I have read several web pages that mention the potential benefits of sleeping without a pillow.

Examples:

http://www.newhealthadvisor.com/Sleeping-Without-a-Pillow.html

Is Sleeping Without a Pillow a Good Choice? Yes, it is. Not only will sleeping with no pillow save your money, but it will also lead to less neck, back, and shoulder pain, higher quality sleep, and even fewer wrinkles! When you were a child, you could fall asleep anywhere without a pillow. The body is resilient and adaptable when we're young. Even as we age, our body, including heads and necks, is able to rest comfortably without the support of a pillow.

http://www.snoringmouthpiece-reviews.com/sleep-without-pillow/

While sleeping with or without a pillow is a personal preference, there are some medical experts that believe there are real benefits of sleeping without a pillow.

  • Spinal benefits: Some argue that sleeping without a pillow is the healthiest method of sleeping as it greatly benefits the spine. Sleeping on your back without a pillow allows the spine to rest fully with the natural curves of the body. When you sleep with a thick pillow it can displace the spine.
  • Facial benefits: Others argue that sleeping without pillows can help reduce wrinkles and other often considered unappealing facial features. This can be attributed to the fact that the face is not being squished against a pillow.
  • Sleep benefits: Some argue that pillows interfere with quality sleep, especially when people use the wrong pillow. Sleeping without a pillow helps ensure quality sleep because the body is allowed to be at a normal level and not elevated like with a pillow.
  • Neck benefits: The people that believe sleeping without a pillow is best for you, argue that sleeping with a pillow can be the main source of shoulder and neck pain. It is still good to do stretches and use heat packs, but they say that the best way to alleviate neck pain is to sleep without a pillow.

Is there any scientific study confirming or infirming the claim?

  • 5
    It is difficult to do a double blind test. – Count Iblis Mar 6 '16 at 19:48
  • May depend on your sleeping position. Sleeping on your side without a pillow may over-stretch the muscles on your neck, for example. – Sunny Onesotrue Jun 28 '16 at 10:51
up vote 14 down vote accepted

For most people, it is better to sleep with a pillow according to the latest research.

  • Sleeping without a pillow increases interocular pressure which is considered a risk for glaucoma patients.
  • Sleeping on your side without a pillow increases your risk of osteoarthritis in the neck. If you sleep on your side, your cervical spine bends to the bed. This pinches the openings of the spine (the foramina) and causes bones to push and rub against each other. That friction and pressure causes bone to erode and grow which can create the bone spurs you can often see on cervical x-rays of patients. A pillow raises the head and straightens the spine. cervical spine with a pillow
  • Sleeping on your back without a pillow changes your neck angle from its normal daily position. When standing, your neck also has a certain curve to it. If you sleep on your back, that curve is also distorted. To simulate the natural curve of the neck, researchers found that about 10cm of pillow is needed.

In general, studies suggest that sleeping with a pillow improves sleep quality and fits more physiologically and mechanically with the natural curve of the cervical spine. Even the Egyptians over 3,000 years ago used pillows. Here is King Tutankhamen's headrest around which his pillow linens were wrapped.

Tut's pillow

You can read additional studies here through PubMed.

  • What are the two extra things shown in the picture? Something to support the spine and the legs? Do the studies also show beneficial effects of them then. – xji Oct 19 '16 at 2:30
  • Those are examples of additional pillows to straighten the spine. – Praxiteles Oct 19 '16 at 6:19

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