The connection between posture and gravity
Posture is the eternal fight against gravity. There’s no denying it. Gravity tries to pull us down, and good posture is the tool we use to prevent that.
If we agree on this principle, then let’s apply it to your sleep. When you’re asleep, gravity pulls your body mass down. The only thing counteracting gravity is your lying surface.
In healthcare, we talk about bringing the bed to the patient rather than bringing the patient to the bed. If there’s no pillow elevating the head, then gravity is fighting the weight of your head through the night.
Your head weighs more than most of your other body parts, too.
What happens when you sleep with no pillow
Your neck is meant to be in a neutral position, and if it’s not, your muscles have to work through the night to maintain your position. End result? Waking up with neck pain.
To achieve a neutral neck position, you need to have a pillow that lifts your head off the bed, with enough pressure relief to make it comfortable.
If your pillow has no form, like a duck, fibre or a memory foam pillow, or if you have no pillow at all, your head will drop into the mattress. Your cervical spine then has to bend and twist to accommodate the new position. People normally lie on the same side, so you are probably extending on one side only, causing further asymmetry.
So, can you sleep with no pillow?
If you’re lying on your back, you might get away with it if the mattress perfectly supports your head, but don’t count on it, especially if you’re taller than 5 feet.
It’s pretty much not humanly possible.
Must sleep with no pillow? Here’s how to harm your spine the least
We are not here to judge, but rather to help you optimise your sleep posture.
While it’s pretty much not humanly possible to optimise it if you’re set on sleeping with no pillow, there’s a way in which you can do the least harm to your spine – sleep on your back.
If you’re someone who sleeps on your stomach, then definitely don’t use a pillow, because you’re already making a terrible situation (front sleeping) even worse.
Be kind to your neck. Use a pillow.
You can even do one better, and use the right pillow for you.