Should You Be Sleeping Without A Pillow?

Sleeping Without A Pillow - UK Guide (2024)

Last updated: 31.10.2023 Reading time: 4 Min.

Sleeping WITH a pillow seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? 🤔

But many people argue sleeping without a pillow is better for your health.

Can sleeping without a pillow really reduce headaches, help with allergies, and clear acne-prone skin?

Or is this all just pillow-talk?

So, what’s are the benefits of sleeping without a pillow?

Let’s dive in. 👇

front sleeper without pillow

Don't forget:

The pillow debate is important, but there’s more to getting a good night’s sleep.

For optimal results, you need a high-quality mattress that supports your entire body.

Do we really need a pillow?

The origin of the pillow dates all the way back to 7000 BC.

People would lay their head on a stone to prevent insects and bugs from crawling in their mouth, nose, and ears at night. 🐜

Since this is no longer a problem for us, is a pillow something we really need? 🤔

When not to use a pillow

For babies and children under three, sleeping without a pillow is the safest option. 👶

This reduces the risk of choking and deformation of the head and neck.

A soft pillow can be dangerous for babies who can’t turn over by themselves.

You should always supervise babies or small children when using a maternity pillow. 🍼

V pillows make a great maternity pillow for pregnant or nursing mothers. Check out our full guide on V Pillows.

The Silentnight V Pillow is affordable as well as fantastic quality!


mother with baby graphic
Always supervise babies when using a maternity pillow.

Is sleeping without a pillow uncomfortable?

But what about the rest of us? Should adults forego their beloved pillow?

Persistent pillow-sleepers will argue that sleeping without a pillow will cause a stiff neck.

But this isn't necessarily true! 😲

When you sleep without a pillow, your body will seek a naturally comfortable position.

Your body will adjust to the lack of a pillow, preventing you from waking up in pain. 🥰

In fact, you’ll likely experience more neck pain from sleeping with a pillow that is not adapted to your body.

So, is sleeping without a pillow bad?

3 key benefits of sleeping without a pillow

The big question is - is sleeping without a pillow good for you?

Should you just change your pillow or are there benefits to sleeping without a pillow?

What did we find out about ditching the pillow altogether? 🤔

1. Can help reduce headaches and stress

Most people sleep with the wrong pillow, which puts more pressure on the spine and neck, reduces blood circulation and can cause headaches. 🤕

Sleeping without a pillow can feel more comfortable and provide a more refreshing sleep.

waking up with no pillow
Sleeping without a pillow can increase energy levels.

Instead of sleeping on an uncomfortable pillow for a night of restless sleep, try sleeping without a pillow for increased productivity.

2. Can help those with allergies

Over time, your pillow collects dust and bacteria. 🦠

Breathing on your pillow not only encourages bacteria to grow but also means you’re breathing this in every night. 😮‍💨

Sleeping without a pillow can help to reduce bacteria build-up.

It also prevents you from breathing in dust and dirt from your pillow.

Pillows with natural fillings such as down, feather or wool can worsen the symptoms for allergy-sufferers. 🤧

Instead, try sleeping without a pillow or use a pillow with antibacterial and hypoallergenic properties.

We love the Panda Memory Foam Pillow, which is hypoallergenic and naturally antibacterial.


panda bamboo pillow

Panda bamboo cover

3. Can improve symptoms of acne

If you have acne-prone skin, sleeping without a pillow can also help to reduce the appearance of blackheads and pimples.

Pressing your face into the same pillow every night is a haven for bacteria.

Removing your pillow will allow your skin to breathe at night, reduce bacteria build-up, and flush out toxins.

sleeping without a pillow is good for your skin
Sleeping without a pillow can help to reduce acne.

If you suffer from acne, consider ditching your pillow and treating yourself to some beauty sleep. 🤩

Alternatively, you could try a silk pillowcase on your pillow for added anti-bacterial and anti-ageing benefits.

Silk absorbs less moisture [1] than other fibres, making it a great option for those with dry hair and skin. 👩‍🦰

Silk can help reduce bed-head and acne as it retains your natural oils.

Sleeping with the wrong pillow

You should avoid sleeping with a pillow that's too high or low, or too firm 🧱 or soft. 🧸

A cheap pillow may cause you to wake up at night with shoulder or neck pain.

This is because of a misaligned spine and neck, which creates tension.

Without proper support, a bad pillow can do more harm than sleeping without a pillow. 😨

side sleeper spinal alignment
A pillow that is too high or low will misalign your neck during the night.

How many pillows should you sleep with?

Stacking several pillows under your head is also a bad idea. 🧱

This bends your spine in an unnatural position and can cause back and neck pain.

Sleeping with too many pillows can even lead to long-term chronic pain.

If you need to sleep with a pillow, then one supportive pillow should do the job. 🥰

Our review of the best pillows can help you find a pillow that offers optimal spinal support.
spinal alignment with pillows
One pillow at the correct height that neutrally aligns your spine is ideal.

If you’re experiencing discomfort from your pillow being too high, try sleeping without it for a night and see if this feels more comfortable. 🤷

Can I sleep without a pillow in any position?

If you're thinking about discarding your pillow, then first consider your sleeping position.

How you sleep affects your spinal alignment, and different sleeping positions have different pillow needs.💡

The most important thing is to keep your spine optimally aligned during the night. 👍

Sleeping without a pillow for side sleepers

For the side sleeping position, laying on a pillow is best.

Sleeping without a pillow can lead to pain in your cervical and dorsal areas.

Side sleeping without a pillow will straighten your spine too much and cause neck pain. 😖

A pillow that supports the weight of your head and shoulders is ideal.

Choose a thick pillow, high enough to align your spine and neck in their natural position.

side sleeper with pillow
Side sleepers should always sleep with a pillow.

The Simba Hybrid Pillow is perfect for side sleepers.

The Nanocube memory foam technology contours around the head and shoulders for optimal pressure relief.

If the pillow feels too high, then you can easily remove the Nanocubes to create a customised pillow height.


Sleeping without a pillow for back sleepers

For back sleepers, sleeping without a pillow could be a good option.

However, sleeping this way increases your chances of snoring.😴

This is because your tongue blocks the passage of air when you breathe.

If you sleep with a partner, consider whether going pillow-free is the best choice. 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

Instead, consider a medium pillow that cushions around your head and shoulders and maintains the neutral position of your spine.

back sleeper with pillow
Sleeping without a pillow on your back can increase snoring.

The Silentnight Anti-Snore Pillow encourages better breathing throughout the night to reduce snoring.

This medium-feel pillow offers the ideal height and support for back sleepers.

This hypoallergenic pillow is recommended by the British Snoring Sleep Apnoea Association.


Sleeping without a pillow for stomach sleepers

A study [2] showed that stomach sleeping is the best sleeping position for sleeping without a pillow.

In this position, sleeping without a pillow can support the natural curve of your spine and neck. 🥰

This will help stomach sleeping feel more comfortable and prevent you from waking up in pain.

You can also use a small folded pillowcase or towel to help you adjust to sleeping without a pillow.

However, stomach sleeping is not the best position for your health [3].

This position puts the most pressure on your spine, which can cause you to wake up with lower back pain. 😰

If you’re a stubborn stomach sleeper, then a thin pillow or no pillow at all will help to take the pressure off your spine.

stomach sleeper with pillow
Sleeping without a pillow is ideal for stomach sleepers

We love adjustable pillows, like the Emma Premium, for stomach sleepers.

This 3-layered memory foam pillow is a great option for those looking to adjust their pillow height.

Each layer can be removed to adjust to a lower sleep.

We recommend 3 layers for side sleepers, 2 layers for back sleepers, and 1 layer for stomach sleepers.

SLEEPHEROUK5Click to copy code


nectar adjustable pillow layers

nectar adjustable pillow

Once you have gotten used to sleeping at the lowest height, why not try removing the pillow completely?

Important factors to consider when sleeping on your stomach without a pillow:

1. Breathe freely without bending your neck too much to the side

2. Relax the neck as much as possible

3. Try to avoid laying your face on your arms or hands

4. Use clean and breathable sheets for better skin (silk is a great choice!)

5. Ensure you have a firm and supportive mattress to support this position.

Sleeping without a pillow for neck pain

If you suffer from severe neck or back pain, sleeping without a pillow is not recommended.

In fact, if you have chronic pain, sleeping with a pillow that supports your neck is vitally important.

A pillow which is too thick or thin for your sleep will put tension on your neck muscles and cause pain. 😣

Many manufacturers have contouring pillows and cervical pillows designed to provide you with the best neck support.

If you are suffering from chronic pain, we suggest that you seek medical advice before choosing a pillow. 👩‍⚕️

back and neck pain graphic

We love the Tempur Original Queen pillow for those that need some extra attention for their neck and spine.

So, should you sleep without a pillow?

Sleeping without a pillow on your stomach puts your spine and neck in a more neutral position.

This can prevent back pain, improve skin, and reduce allergies.

However, back and side sleepers should stick with the pillow.

A pillow that aligns the neck and spine whilst supporting the head and shoulders is ideal.

Check out our favourite pillows for side and back sleepers:

Frequently asked questions

  • Shapes and dimensions of pillows

    Pillows come in a variety of shapes and sizes. 

    Rectangular is the most popular shape for a pillow, the dimensions typically being 50 x 75 cm.

    Most standard size pillow cases fit this size.

    Square pillows are usually sized 65 x 65 cm. 

    Always check your pillow size before purchasing pillow cases or protectors.

    Pillow heights will differ, especially with adjustable pillows like the Lilia Forever Pillow.

  • Different pillow fillings

    The most common types of pillow fillings include:

    • Wool: This is a natural, breathable option.
    • Feathers or down: This is a soft and natural filling.
    • Memory foam: conforms to the shape of the head and neck.
    • Synthetic fillings: Most budget-friendly option. 
  • What is the best pillow?

    Everybody is different when it comes to deciding on the best pillow. 

    There are numerous high-quality pillows on the market to choose from. 

    Check out our review of the best pillows for more advice. 

  • Does sleeping without a pillow help posture?

    Correct spinal alignment can help reduce back and neck pain as well as improving posture

    If you are a stomach sleeper, you may find that sleeping without a pillow helps to put your spine in a more neutral position. 

    However, if you are a back or side sleeper, sleeping without a pillow is not ideal as you need a pillow that can support the neck and  align with the spine. 

    Sleeping on a mattress firm enough for your sleep position is just as important for your posture. 

    If you’re not sure what type of pillow or mattress you need for the most support, our mattress firmness guide can help. 

  • Does sleeping without a pillow help sleep apnea?

    There is no evidence to suggest sleeping without a pillow can improve symptoms of sleep apnea. 

    In fact, particularly if you are a side or back sleeper, sleeping without a pillow could be more disruptive to your sleep. 

    If you suffer from sleep apnea, speak to your doctor and see what type of pillow and mattress they recommend for this condition. 

  • How to get used to sleeping without a pillow

    If you are a stomach sleeper, then sleeping without a pillow could be a great way to get a more supportive sleep. 

    However, it’s not easy to adjust from sleeping with a pillow every night and suddenly going pillow-free. 

    We recommend sleeping on a folded blanket or towel at first to help adapt to sleeping without a pillow. 

    If you are still finding it hard to adjust, then try a low-loft pillow designed for stomach sleeping. 

  • Can sleeping without a pillow cause back pain?

    A bunch of factors will depend on whether sleeping without a pillow causes back pain. 

    Consider your sleeping position, mattress, body type, and other health problems. 

    We wouldn't recommend sleeping on a pillow for side or back sleepers. 

    However, for stomach sleepers, sleeping without a pillow may reduce back pain. 

    This is because sleeping without a pillow helps to align your spine and neck more naturally in this position. 

  • References


Holly Matthews

Senior Content Writer

Holly has been a content writer at Sleep Hero UK since 2021. With an MA degree in literature and previous experience working at a leading UK bed retailer, she is committed to using her skills to guide others towards making better sleep choices.

Was this article helpful?
Please fill out

Great! Do you have any questions or feedback? We'd love to hear from you.

What would have made it better?

Our favourite discounts:
You may also be interested in:

    Yes, please!
    No, thank you. Take me to the UK site.

    We have an affiliate relationship with some manufacturers, where we receive a commission on sales if you click over from our site. This does not affect the purchasing price. In contrast: By using our discount codes, you'll get the best deal possible.