When you wake up with neck pain or back pain in the morning, do you ever think about sleeping without a pillow? Pillows that aid sleeping are meant to support your head and neck. No matter the pillow use of the mummies and tombs of ancient Egypt, the creation of the softer type pillow in ancient Europe, or chimpanzee using its arm as a pillow, all prove that human beings and many animals have been learned to make use of pillows since long time ago. But now, various theories and hypes online tout the benefits of sleeping without a pillow, there is a thought that sleeping on a flat surface is better for the alignment of your neck and spine as it allows for an optimal sleep position. Should we throw our pillow out? Let’s take a closer look at the question of “sleeping without a pillow is better or not”, and get to know how to sleep properly each night.
What is Your Sleep Position?
To answer the question of “pillow or no pillow”, we have to talk about sleep position and how it affects your spine alignment. Individuals’ sleeping is a dynamic activity. When you are asleep, you may move around from one posture to another, however, you will always keep a tendency to hold the same sleep position no matter how you move. The sleep position determines the type of pillow and whether you should sleep with one or not.
If you are a sleeper who prefers to lie on the side, you’re likely familiar with the feeling of waking up with stiff neck. Side sleepers usually like the could-like softness of a fluffy pillow, some even need 2 pillows when they lie down every night. The great distance between their head and mattress makes it impossible to try sleeping without a pillow.
It is estimated that over 70 percent of people sleep on their sides, makes it the most common sleeping position. Unlike back sleepers or stomach sleepers, side sleepers need more support to keep their head and neck in the proper position. Sleeping without a pillow will place excessive pressure on the neck and shoulders as your head falls, causing neck pain you wake up with every day. Lie down on a medium-thickness mattress, lay your head down on a firm pillow. A proper distance between your mattress and pillow will keep your spine in alignment. Additionally, a comfortable knee pillow can help you prevent the collapse of hips and knee joints, offering better support for sleeping.
Although only about 8% of people sleep on their back, it is the healthiest sleeping position. Back sleeping is great for spine and neck health, because your back is straight and not forced into any contortions. In an ideal condition, everyone should sleep on their back on a flat surface, as the position keeps their spine in alignment. However, the small gap between your mattress and the lower back will make the hips sink deeper, while the space between the neck and the mattress surface letting your spine out of alignment. Sleeping without a pillow offers support for an unnatural curve of your neck and makes your spine stained, which affects your lower spine heavily and creates chronic back and neck pain.
For back sleepers, a medium-firmness mattress surface will help you sleep in a neutral position. And a too-thick neck pillow will create a positive effort, filling the small space as needed. If you sleep on your back, don’t try sleeping without a pillow unless you have lower back pain and use a very firm mattress.
According to the researchers, stomach sleeping might be the best one that can benefit from sleeping without a pillow. This sleeping position, it’s when a person lies supine(prone position), with their head turned on whichever direction they prefer. If you are the one who lies on stomach to sleep each night, you might need to remove the cushion underneath head and try sleeping without a pillow.
Since you lie on stomach with your head down, you will always turn your head to the left or right side that compromises the spine in some manner. It will put strain on your spine in the wrong direction, is hardest to your neck and back. Sleep experts suggest that stomach sleepers should avoid any head support or choose very thin pillows. This is because the support will lift your head, which often puts pressure on your neck and neck joints. When you remove the cushion, your head level will keep on the same level with the mattress surface and the rest of your spine, forming a neutral position. A thin cushion beneath the hips can also help keep your spine aligned while sleeping without a pillow.
So, there you have it, sleeping without a pillow or with one is not absolute. Next time when you feel some ache or pain after waking up in the morning, don’t rush to toss your pillow. Try to adjust the firmness of your pillow or pick one that fits, it may help jump-start the level of your sleeping quality!
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