If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, unable to find that perfect sleep position, you've probably tried all kinds of things.
Assuming none of those things helped you sleep better, you may be wondering if you'd be better off sleeping without a pillow at all.
Here's what the experts have to say about that:
It's All About Alignment
According to researchers at the University of Utah, good posture isn't just something that matters when you are standing or sitting in a chair.
Good posture is also critical for getting restful sleep that actually "heals" your ligaments and muscles while you snooze.
So when it comes to maintaining proper poster with your pillow, it's all about alignment.
The goal is to make sure your ears, hips, and shoulders stay aligned, which is ideal for your spine as shown below.
If you're a side sleeper, imagine what the spine/neck would look like in the image above if you didn't have any pillow...
Obviously it wouldn't be good.
So your preferred sleep position has a lot to do with whether or not it's better to sleep without a pillow.
How Do You Really Sleep?
The most important question isn't how you prefer to sleep, meaning your back, stomach, or side.
Instead, you need to think about how you really end up sleeping.
For instance, you may start out on your back and think that is your preferred way to sleep, but shortly after dozing off you end up flipping over on your stomach.
Understanding your true sleep position is critical for finding the right pillow, or experimenting with going pillow-free.
Recommendations for Side Sleepers
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, pillows in some form or another have been used for centuries. The idea is simply that the elevated head is helpful for getting better sleep.
Typically, side sleepers need some level of elevation from their pillow in order to keep their neck and spine aligned properly.
Having a pillow that is lofted just high enough should provide maximum comfort as well, so if you are laying on your side and you feel like your head is angled awkwardly high - it probably is.
Either way, if you are a side sleeper then going without a pillow is not a good idea.
Recommendations for Stomach Sleepers
Stomach sleepers are one group that can definitely get away without a pillow.
At the very least, you should be sleeping with a very thin pillow such as the Slim Sleeper with a very low loft.
A taller pillow with have your head too high and can lead to neck pain or discomfort because of the steep angle.
Some stomach sleepers are better off just using the mattress itself, or maybe sleeping on their arm as opposed to a pillow.
It truly is a matter of preference when it comes down to a thin pillow vs. no pillow for stomach sleepers, so don't be afraid to experiment.
Recommendations for Back Sleepers
Back sleepers make up about 16% of the population, which makes it slightly more common than being a stomach sleeper.
Some back sleepers find it helpful to use a knee pillow for their legs to take some of the pressure off their back, which is bearing the most weight in this position.
As far as a neck pillow, generally you do still want a fairly thin pillow when you sleep on your back.
The goal here is again to keep your spinal alignment, and allow for easy air circulation. Both of these things are messed up when you have a pillow that is too thick that pushes your neck forward.
This ideal alignment is really about maintaining a neutral position that feels comfortable and natural when you lay down.
So having a pillow that is too thick is going to feel unnatural, and sleeping with no pillow at all is likely going to feel unnatural the other way - with your head tilted back too far to maintain proper alignment.
Much like with side sleepers, back sleepers should generally not go without a pillow.
If you are sleeping on your back and not getting comfortable, the solution likely isn't getting rid of your pillow completely - but rather finding a pillow that actually fits your body and keeps you in that natural alignment.
Click here to read more about finding the right pillow as a back sleeper.