Sleep deprivation is real due to the fast-paced, competitive life that people are leading especially in the urban areas. You are probably not just sleeping shorter hours but also having a poor quality of sleep. You’ve woken up with pain or discomfort on your body so often that it seems normal. These are clear indications that you are not having a quality sleep.
Among sleep-related pains, back pains and neck pains are the most common. They are mostly caused by sleeping in wrong position and bad quality of sleeping material. Many people have linked neck and back pain to sleeping with a pillow and are pushing the idea that sleeping without a pillow is healthy for your neck and spine. The main arguments for this proposal include:
Effects on the neck
The proponents of sleeping without pillows argue that many complaints have been made linking soft pillows as a cause of neck and shoulder pain. They believe that soft pillows cause the neck to bend downwards thus straining it and causing the neck pain.
However, this argument is not valid because soft pillows mainly cause neck pains among side-sleepers. Using soft pillows in other sleeping positions has not caused the same effect. There are also other types of pillow that have not been linked with neck pain among side-sleepers. It is, therefore, a matter of investing in the right pillow for you.
Also, when you sleep on your side without a pillow your neck bends slightly on downward, and the bend may cause neck pain similar to that caused by soft pillows. In fact, the bend might even be more pronounced in the absence of a pillow.
Effects on the spine
The general assertion is that sleeping on your back without a pillow allows your spine to stretch straight overnight in its natural posture. Sleeping on the back with a thick pillow allegedly displaces your spine and causes back pain (source).
Again, this argument is an isolated case involving a thick pillow and one sleeping position – sleeping on your back. If you prefer to sleep on your back, some pillows are perfect for you to use.
Also, if you view the posture of a person while he stands upright, the spine curves naturally at the backside of the neck. Forcing your spine to line straight by sleeping on your back distorts the natural curve and may lead to the exact back pain you are trying to avoid. Instead, if you sleep on your back, you can use a thin pillow to raise your head to accommodate the spine’s natural curvature of the neck.
The arguments for claiming that sleeping without a pillow is good for spine and neck do not apply to all types of pillows and all sleeping positions. While there is a problem in that many people are not having a quality sleep, attributing it all on pillows is misleading. To enhance your sleep you must be ready to get professional help from sleep experts and change your sleeping patterns.
There are many sleeping positions, and in all these positions it is possible to get a neck pain or a spine injury. As such, rather than blame it all on pillows as a whole, there should be more civic education on the different sleeping positions and the suitable types of pillows.
Your neck and spine will have real benefits when you sleep in a comfortable sleeping position with the suitable pillow.
Further reading for those who believe that a good pillow is synonymous to good sleep:
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