The history of the bed is a long one, spanning centuries. From the earliest and most simple animal skins laid upon the cave floor to the modern-day electric adjustable beds with built-in alarm clocks, mattresses have seen many changes.
But this history isn't just about who made beds and how – it's also about how humans used them throughout the ages. In addition, we'd be skipping an important detail if we didn't discuss the cultural significance the bed and mattress had in different times and places across history.
Let's look at the origins of the bed, beds throughout history, and the future of sleep.
Beds Throughout History
The First Beds
Dating back to prehistoric times, archeologists have found fossilized animal skins and bones used as beds. These primitive beds were rudimentary and lacked the features of modern mattresses. They were made of natural materials and provided little comfort.
Researchers believe that early humans made these beds from materials such as straw, leaves, or animal hair. The oldest of these "mattresses" dates back around 30,000 years ago. It was located in an Austrian cave and was made out of pine branches covered by animal hide.
When in Rome
In Ancient Rome, people viewed a bed as a sign of luxury and decadence. The average Roman was satisfied with a straw pallet or a thick blanket on the floor for sleeping.
However, in the home of a wealthy Roman, a bed called the lectus was common. A lectus was a sizable, ornate bed that took up a lot of space. The wealthy nobles of Rome also had a history of making their beds on couches with wooden or ivory frames.
Wealthy Romans slept elevated above the ground, often on a raised wooden platform. In addition to various forms of coarse mattresses, their bedding might have included pillows and covers made of linen.
Sleep Like an Egyptian
The Egyptians supposedly created the first modern mattress, which they filled with dried reeds, grasses, and other plant material. The Egyptian pharaohs had very elaborate beds – each one had a headboard, footboard, canopy drapes, and pillows with comforters underneath.
These components of an Egyptian bed could be changed as needed depending on the season or weather conditions.
The Story Behind Egyptian Cotton Sheets
The history of bedding accessories goes way back, with some everyday items even dating to ancient Egypt. These include Egyptian cotton sheets, which you've probably seen on a mattress in a fancy hotel.
These types of sheets were first made over 4000 years ago. Weavers combined coarse cotton fibers to make strands, then repeated the process with more delicate threads. The process of making cotton sheets in Egypt evolved over the centuries, and these sheets eventually became softer and smoother.
Types of Beds From Throughout History
From waterbeds to sofa sleepers, there are plenty of bed varieties out there. Let's look at some of the most popular beds of the last few centuries.
A bedstead is a simple frame on which you can place a mattress. This type of bed was popular during the Middle Ages and Renaissance periods. Bedsteads were often made out of wood or metal and had intricate designs carved into them.
Bed frames began to be popular in 12th century Europe when they were initially made out of wood. Cast-iron bed frames became all the rage in the 18th century due to their durability and ability to resist rusting.
Metal frames also became popular in the United States during the industrial revolution. These beds were mass-produced to meet the needs of a growing population.
Headboards and footboards also started to become more common during this time, as they provided added comfort and support. Bed skirts began to be popularized in the 18th century to conceal mattresses and box springs.
The Canopy Bed
Canopy beds were popular during the Baroque period (17-18th centuries) — people of these eras commonly decorated them with silk or velvet, so it’s not surprising that these beds were often embellished with expensive ornamentation such as gold leaf.
Typically canopy, beds have four-poster frames with drapes hanging from them. These drapes usually get closed at night, historically to keep insects away from people while they slept as well as to provide privacy or block out light.
The Couch Bed or Sofa Sleeper
The sofa sleeper or couch bed has stuck around throughout the last several centuries. This type of bed was common in French palaces during the 17th century. It featured a mattress on top of two large cushions laid against walls or placed between existing furniture pieces for support.
A canopy suspended over the couch helped provide shade from sunlight. This shade also allowed people inside to look out through windows built into the structure. The couch-bed design made this style of bedroom ideal for entertaining guests, mainly because it allowed many friends and family members to stay overnight in comfort. With a couch bed, guests wouldn't take up as much space indoors as they would with standard beds.
Daybeds are smaller versions of regular beds, with many similar features. Originating in Europe in the late Middle Ages, daybeds were typically placed in gardens for resting outside. Early daybeds also had footboards with storage space underneath for extra bedding.
A daybed was a couch or sofa usually placed in a bedroom. This placement allowed people to sit during the day and sleep on the bed during nighttime hours. This type of bed became very popular among wealthy families; it could serve as both an extra seat and be used by guests who needed a place to sleep at night.
Waterbeds were first invented in 1897. However, these beds did not become popular until the latter half of the 20th century. In 1897, an early waterbed-like device called the "Electric Mattress" became available for purchase at $200.
Waterbeds did enjoy a moment of popularity during the 70s and 80s. However, they've mostly fallen out of style since then.
The history of futons traces these beds back to Japan. A futon is a Japanese-style bed typically used on the floor. It can be folded away when not in use.
The futon originated during the Edo period in Japan (1603-1868), when it became a place to sleep, meditate, or pray. Futons have been made from different materials over the years, including straw, cotton, and silk.
The Air Mattress
Modern futons became mainstream outside of Japan in the 1970s. Air mattresses followed the futon's introduction to the global market in the 1980s.
Air mattresses were extremely popular during the 80s. These inflatable beds became staples in many homes. The transitional nature of air mattresses has helped them retain some of their popularity over the years. However, some people see them as more of a fad than a real innovation to sleeping technology.
Memory Foam Mattresses
In the early 1900s, a new type of mattress was born – the memory foam mattress. This mattress contains a specialized material that returns to its original shape.
This type of mattress was originally designed in the 1960s. However, it wasn't until the early 1990s that it became available to consumers. Since then, it has become one of the most popular mattresses on the market.
Does Memory Foam Live Up to the Hype?
While memory foam still has some popularity, it's not all it's cracked up to be. Back sleepers may find memory foam comfortable enough for them, but side sleepers often experience discomfort on even the softest memory foam mattresses.
The primary issue with memory foam for side sleepers is a lack of support for weight-bearing parts of the body like the neck, spine, and shoulders. For optimal support for these areas, you'll need a SONU mattress.
The Bed of the Future: The SONU Sleep System
As you’ve outlined, beds have changed and evolved in various ways over the centuries. However, the typical mattress has remained the same for decades – until now.
The innovative SONU Sleep System is the bed of the future, offering unparalleled comfort and prioritizing side sleeping, the most popular sleeping position among adults.
If you're looking for something new that will transform your sleeping experience, the SONU Sleep System is exactly what you need.
Here’s what makes the SONU Sleep System a game-changing mattress for side sleepers.
The Built-In Comfort Channel
If you’re a side sleeper, you’re undoubtedly familiar with the struggle of finding a place to put your arms while you rest. Side-sleeping on a typical mattress can be awkward and uncomfortable due to the lack of comfort and support for the arm that bears the weight of your body as you sleep.
The SONU eliminates this common problem with its patented Comfort Channel, a unique feature designed specifically for side sleepers’ arms. The Comfort Channel is a perfect-sized negative space just below your pillow that lets you immerse your arm into the mattress while you sleep.
The result? No more nights spent tossing and turning while you try to figure out where to put your arms.
The Support Pillows
One of the biggest struggles for many side sleepers is waking up with neck pain. The achiness you might feel after sleeping on a standard mattress is mostly due to the lack of proper neck support.
Luckily, SONU has this area covered. Their innovative Sleep System features a stack of double-layered Support pillows to make sleeping more comfortable than ever.
The Support Pillows sit directly below your top pillow of choice, keeping your neck comfortable throughout the night.
If you need an upgrade from your current pillow, try swapping it out for the SONU Top Pillow Deluxe - the perfect blend of malleability, support and cooling properties designed to work with the SONU Sleep System to bring you the best sleeping experience of your life.
A Superior Sleeping Experience
While it’s nearly impossible to rest comfortably on a standard mattress when you sleep on your side, the SONU gives you unparalleled comfort night after night. This added comfort comes in large part thanks to the Sink-In Support feature on the mattress.
This unique feature keeps your spine aligned with the rest of your body while you rest, helping you maintain proper posture all night long. In addition, the ergonomic design of the mattress provides extra support for your hands and wrists. That way, you can stay comfy while reading a book or holding your phone or tablet as you settle down for the night.
Full Range of Motion
A typical mattress makes it tough for side sleepers to get comfortable, and that often means waking up with aches and pains. Many of those uncomfortable sensations are the result of the limited range of motion that your mattress restricts you to.
The SONU enables your full range of motion below the surface thanks to the Comfort Channel and Sink-In Support, allowing you to easily adjust and get into the perfect sleeping position.
Leave The Past Behind, Now It’s Time for the Future
Now that you know a bit more about the beds of the past, it’s time to make the switch to the bed of the future. The SONU Sleep System takes the typical mattress design and completely revolutionizes it, opting for maximum comfort and support for the parts of your body that need it most.
If you’re discontented with your current bed, SONU could be just what your body has been looking for. It even comes with a 100-night trial, so you’ve got plenty of time to make up your mind and experience it for yourself.
Explore the SONU Sleep System for yourself here, and see what a little bit of science can do to change the way you sleep for good.
Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems | NCBI