While nestling into bed or seeking a new bed at any mattress store, you might not be aware of the history of the mattress that helps induce you into a deep sleep each night. The history of the mattress is extensive, as an early version of the mattress was documented nearly 100 thousand years ago. Different civilizations had variations of the mattress that were much different than the ones we use today but were comprised of a similar desire for comfort. These mattress inventions eventually accumulated into the mattresses we currently know, appreciate and use every night.
Find out more about the long history of the mattress and when they were first invented.
Early origins of the mattress
The first mattress was possibly created by chimp-like species called Homo Erectus. These mattresses were initially discovered in a rock shelter near South Africa. These beds were made of a mixture of reeds and rushes or other grassy materials for maximum comfort. Homo sapiens most likely added natural plants to their bedding to repel insects from their sleeping areas.
The invention of the mattress dates back as far as the apes, who slept on compiled materials on the ground for sleeping. More modern society has since been improving this basic design and remaking them into mattresses that are much more comfortable and utilized to support your back.
Classical history of the mattress
The way people slept slowly began to evolve as the Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks utilized their own methods of sleep. The Egyptians slept on palm boughs and started to raise their mattresses using wood to protect themselves from snakes on the ground. Other early variations of the mattress come from the Ancient Romans, who used a woven rope bed frame to sleep on, while the common folk stuffed their beds with reeds, hay, and other materials. The wealthier Romans stuffed their beds with feathers and used many layers of sheets and blankets. Some Romans and Egyptians also used a “pillow” that mostly consisted of wood or stone for better head support. Similar to the Romans were the Greeks in terms of their bedding. The Greeks used klines, which resemble a modern couch, for eating, sleeping, and socializing. In countries like Japan, China, and Korea, beds remained on the ground. Because the ground stayed warm during winter and cold in the summer, beds on the ground were a preferred method where they also ate and socialized.
Medieval, Renaissance, and modern mattresses
Beds remained a simple concept in the medieval period, where the mattresses were raised with wood and stuffed with straw. The impoverished of this period slept on piles of hay, straw, or bundles of leaves on the ground. Nearing the end of the 12th century, bed frames became a popular symbol of wealth, and mattresses being stuffed with down became a trend solely amongst the wealthy. Beds, frames, and mattresses continued to be primarily associated with luxury during the renaissance era when frames became more outlandishly decorative and mattresses became much more prominent.
Mattresses became transformed entirely in the 1870s when coil springs were introduced, and metal bed frames became more accessible to everyday people. During the 20th century, for the first time in history, mattresses were widely produced, which made them very accessible and affordable to most people. The affordability of beds during the 20th-century spawned the mattresses we seek comfort and preference in today.
While the general concept of the mattress has existed for quite some time, the different mattress types that are available for purchase at any mattress store were created in entirely different eras. Here are some of the most popular types of mattresses and when they were initially invented:
- Memory foam: The memory foam mattress was first invented by NASA in the 1970s. They created this mattress from an idea to build a more comfortable seat cushion. NASA released objects made from the memory foam in the 1980s, and the first memory foam mattress was available to the public in 1992.
- Innerspring: Innerspring mattresses were the first modern mattress that wasn’t stuffed with hay or straw and was created in the 1870s. This type of mattress didn’t gain popularity until the 1930s and remains one of today’s most popular mattress types.
- Waterbeds: There are many claims as to when the waterbed was first invented and used. Some accounts state that the Persians invented a variation of the waterbed in 3600 BCE, where they filled goatskins with water and slept on this. The modern-day waterbed was eventually developed in 1968 by a university student and gained popularity throughout the 1970s and 80s.