases can help trap yeast and bacteria excreted from your body. You are able to remove your pillowcases and wash them to prevent illness and skin problems while also increasing the longevity of your pillow.View this set of 2-pack AmazonBasics Microfiber Pillowcases
Pillows for Toddlers: Are They Safe?
Pillows are great for comfort, but it is important to keep the age of the user in mind when choosing a pillow. Babies, for example, should not use pillows due to the risk of suffocation. Toddlers, on the other hand, have usually mastered the skill of rolling over and also keeping their airways clear during their slumber.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics toddlers and infants, 24 months and under should not use a pillow when they sleep. Once a toddler has outgrown the crib and is able to sleep in a regular bed, they are able to use pillows and keep stuffed animals with them when they sleep.
Always make sure to provide your child with a firm pillow sized for children, not adults to prevent the risk of suffocation or injury.