4 Good Reasons to Sleep Without a Pillow

Most people assume that a pillow is a requirement for a good night’s sleep – but research suggests that, for many of us, sleeping without a pillow could improve our health.

Pillows have been around for thousands of years, designed to keep our heads off the ground, historically to elevate our heads above any pests or insects. Now that we no longer need to worry about creepy-crawlies, what are the benefits of sleeping with a pillow?

Dr. Alan Mandell believes that sleeping without a pillow can lead to a better night’s sleep for many of us[1]. One-third of our lives are spent sleeping, this time allows the cells of our bodies to repair, heal, and regenerate. Because of this, how we sleep makes a tremendous difference in our physical health.

Most people are concerned with whether they require a firm or soft pillow, but many have not stopped to consider whether they really need a pillow at all.

One scientific study purports that ‘increasing neck height increases neck pressure intensity”, suggesting that many of our sleepless nights may be improved by ditching the pillow. Signs of problems with your pillow may include:

  1. Waking during the night or in the morning with a stiff neck, neck pain, a sore back or headache.
  2. Restless or interrupted sleep
  3. Difficulty falling asleep

If you suffer from any of these, you should consider the benefits of sleeping without a pillow. The four main benefits to sleeping without a pillow are;

Spinal benefits:

Sleeping on your back with your head resting on the bed will align your ears with your shoulders, preventing strain between your neck and your spine. Using thick or multiple pillows will deform your natural spinal position and cause your neck to align itself upwards, causing considerable strain between your C1 and C2 vertebrae.

Facial benefits:

Many people don’t know that up to one-third of your pillows weight is made up of dust mites and their excrement.  This can cause bacteria to multiple and make certain skin conditions worse, such as acne vulgaris or allergic rhinitis.

By throwing out the pillow case and the mites with it, you may find your skin or breathing condition to improve dramatically. Pillows are also known to carry bacteria and incidental to MRSA cross-contamination.

Sleep benefits:

When you use an incorrectly sized pillow your sleep quality is reduced, as the head is unnaturally elevated during sleep. By sleeping without a pillow, the head can lie perpendicular to the mattress, making it less likely for deep sleep cycles to be interrupted by poor sleep quality.

Pillows can trap heat, which can lead to an uncomfortable, sweaty sleep. By removing the pillow, air can more easily flow around the head which leads to easier body temperature regulation throughout the night.

Neck benefits:

Sleeping without a pillow allows your back to extend and allow you to rest in a natural position. Restlessness can cause aches and pains in the morning by preventing the body from recovering. Lying in an unnatural position can exacerbate neck issues, as each vertebra takes an undue load from below the vertebral body.

Buckwheat and mites:

Many pillows are made from buckwheat, which is known to attract Dermatophagoides (dust-mites). These mites can lead to atopic dermatitis and epidermal barrier damage, along with causing allergic rhinitis and asthma attacks.

Female dust mites live for up to 70 days, produce 100 eggs and will produce approximately 2,000 faecal particles. If you suffer from any of these conditions, it’s never been a better time to throw out the pillow and try sleeping without a pillow.

If you suffer from sleep apnoea, a pillow can restrict the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP). It is suggested that you do not use a pillow if you rely on CPAP.

Cross-contamination and Plagiocephaly

By ditching the pillow and reaping the benefits outlined above, you can improve your sleep quality, which will in turn boost your memory, prevent stress and help you feel more rested.

Pillows are a leading cause of Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome), with the consensus being that removing the pillow is not only safer for babies, but far more hygienic also. Cross contamination between pillowcases is rife, with a recent scientific study stating that pillow cases are a main contributor to the spread of MRSA.

Pillows have been known to cause; shoulder pain, back pain, neck pain, Obstructive Sleep Apnoea/Snoring, Acid Reflux and/or Plantar Fasciitis. If you are suffering from any of these conditions, perhaps consult your physician on whether sleeping without a pillow could benefit you.

Transitioning to sleeping without a pillow is a simple process – begin by using a thinner pillow or folded cloth to lower your head. Ensure that your ear is in line with your shoulder to correctly align the spinal column.

During the next fortnight, slowly reduce the height of your pillow or cloth until you are comfortable with your new sleeping position. Once you have fully transitioned to sleeping without a pillow, you will be able to enjoy the benefits of increased spinal, epidermis, improved sleep, and neck health.

Sleep deprivation is on the rise, and repeated poor sleep quality can lead to a plethora of health implications, so consider sleeping without a pillow to improve your spinal, facial, sleep and neck health.

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