7 side effects of using a high pillow

While sleeping with a high pillow may seem comfortable, it may cause discomfort. Here are 7 side effects that you may experience if you’re using a high pillow or multiple pillows while sleeping.

Choosing a cosy pillow isn’t just about enhancing your sleep experience. It also enhances comfort, promotes better spinal alignment, and alleviates bothersome back and neck pain, ultimately improving your overall posture. However, pillows aren’t built to last forever. If you find your pillow has lost its fluffiness and you are now thinking of using multiple pillows for neck support or using a new, high pillow, it is crucial to know that it can actually cause problems. Keep reading to find out the side effects of using a high pillow.

7 side effects of using a high pillow or multiple pillows

Proper support from your pillow is essential, as it can alleviate pressure points and reduce the chance of developing neck and back pain. However, if you are using a high pillow, you may wake up with a stiff neck or a headache, explains Dr Manjusha Agarwal, an Internal Medicine Physician.

1. Poor posture

One of the most prominent side effects of using a high pillow or multiple pillows is the poor posture of the upper body, particularly around your neck and spine. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, when the pillow is too high, it elevates the head and neck excessively, causing an unnatural curve in the spine. This misalignment puts strain on the muscles of your neck and upper back, leading to stiffness, discomfort, and even chronic pain over time.

2. Muscle tension and stiffness

A pillow should help support your posture, especially around your neck and spine. But your pillow can cause neck stiffness and tension if it is unsupportive, such as a high pillow. “Using a high pillow can cause muscles in the neck and shoulders to remain contracted throughout the night. This constant tension can lead to stiffness that you may feel when you wake up, making it difficult to feel fresh,” says Dr Agarwal.

muscle pain after exercise
Sore neck and shoulder muscles are common when using a high pillow. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

3. Breathing issues

Sleeping with a high pillow can impact proper breathing, particularly for individuals prone to respiratory issues like asthma or sleep apnea. The finding of a study published in the Journal of Physical Therapy Science suggests that high pillows excessively bend the curvature in the normal cervical region, which reduces the airway space through which air flows into the laryngopharynx. This structural change reduces the ventilation capacity, causing breathing problems. One may experience symptoms such as snoring, wheezing, or shortness of breath.

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4. Digestive problems

If you think using a pillow with too much height gives you comfort, you are wrong. It actually leaves your head and neck out of proper alignment. Sleeping with the head elevated on a high pillow can contribute to acid reflux or heartburn, as it may cause stomach acid to travel back up into the esophagus. This can result in discomfort and burning sensations, particularly when lying down after a meal.

5. Poor circulation

Using a high pillow can also compromise circulation, especially in the arms and shoulders. By restricting the blood flow to the extremities, it can lead to numbness, tingling, or even more severe circulatory problems over time. According to a study published by the Journal of Physical Therapy Science, when people use pillows of inappropriate height, blood circulation in the neck is hindered, thereby increasing the risk of neurological disorders, such as cerebral hemorrhage.

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6. Headache

Another common side effect of using a high pillow is the onset of headaches. “Improper alignment of the head while sleeping can place excessive pressure on the neck muscles and blood vessels,” explains Dr Agarwal. This discomfort, in some cases, may increase the risk of tension headaches or even migraines. Additionally, poor sleep quality can also trigger headaches.

morning headache
Headaches are common when you do not sleep well! Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

7. Facial wrinkles and skin problems

Using a high pillow can add pressure to a person’s face, which can lead to the formation of more deep lines and wrinkles, particularly around the eyes and forehead. Over time, these sleep-induced wrinkles may become permanent, contributing to premature ageing. Additionally, pressure caused by a high pillow on the skin may also result in irritation and acne breakouts.