Comfortable mattresses, which help us to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep, are a bedroom accessory which we take for granted. If you’re currently exploring the wide range of mattress options available, size, comfort and design are probably the most important considerations, rather than how the mattress has evolved over time. In fact, its history spans thousands of years and offers a remarkable insight into how mattresses and people’s sleeping habits have changed across the world.
10,000 BC: the Neolithic Age
A good night’s sleep has been a central pillar of everyday life for thousands of years and early prehistoric man was no different in many respects from his modern-day descendants. Beds, which were box shaped and constructed from stone, sometimes recessed into the walls of the house, would have been filled with soft vegetation, such as heather or bracken, and overlaid with animal pelt to provide a surface upon which to sleep. It is even believed that curtains may have been hung around beds as an early version of the four-poster.
0 AD: the Roman Empire
The Romans, famed for their numerous inventions, added mattresses to their repertoire, with luxury beds decorated with precious metals furnished with comfortable mattresses stuffed with feathers, reeds, wool or hay.
1300 AD: the Renaissance
Stuffed mattresses were still commonplace, with feathers or straw-filled cloth bags, although the fabric was coarse and uncomfortable to sleep on. Therefore, wealthier citizens indulged in expensive coverings of silk, brocade or velvet to improve the quality of their sleep.
Late 18th century
Although the Ancient Egyptians had discovered the benefits of sleeping in an elevated position off the ground, only now were the first cast iron beds invented, complete with cotton mattresses. This helped protect the sleeper from unwanted intruders, such as mice and rats, which previously had been widely accepted as an unfortunate consequence of sleeping on the floor.
The first coil spring design for the inside of a mattress was patented, paving the way for firmer, shapelier mattresses that would dominate the market for years.
New inventions changed the way that people slept, with foam rubber mattresses (1950s), waterbeds (1960s) and airbeds (1980s) giving consumers greater choice than ever and a variety of options for how to enjoy a great night’s sleep.
New mattress sizes became available, with the queen-size becoming the most popular mattress choice in the US, as well as a staple accessory in hotels across the world.
Now comfort and consumer choice is the order of the day, with a huge variety of designs on offer, as you’ll no doubt discover when purchasing your own new mattress!