Pillow A Pain Or Solace? Things To Know About Using Pillows For Goodnight’s Sleep

The path to a great journey begins with a big dream, and how else would dreams come true if you keep tossing and turning through the night

Preeti Athwal
Mind BodyWritten by: Preeti AthwalPublished at: Nov 27, 2019Updated at: Nov 27, 2019
Pillow A Pain Or Solace? Things To Know About Using Pillows For Goodnight’s Sleep

Your blankets and your pillow are a Godsend after a day of hard toil, and if you are waking up with stiff muscles and tired, then the blame could very well lie with how are you sleeping. Pillows are supposed to keep the spine in straight alignment to position the neck with the body, thereby supporting good posture. However, what complicates the matter is the fact that so often that one sleeps in different positions - on the back, on the stomach or the side.  

Also, everyone has a preference when it comes to pillows. Some sleep with big fluffy ones while some like hard ones. Some prefer to sleep with multiple pillows, while some like to sleep without pillows altogether. However, one should see all their options - the pros and cons of sleeping with and without the pillow and what you could be doing wrong. 

Is your pillow hurting your health? 

A pillow that bents your neck for a long period could be uncomfortable for people. As per Harvard Health Publishing website which quoted Matthew O’Rourke, a physical therapist from Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. He added that neck pain is often attributed to a pillow which is either too soft or too firm. For instance, if one sleeps on the back, the firm support of a thick pillow will bend the neck forward for an extended period, and if one sleeps on the side, the soft pillow will be unable to support under the neck as it stays sideways. Another example is when one sleeps on their stomach, the firm pillow will push the neck backwards and by extension, the back.    

So, depending on the sleeping habit, one needs a personalised pillow which would support the neck and maintain the right posture for the body. 

Also Read: 10 Tips for A Better Sleep

How pillows can be detrimental to health


Losing one’s sleep because of the discomfort suffered at night affects essential functions that occur during sleep, such as muscle growth and tissue repair, among others. Not having a sound sleep also affects mood, appetite and thinking skills and increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and heart disease. If the pillow is not right for your posture, then it will end up in neck and back pain and in some cases in heartburn, if you suffer from acid reflux at night which worsens if you sleep with elevated pillows.  

There are other medical conditions, too; take, for example, sleep apnea in which the patient stops breathing for intervals as they sleep. Pillows can be detrimental as they bother with the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment. CPAP aids in keeping the airway open with the bedside device that sweeps the air through the mask as one sleeps. The pillow could dislodge the mask if one is a side sleeper.   

As per Dr James Mojica, the sleep lab director from the Harvard-affiliated Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, special pillows can help in staving off heartburn symptoms. He suggests a wedge pillow as they elevate the head to 30 degrees which could be effective. He adds in the report that sleeping with the upper body raised at an angle can also decrease symptoms of sinus and could avert relapses of benign paroxysmal positional vertigo which is a condition that causes tiny crystals in the inner ear to become dislodged resulting in extreme dizziness. 

Also Read: 10 Benefits of a good night's sleep

So, does sleeping without a pillow an option?


It is an option if you sleep on the stomach as it will not push your neck upwards but will definitely complicate turning the head and hence could cause pain. Also, not using a pillow would be causing uneven pressure on your back. However, speaking to a medical expert would be a better way to know what would work best for you. 

The right way to sleep with a pillow

  • Using a soft pillow with suitable thickness if you sleep on your back or side would be better as it would not push your neck upwards when you are a back sleeper.  
  • Sleeping on the side puts pressure where your neck meets the shoulder, and hence, an appropriate pillow is needed with thickness and firmness took into account. 

What type of pillow should be used for a healthy sleep 

It all depends on what one finds comfortable - which is subjective. The goal of the pillow is to support your spine, and hence the one you choose to buy should fulfil that function. There are specially designed pillows in the market.   

So, one needs to keep a few things in mind. Choose the firmness of softness of a pillow depending on the position you sleep in. Materials of the pillows should be taken into account for those who suffer from allergies from mould and dust mites. 

Also, if you have a medical condition or suffering from neck pain or back pain, it is best to take the advice of a doctor.  

Read more articles on Mind And Body