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The History of the Mattress

The mattress is something most of us probably take for granted – but it’s such an integral part of our daily lives, the quality of our sleep, and our overall health.

Mattresses have been around for thousands of years – though not always in their advanced memory foam, pillow top varieties.

The very first mattress is believed to have been invented about 77,000 years ago by those living in a region of South Africa. Here they constructed mattresses (which came to be about a foot thick and an impressive 22 feet long), using layers of plant materials.

Thousands of years later in 3,400 B.C., the Egyptians made another significant advancement in bedding. Pharaohs and other members of the upper-class would sleep on raised wooden pallets that more closely resembled the style of bed we know today. Egyptian commoners, however, still slept on palm leaves on the ground.

Next came the Romans, who took a big leap ahead with the creation of the first waterbed! While water wasn’t exactly placed inside of the mattress, they did devise a sleeper for young children that could recline into a tub of warm water to get them ready for sleep.

Folks in the Renaissance Era continued to experiment with softer materials to fill their mattresses with, like straw and feathers, and popularized the use of bed covers (which were sometimes made of nicer fabrics like velvet and silks). They also ushered in the curtained four-poster bed.

In the late 1700s, our forefathers and mothers in Colonial America had transitioned to the iron bed frame, even more like the style we know today. On that frame was now the cotton mattress (an option certainly more comfortable than straw). In the mid-1800s, along came the invention of the spring coil mattress, and by the early twentieth century, our grandparents and great-grandparents were sleeping on innerspring mattresses, and may have even picked up the latest mattress on the market – the futon – for their 1940’s bungalows.

Mid-twentieth century sleepers gained access to mattresses and pillows made of foam rubber, shortly after which the modern waterbed hit the market. In the 1980s came the advent of the ever-popular (and convenient) airbed mattress.

By the time the 1990s and 2000s hit, mattresses became much more about quality and comfort. The bed wasn’t just a place to sleep – it became a place to watch TV, and surf the internet.

Today, you can find mattresses in so many different styles, materials, and sizes. The options are endless! We’ve come a long way since the days of palm leaves in Ancient Egypt. These mattress innovations, which have arrived at an exponential rate since the 18th century, suggest we can only guess at how the mattress will evolve in the years to come.

Have a hankering for more mattress trivia? Be sure to keep a pulse on the Shovlin Mattress blog for the latest and greatest.

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