If you suffer from chronic neck pain that just won’t go away, you may have tried many remedies to find relief. Changing up your sleep position is one approach that gets overlooked, but can make a big difference. Specifically, sleeping without a pillow, or using a very thin pillow, may help alleviate neck discomfort. But is losing your fluffy pillow wise? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.
Why Sleeping Without a Pillow May Help By propping your head up on a pillow, you are forcing your neck into an unnatural position for hours. This can put strain on your neck muscles, vertebrae, tendons and nerves. The higher and fluffier the pillow, the more your head and neck bend. This constant awkward posture can lead to pinched nerves and muscle tightness which cause chronic pain.
Removing your pillow allows your spine to rest in a neutral position that replicates its natural alignment when you stand upright. Your muscles can fully relax without contorting to allow for a pillow’s thickness. This takes pressure off compressed nerves and stretched muscles providing pain relief. Studies show a flatter sleeping surface correlates to less neck discomfort in the morning and throughout the day.
Tips For Transitioning To Pillow-Free Sleep Completely ditching your pillow may take some adjustment. You can ease into it with these helpful tips:
- Stack pillows to gradually lower nightly height
- Place a thin pillow under shoulders/upper back if needed
- Use a special ergonomic cervical pillow
- Try pillow-free naps to get used to the feeling
- Do neck stretches in the morning
Potential Drawbacks To Keep In Mind While evidence points to potential benefits, sleeping sans pillow also comes with some drawbacks to consider:
- Can feel uncomfortable at first
- Risk of overarching neck backwards
- Requires shoulder/back support adjustment
- May not work well for side sleepers
- Can develop pain if done wrong/overdone
Talk To Your Doctor First As with any new remedy for persistent pain, it’s wise to consult your physician before making major changes to your sleep routine. There may be medical reasons not to remove your pillow completely. Get personalized guidance from a professional to determine if a pillow-free sleep trial may benefit your situation or do more harm than good. They can also suggest modifications and cautionary steps if you decide to give it a try.
The Takeaway Trying out a stretch of pillow-less sleep could bring you lasting neck pain relief. Just be sure to ease into it gradually, tweak your sleep position, and get your doctor’s okay first. Pay attention to any increased discomfort and make adjustments accordingly or revert back if symptoms worsen. While not a miracle cure, skipping the pillow forces your neck muscles to relax, which can substantially reduce painful knots and kinks over time. Put this simple neck pain hack to the test yourself by catching some quality Z’s atop a nice, flat surface.