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Is This Normal?: “I Hate Sleeping On a Pillow”

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Jul 17, 2020

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Image Credit: Unsplash

In this series, we dig into our strange phobias, fixations, and neuroses, and ask ourselves — Is This Normal?


There’s a unique joy I associate with plopping headfirst on the bed and not moving for a long period of time. That joy is often choked by the presence of a pillow. Don’t get me wrong — I enjoy a fluffy bag of cotton or foam as much as anyone would — it’s great back support for a T.V. show marathon day in bed, it’s excellent to gently bonk a friend with. But maybe, just maybe, I could do without pillows while sleeping.

Is this normal? Turns out, it is.

The point of a pillow is to aid good posture as we sleep. It keeps the spine neutral and aligns your neck with the rest of your body. But, using a pillow is only necessary for people who sleep on their back and their sides. For those who sleep on their stomach, like me, sleeping without a pillow is fair game.

A reason for this is that sleeping on your stomach is not the best for your neck and spine, as it puts both at an awkward angle. “If your neck is bent in any way for an extended period of time, you’ll get uncomfortable,” Matthew O’Rourke, a physical therapist, tells Harvard Health. Using a pillow only exacerbates that awkward angle, making it harder to sleep peacefully and wake up without a stiff neck. Therefore, it is best for individuals who sleep on their stomach to either sleep with a pillow that supports the lower half of our body, or to do away with pillows while sleeping, according to the Mayo Clinic.


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Plus, the type of pillow you use may also determine why pillows may plague your sleep. A pillow that’s way too soft defeats the point of neck ‘support,’ strains neck muscles, decreases blood flow to the head, and puts the respiratory system at an awkward angle, which can cause headaches when you wake up. On the other side, using a hard pillow can push your head into an awkward position and hold it there, rather than being malleable enough to support the head and neck correctly. Finding the right kind of pillow is a long exercise in understanding what your body needs and experimentation.

While pillows may have their disadvantages, they also have their benefits. They’re great neck support for individuals who sleep on their back and their sides, they help stave off heartburn, sinus problems, and vertigo. Even so, one does not absolutely have to require a pillow to sleep well — at least I don’t, considering how well I sleep minus a soft wedge that holds my neck hostage.

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Written By Aditi Murti

Aditi Murti is the senior culture writer at The Swaddle, with an interest in cultural analysis, environment, and the science of mental health.  Write to her using aditi@theswaddle.com, or find her on social media @aditimurti.

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