One of the advantages of living in this day and age is falling into deep slumber as soon as you hit the pillow, and sinking into the comfort of a cosy bed. Sometimes, all you really want is a fluffy bed where you can curl up and rest for hours without any disturbance.
Sleep is not only crucial for our body, but it is also important for a healthy mind and quality of life. And our bed, pillows, and mattress determine how well we sleep and stay fit. Several ailments, such as spondylitis, are caused due to poor sleep posture as a result of poor quality of the mattress or pillow.
Let’s rewind the clock for a minute though. Have you ever wondered how a bed must have been in ancient times? Historically a person’s bed was closely linked to his status. The wealthy had the privilege of ornate, sturdy, raised beds with plush mattresses, while the poor had to make do with a modest mat.
An interesting fact is that beds were once large enough to accommodate an entire family!
It took us several decades to graduate from grass, leaves, and hay as stuffing for our mattresses to a softer, fluffier mattress and pillows that used cotton or feathers.
Beds have gone through quite the metamorphosis through the ages.
Prehistoric Times-Circa 8000
The oldest known bed in the world was discovered in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, from about 77,000 years ago. It was made of layers of plant material put together into mats, often burned to get rid of pests. It accommodated an entire family, covering 22 sq. ft. and being 12 inches thick.
Nomads, on the other hand, made temporary beds by filling small depressions in the ground with piles of leaves or. They were also known to curl up in a fetal position to keep warm. That’s where the term, ‘Sleep like a baby’ probably originated from!
The Bronze Age and Iron Age-3000 B.C.- 476 A.D.
Egyptians discovered the advantages of raising their beds in the Bronze Age to keep sleepers off the cold ground and protect them from creepy crawlies. They made the base out of wooden slats or strings, with a wool cushion mattress on top of it with linen sheets. Head support was usually made from stone or wood.
During the Iron Age, in Ancient Rome, the rich slept on raised beds made of woven metal supports that held straw or feather-stuffed mattresses. Commoners had similar wooden beds with wool strings supporting the mattress, whereas the poor used a mat on the floor.
Fun Fact: The Mattress is Arabian in origin, and the word ‘mattress’ is taken from the Arabian word Matrah, formed from the word taraha.
The Middle Ages-Circa 5th to 15th Century and The Renaissance Period-Circa 14th to 17th Century
Four-poster beds were invented in the Middle Ages in medieval Europe for the rich. Made in wood and embellished with ornate carvings, gold, and jewels, they were flanked with velvet drapes and canopies to stave off insects. The mattress was thick with feathers and covered with fine linen sheets.
The poor slept on hay-stuffed bags or a simple platform. Back then, an interesting practice was to ‘hit the hay’ to eliminate bugs from the mattress. They actually ‘hit the sack!’
During the Renaissance, beds had a canopy and posts, especially in Europe. During the 16th and 17th centuries, people used ropes to make the central platform of the bed, which often needed to be tightened. The term, ‘sleep tight,’ possibly originated from this concept.
Fun Fact: King Louis XIV of France, a lover of immense luxury, built 413 beds across all of his palaces from 1643 to 1715.
18th Century to 20th Century
In the 18th century, beds became simpler, and metal bed frames were introduced. Mattresses were now stuffed with cotton.
By the late 1800s, the four-poster beds’ posts, headboards, and footboards were smaller. The annoyingly squeaky, yet supportive bed springs were invented during this time.
The 20th century saw many bed innovations, including the Murphy/wall bed, the water bed, the pocket sprung mattress, latex and memory foams, and more. Coil sprung mattresses, and the upholstered box-spring platform mattresses were hugely popular.
Fun Fact: Folding Beds were used in Ancient Greece and are not a modern concept. The Greeks loved multipurpose furniture and used the equivalent of a modern folding bed for sleeping at nighttime.
Today, the choices are endless – continuous or open coil, memory foam, pocket sprung, gel or latex foam, and hybrid mattresses. Fillings range from synthetic material or foams, to natural ones like silk, cotton, and hair. Bed frames can be made from wood, metal, upholstered leather or fabric in adjustable beds, sofa beds, sleigh beds with drawers or lift ups, futons.