The other day, I was lying in bed for a while after I woke up, sort of patting the mattress. It occurred to me that what I was lying on was something of a miraculous invention. Here are some of the substances that mattresses have been made of or stuffed with in the past:
- Dirt and a wooden prop for the head
- Ebony and gold
- Rice hulls
- Water in goatskins or, more recently, vinyl
- Pine straw
- Coconut fiber
- Horse hair
- Pea shucks in ticking (plain rough cloth), with velvet & brocade on the outside
- Straw or cotton in ticking on rope lattice
- Cotton on iron
- Rubber and foam
Some notable facts:
- The average person spends 220,000 hours in bed over the course of a lifetime.
- The phrase "sleep tight" probably comes from the 16th century when mattresses were laid on a lattice of ropes that needed tightening. The phrase was later combined with "don't let the bedbugs bite" in rhymes for children.
- In the late 18th century, when cotton was used in mattresses on iron beds, it was discovered that vermin disliked this combination. Until that time, bugs in the bed were accepted as a regular part of sleeping.
- Water beds were used in Persia in 1500 BC, and also later, during the Roman empire.
- The first spring mattress was patented in 1865, but spring mattresses did not become widely used until the 1930's.
The Better Sleep Council
About.com's History of Beds
World Wide Words, on the origin of "sleep tight"
New York Daily News At Your Service column, Mattresses/Beds (note that way at the bottom of this page, alphabet games are recommended as a way to help you fall asleep)