Does Sleeping Without a Pillow Help with Neck Pain?

pillow, Upper neck pain

Does sleeping without a pillow help with neck pain? Neck pain can stem from a long list of things that you can readily avoid or control. One of which is the pillow you use to support your neck while you lay in bed.

Some argue that it's better to sleep without a pillow because it’s tricky to pick the right kind. At the same time, others dispute the claims saying that it can potentially cause worse problems for your neck.

Let’s uncover the truth by looking a bit closer at sleeping and neck pain.

The Role of Pillow in Maintaining Your Spinal Alignment

Pillows trace their roots to ancient Mesopotamia, where the affluent families used them to prevent bugs from crawling inside the ears. However, the pillows back then did not feel as comfortable because they used stone to make them. Other civilizations soon picked up the trend but used different materials like porcelain, bronze, bamboo, cotton, and straw. Fast forward to the present day, and you can now find pillows suited for different types of sleepers.

Like in the old days, pillows help you get a good night's rest by supporting your head and neck. They also ensure that your neck muscles stay relaxed even when you turn from side to side. 

Because each person has varying sleeping positions and pre-existing health conditions, finding the right kind of pillow to not get neck pain requires a bit of technical know-how. Here are some tips you can use when you shop for yours: 

  • Make sure you know your sleeping position because it can tell you what sort of pillow might work better for you. 
    • Extra firm pillows for side sleepers
    • Medium firmness for those who sleep on their backs
    • Pillows made from a combination of materials for people who sleep in various positions
  • Consider the breathability of the material, especially if you live in a warm area
  • Match its texture and firmness with the bed, so you get enough back and neck support
  • Avoid stomach sleeping! This is the absolute worst way to sleep and can cause significant damage to your neck joints, discs muscles, ligaments, and nerves if you regularly sleep on your stomach. Stomach sleeping without a pillow is not any better. When you have your head turned to the side for 1/3 of your life it will do significant harm. Your neck has not been designed to deal with stomach sleeping on a regular basis.

Does Sleeping Without a Pillow Improve Neck Pain?

In nearly every case sleeping without a pillow is not the best decision. Especially if you sleep on your side. If you sleep on your side, we strongly discourage ditching your pillows. It will mostly result in worse and more excruciating pain when you wake up in the morning. Side sleeping requires a supportive pillow that will keep your head in alignment with your neck while you sleep.

Instead of sleeping without a pillow if you sleep on your side, we suggest doing the following:

  • Checking if you’re using the right kind of pillow for your neck. Most people who sleep on their side do not use a pillow that is thick enough.
  • Ensuring your bed also provides ample neck and back support
Sleeping without a pillow

Neck Pain Help with Upper Cervical Care

Sleeping without a pillow might benefit certain individuals, particularly those sleeping on their back, depending on personal comfort preferences, specific health conditions, and the need for spinal alignment. Here's a closer look at how this approach could be beneficial, especially when considering the principles of upper cervical care, which emphasizes the importance of maintaining proper spinal alignment.

Understanding Spinal Alignment

Upper cervical chiropractic care focuses on the correct alignment of the neck and the head. It highlights how misalignments, especially in the upper neck region, can impact overall health and wellness. When sleeping on your back, using a thick or improperly supportive pillow can tilt your head either too far forward or to the side. This misalignment can strain the neck muscles and potentially disrupt the natural curve of the spine, leading to discomfort or exacerbating existing health issues.

Benefits of Skipping the Pillow

Optimal Spinal Alignment: For some back sleepers, forgoing a pillow can allow the neck, back, and spine to align more naturally with the rest of the body. This alignment can reduce the stress on the cervical spine and help minimize the risk of waking up with neck pain or stiffness.

Reduced Neck and Back Pain: Individuals who have experienced neck or head trauma or those with conditions that affect the spine, such as chronic neck pain or fibromyalgia, might find that sleeping without a pillow reduces pressure on the cervical vertebrae, potentially easing pain.

Enhanced Sleep Quality: Proper spinal alignment can improve sleep quality by reducing the chances of discomfort and interruptions. This is crucial for those seeking holistic and natural solutions to improve their health and well-being.

Considerations for Personal Comfort

While some may benefit from sleeping without a pillow, it's essential to consider personal comfort and specific health needs. For instance, people with certain medical conditions or those accustomed to using a pillow might find it uncomfortable or even counterproductive to change their sleeping habits abruptly.

Finding Your Ideal Sleep Setup

Experimenting with different sleeping arrangements, including the use of specialized pillows designed to support the natural curve of the spine, might be necessary to find what works best for you. Consulting with an upper cervical chiropractor can provide insights into how your sleeping posture affects your spinal health and whether sleeping without a pillow is advisable in your situation.

Next Steps

Understanding the importance of spinal alignment and its impact on overall health is crucial for making informed decisions about your sleeping habits. If you're exploring natural and holistic ways to address health concerns, especially those related to neck and spinal health, consider consulting with an upper cervical chiropractor. For personalized advice and to find a doctor near you, visit Upper Cervical Awareness.

Navigating through various health advice can be challenging, but it's essential to prioritize your comfort and well-being. Whether or not to use a pillow while sleeping on your back depends on individual health needs, preferences, and the goal of maintaining optimal spinal alignment.

Find An Upper Cervical Doctor in Your Area

to schedule a consultation today.

Find an Upper Cervical Specialist In Your Area

to schedule a consultation today.

Featured Articles


Montel Williams
Montel Williams

TV show host Montel Williams describes how specific chiropractic care has helped his body.

NBC's The Doctors

The TV show "The Doctors" showcased Upper Cervical Care.

CBS News/Migraine Relief

CBS News highlighted the alleviation of Migraines and Headaches.

The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.