Understanding the History and Evolution of Mattresses, Part 1

understanding history evolution mattresses

Understanding the History and Evolution of Mattresses, Part 1

As a locally-owned and operated company serving you for all your quality mattress and bedding needs, we at 2 Brothers Mattress always keep in touch with our roots. This means offering quality service and pricing to all our clients just like our family founders intended, but it also means understanding and appreciating the materials at our disposal and how they’ve evolved over the years.

Mattresses, or something approximating them, have been used in some form by humans for thousands and thousands of years for the purposes of sleep. In this two-part blog, we’ll look at the history of mattresses in human society, both from a date standpoint and through the lens of popular materials you might be aware of today.

Ancient History

The earliest record or evidence we have of a mattress or something similar to it dates back to about 77,000 years into ancient history. Researchers found what appears to be an ancient mattress in a rock shelter in South Africa, one that’s about three feet by six feet long and made of reeds and rushes. Various leaves and grass were used as the bedding.

There are limited such examples dating to somewhere in the 3000 to 1000 BC era, during which ancient Egyptians made wooden raised surfaces to protect themselves from snakes and insects while sleeping. Wealthier citizens or royalty had beds made from ebony and decorated with jewels.

Romans and Greeks

The ancient Romans and Greeks followed the Egyptians’ lead in raising their mattresses off the ground, even sometimes raising them several feet and using ladders or stairs to access them. Romans used wood, metal or ivory as mattress products, with rope or string supports and hay or reeds stuffed inside them – wealthier people could afford wool or feathers for stuffing. Beds for Romans and Greeks served as socialization and dining areas as well as sleeping purposes.

Interestingly, mattresses were also seen in the Eastern world such as Japan, China and Korea around this same time period – but they were generally kept on the ground rather than raised. This was because it stayed warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

Medieval Period

The Medieval period saw the inclusion of wooden frames or bed boxes, stuffed with straw or hay. By the 12th century, beds became more of a decorative element and began to serve as a status symbol for wealthy people. By the end of this time period, down stuffing and curtains were becoming common practices.

Renaissance Period to Today

By the 15th century, during the Renaissance, beds in Europe had headboards and columns and were often extremely large. They were very decorative and ornate, serving as major power symbols among the elite in formats like the four-poster.

By the 19th century, beds had become simpler and more functional. Coil springs were invented in the late 1800s, and metal frames became more common. By the early 1900s, mass production of mattresses made them more accessible to the general public, and the primary factor here became comfort rather than status. This theme has remained into today even as greater technology has emerged.

For more on the history of mattresses, or to learn about any of our new mattress types or adjustable bed options, speak to the staff at 2 Brothers Mattress today.