History of Laying Down: Mattresses

By: Fabian Toulouse

Whenever you cozy down to sleep at night, there is a good chance you don't think about the mattress you sleep on. Unless, of course, it's terribly uncomfortable - or you have bed bugs. The mattress, that simplest of inventions, has been with us for thousands of years and while the concept is simple enough, like with any Thanksgiving turkey: it's all in the stuffing.
Mattresses came from the humblest of origins. Archaeological evidence suggests the first mattresses were used in during the Neolithic period. This seems to have marked the first time in human history when people started sleeping on raised platforms to avoid pests and drafts. These mattresses consisted mostly of piles of leaves, grass, straws and even tree boughs covered with animal skins. Around 3600 BC, there is evidence the Persians used beds made of tightly stitched goatskins that were filled with water, making them the first water beds!
By the reign of the Romans, mattresses would involve a large bag made out of cloth that was then stuffed with hay or reeds if the person was poor, wool if the person was a little better off, or feathers if the person was wealthy. This feather bed was one that would be recreated over and over all over the world. They are extremely warm and soft, and though they do take some maintenance, many of the people who still sleep on them consider them to be completely worth the time that it takes to keep them well maintained.
By the European Renaissance of the 1600s, mattresses consisted of a "tick," that is, a cloth form, that would then be filled with the stuffing material. Once again, the poor made do with things like reeds, pea shucks and straw, while the wealthy had feather mattresses. The very rich at this time would have the ticks made of tightly woven cloth and then covered with something more luxurious, like an embroidered brocade, silk or velvet. It is interesting to note that at this time, the mattresses were placed on beds that were wooden frames that had a platform made of ropes woven into a grid. The ropes had to be kept tight or the mattress would sag; this is where the expression "sleep tight" comes from.
The use of metal springs did not begin until the 1850s. Indeed, the coupled spring and wooden bed slats did not appear until a bit later. The invention of the box spring made the mattress a lot less lumpy and upholstered foam foundations became the norm, as did artificial fillers. Take a look at the mattress that you sleep on and think a little bit about the history that it represents; mattresses have gone through many, many changes!

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If you're in the market for incredibly comfortable mattresses, make sure you buy from a respected mattress vendor.

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