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Is There a Downside to Sleeping Without a Pillow?

While the vast majority of us are desperate for our heads to hit the pillow, this isn’t the case for some people. What if I told you it is some people’s norm to sleep without a pillow? But is this something we should all be doing? Or are there downsides to sleeping without a pillow?

Why do people sleep without a pillow?

One of the first reasons people sleep without a pillow is because they think the pillow is giving them back problems. The problem is often not due to the idea of sleeping with a pillow, it is simply that they have the wrong pillow to support their sleeping style – in particular front sleepers. People who sleep on their front, with the wrong pillow, can find that their spine is misaligned during sleep leading to pain and stiffness. Find out more about your sleeping position here.

Will sleeping without a pillow protect your skin and hair?

Another reason why people may opt to sleep without a pillow is to do with protecting their skin and hair. It is hypothesized that there may be a relationship between the development of wrinkles and the use of a pillow, however, there is little evidence to back this up. 

Some thought sleeping without a pillow may reduce acne – however, this is not proven. Similarly, people have theories that sleeping without a pillow will reduce damage to their hair and therefore reduce frizziness. However, few studies indicate this is true.

Downsides to sleeping without a pillow 

The most important downside to sleeping without a pillow is the detrimental effects on posture and the subsequent neck pain this may cause. Pillows are used to support the body and maintain a neutral spine position during sleep. Therefore, in most cases, a lack of a pillow will hurt posture – especially for front or side sleepers. 

Similarly, sleeping without a pillow can induce pain in the neck. According to this article by Panda London, pillows reduce pressure on the neck during sleep and provide neck-spine alignment. By removing this, you can harm the quality of your sleep and put your cervical spine under strain. This will often have a knock-on effect of impacting your mood, and alertness and can even cause tension headaches and serious pain. So much of your life is dictated by the quality of your sleep so it is important that you take care. 


Sleeping without a pillow isn’t always the solution if you are waking up with back and neck pain. While some may feel it is beneficial – especially front sleepers, there is a lack of scientific research to back up these claims.

The first thing you should try is to make sure that your pillow is the right one for you. This will almost always help your posture and relieve neck pain more than sleeping without a pillow. Make sure you research and find a pillow suited to your sleeping position.

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