How Did Humans Sleep Without Pillows?

It seems an odd concept to sleep without a pillow, and one can only guess that in ages gone by, our ancestors would improvise some sort of pillow. For most of us, the thought of sleeping without a pillow conjures up sleepless nights, stiff necks and all sorts of spin issues. 

You will have to imagine if you don’t have a pillow, you may not have a mattress? The thought is painful, to say the least.

However, in this age of super technologies and incredible advances in just about any scientific realm, there is a contingent of folks who prefer to not sleep with a pillow, why I hear you ask?

Well, let’s look at those of us who prefer not to use a pillow and see if there is anything to be gained.

Allegedly for those of us who sleep on our back, there are said to be benefits of sleeping without a pillow. According to these folks, the spine forms a better posture. But hold on one moment, I have been sleeping like millions of others with a pillow all my life and I don’t have spine posture problems.

Indeed there are other factors to consider before we ditch the pillow in search of spine posture. How about the weight of the individual? Indeed this must have some sort of impact on spine posture.

How about a medical professional who espouses the use of orthopaedic pillows to align the spine and reduce pain?

If like me, you have ever woken from a night on the tiles to find you are sleeping without a pillow, you will agree it’s a painful experience, not just for an hour but maybe a week.

So, we accept some folks sleep without a pillow, but it’s hard to accept some of the ridiculous controversial statements they come out with.

Here is one; I’m sure you will love this statement. Pillows cause acne! Well, if you don’t practise basic hygiene, then there is a possibility, but for most of us folks, we wash our pillowcases regularly, keeping them free from bacteria.

Allegedly if you are a stomach sleeper, then you need to brace yourself. Sleeping on your stomach with a pillow can cause wrinkles in your skin! I would need to see some kind of clinical trial to validate these statements; they seem outlandish.

On a serious note, if you have had medical advice that sleeping without a pillow will benefit you, go ahead and ditch the pillow.

Despite flippant statements, there are cases where some folks just don’t like the feeling of a marshmallow type pillow, and others might find it luxurious, but it’s not for everyone.

There are some studies, albeit limited, to suggest that sleeping pillowless can streamline your posture and align your vertebrae. It’s an exciting concept that could be looked at further if so inclined to do so.

Understandably, stomach sleepers may feel neck stress and pain as the pillow forces the head back and up. 

Some pillows have been specifically designed for the stomach sleeper to combat the effects of neck stress, offering an excellent alternative to resting your head on your arm or directly to the mattress.

It is said that sleeping without a pillow improves hair! Allegedly it prevents hair from knotting and prevents split ends. It would be reasonable to think that knotted hair and split ends are a function of movement and friction, causing the hair to knot and fray in some cases.

The recommendation of silk pillowcases to prevent hair damage may seem opulent and excessive to some of us regular folks. But, If this is a real-life issue for you, then proceed with the silk. I’m sure it will feel wonderfully sublime and cool next to the skin.

Sleeping Without a Pillow

Some other groups do not use pillows for various reasons. Military units on long patrols are not known for packing the essentials for a restful night’s sleep. However, I know that many military persons will improvise to make some sort of pillow to raise their heads for a better rest.

If you are into nature and camping out living off the land, it is unlikely you will be trekking with a pillow. Again improvisation is the key to utilising anything padded to form a pillow.

Leaps and Bounds in pillow technology

As previously said in this article, technology has come on leaps and bounds when sleeping. Both mattresses and pillows have made tremendous advances, and often, medical professionals will indeed recommend quality mattresses.

If it is your choice not to use a pillow, then a quality mattress will undoubtedly give a more restful nights sleep than laying on a less technologically advanced counterpart.

The Cons:

  • Poor posture to the neck and spine
  • Neck pain due to the unnecessary cervical spine flexing
  • Restless nights
  • Potential wrinkles to the skin
  • Hair friction causing damage as a larger area of your hair is in contact with the mattress

Preferences Rule the Day

It is all a matter of preference when it comes to sleep; sleeping without pillows is subjective but, If this makes you feel comfortable and you sleep well, you should continue with the practice.

Of course, there are some caveats to the benefits of sleeping without a pillow. If your mattress is old and worn, sagging, then regardless of any notion you may have that you will have better posture while sleeping is entirely out of the window. 

Your mattress needs to be in good shape and comfortable while providing adequate support to the contours of your body.

It is worth exploring the range of pillows on offer. You will be pleasantly surprised at the shapes and range of materials and fabrics available to make your sleep experience the best possible.

Remember, the essence of quality sleep is in a supportive mattress, even if you wish to discard a comfortable pillow.

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