I slept without a pillow for one week – here's what I learned from ditching the pillow

Sacrificing my pillow was not initially appealing, but its benefits were undeniable – this is what I discovered in the process

A neutral colored room with an unusually shaped, rounded headboard
(Image credit: Elicyon)

As a stomach sleeper, I often feel my nighttime habits are subject to debate. Unlike those who turn to their back and side, I, along with my fellow stomach sleepers, am part of a minority. 

While the best pillows are (unsurprisingly) often crafted with side and back sleepers in mind, I have still slept reasonably well over recent years. However, I was intrigued when I heard that sleeping without a pillow may help me sleep better. 

Inevitably, the concept of giving up my pillow came with its reservations. While it may not have been designed with me in mind, it still seemed to serve me well (especially upon hearing my alarm clock, when it seemed remarkably comfy). However, I had heard of how your pillow is ruining your sleep quality – and my self-inflicted experiment would only last one week. What's the worst that could happen? 

Should I sleep without a pillow? Here's what I learned in one week

I will confess the first night came with its challenges. When transporting my pillows to the chair next to my bed, I was having second thoughts – and I had decided to give myself permission to neglect the experiment at any minor inconvenience. However, once I had gotten used to the way my bed looked, things improved. 

Bedroom with textured, cream painted walls, headboard with natural, black and cream woven design, white bed linen with orange cushion and patterned throw, black and wood bedside table, low hanging pendant light with cream fabric shade.

(Image credit: Future)

After a five-minute adjustment period, I decided I was comfortable enough to sleep, and sure enough, the natural process took its course. The first night (just like every night that followed), I slept through to morning, when once again, I was greeted by the unwelcome noise of my alarm. 

When awakening each day, I had made peace with the fact that I may struggle with neck or back aches, but to my delight, the pain never arrived. 

Throughout the week, I noticed my posture felt more aligned while in the office and long into the evening. I started to wonder, is my posture actually better, or is it all in my head? I sought the help of Mar De Carlo,  a sleep expert and author of Awakening Through Sleep, who explained the benefits. 

Lick’s 2023 color palette

(Image credit: Lick X Soho House)

Mar De Carlo suggests that I would have benefited from ditching my pillow because I am a stomach sleeper. However, if you opt for your side or back, this technique does come with caution. 

'A stomach sleeper would be best suited to sleep without of pillow because the flat surface of a mattress encourages spinal alignment,' the expert says. 'Sleeping without a pillow, in this case, can improve posture to support the stomach sleeping position and, as a result, alleviate neck pain.'

If you are a side and back sleeper, it may be better to sleep with a pillow because of the way your head and neck are aligned in your sleeping position. 

'Usually, without a pillow, side and sometimes back sleeping positions create a gap between the neck and shoulders – misaligning the spine,' Mar De Carlo says. 'However, because some postures are more aligned naturally than others, a portion of back sleepers may do well without a pillow.'

A neutral bedroom with an extended wooden headboard and white bed

(Image credit: Husband Wife)

If you're a side or back sleeper who has already invested in one of the best memory foam pillows, it may be more beneficial to stick with what you've tried and tested. However, if you're a stomach sleeper, or the pillow you have isn't working, it may be best to experiment without one for a week or so, too. 

'Getting rid of a pillow or an improper type, size, and shape of pillow can help reduce neck pain, relieve headaches, reduce wrinkles and improve hair health by preventing fizziness, dryness, and breakage,' the expert says.

'If, after proper evaluation, you determine it's best to sleep without a pillow, consider a gradual transition to reduce head support, and reassess how you feel along the way.' Mar De Carlo also recommends investing in the best mattress you can find (depending on the alignment of your posture and sleeping position) and contemplating using pillows to support the rest of your body. 

No matter your preferred sleeping position, it could be worth the trial. It's certainly changed the way I view the necessity of my pillow for good. 

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.