When we think about the range of beds available to us today, it is difficult to imagine that our ancestors did not enjoy this luxury. When buying a bed we have numerous options for bases, mattresses, and headboards, but this was not always the case.
Way before Christ, around 10,000 BC, it is likely our primitive ancestors did not have a bed. They would simply lie wherever they found themselves on the ground with no more than foliage or straw as a temporary mattress and coverings. Historians believe pits were dug to sleep in if the hardness of the ground allowed it, and the sleeper would pack the dip with grass and moss for warmth against the elements.
The idea of a bed raised from the ground to prevent drafts and stop insect invasion came into being between around 3200 BC and 2200 BC. These early beds comprised a raised box with some type of filling, often goatskin, straw, or palm boughs.
In medieval times, around the 14th century, bed standards improved as the bed frame came into existence. Early frames were made from rough wood and tied with rope. The mattress would consist of a bag of straw or hay – this is where the term hitting the hay came from.
Larger beds became popular during Medieval times, with many beds measuring 7 or 8 foot long, and 6 or 7 feet wide; the equivalent of our super king size beds today.
The Renaissance Era
By the 17th century, bed design became much more elaborate than in previous periods, with the wealthy opting for bases and headboards decorated with decorative patterns and valuable jewels.
In the 18th century, iron and four-poster beds with ostentatious canopies were fashionable, and a status symbol for the important and wealthy members of society.
1871 saw the invention of the first innerspring mattress in Germany. However, the inventor never saw how popular his design would become, and he died in poverty.
The Victorians had a fondness for iron bedsteads and headboards, but this ended abruptly due to the first world war, when all available iron was needed for weapons.
The first waterbed was designed by Neil Arnott and presented to Saint Bartholomew’s hospital in London in 1873 to prevent patient bedsores and ulcers.
In the late 19th-century box spring mattresses were invented which were less lumpy than their predecessors
In more recent times, the wide use of waterbeds in the sixties was perhaps the next important stage of how beds have developed over the centuries. The 1960s also saw the first adjustable beds hitting the market.
In the 1980s, airbeds became a cheap, viable option, as they still are today, but these days airbeds are more commonly used as a camping or guest bed.
Since the new millennium, we have numerous choices for mattresses, including open spring, pocket spring, latex, and NASA invented memory foam. Pillow top mattresses are another popular choice as they provide an extra layer of soft cushioning.
In 2006, the first TV bed came on the market, costing a whopping £20,000.
One thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the thought and effort that goes into creating beds and mattresses that are ever evolving to improve the quality of our sleep and aesthetic of the bedroom.