The mattress has had a long history. Basically, its purpose was and is today, intended to support a reclining body. Egyptian pharaohs slept on hard beds of ebony and gold, with soft fabrics and cushioning of the times and with a supportive head rest, while commoners slept on palm bows on floors. The Romans also had decorative beds in gold, silver and bronze, stuffed with reeds, hay, wool or feathers. It was also during the Roman Empire that the concept of the water bed was pioneered. One would recline in a cradle of water until drowsy, then be lifted onto a mattress and rocked to sleep. In the early Middle Ages, carpets were laid on the floor with a topper made of animal skin coverings stuffed with feathers, wool or hair. During the Renaissance period, brocades, velvets and silks were stuffed with feathers or straw. By the early 1800’s, the bed or bed frame was raised from the floor and strung with wool or linen, used to support the stuffed pad, consisting now of straw, feathers, and wool blankets. Later, cotton mattresses provided a sleeping surface that was less susceptible to bugs and vermin. These first mattresses were supported by straps stretched across a frame. The straps were tightened periodically to keep the mattress taught so as to prevent sagging in the center and to prohibit a breeding ground for bugs. Thus the expression was born: Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite.
In 1865, the first coil spring construction for bedding was patented.
In the early 1900’s, mattresses had a layer of cotton felt on the outside portions and raw cotton stuffed in the center. A better quality, higher-priced mattress was all cotton felt. Cotton mattresses tended to compact and become harder with age. With today’s technology, an innerspring mattress tends to become softer with age. The 1930’s presented the commonplace and dominant innerspring mattress. The 1940’s introduced the futon – a novelty, functional and extra sleeping venue. The 1950’s introduced foam rubber mattresses and pillows. The 1960’s celebrated the modern waterbed and adjustable base. It was a time of indulgence and “free love”. The 1980’s introduced air beds, and the 1990’s the Queen size mattress takes over. No longer are couples expected to sleep so tightly, and sleep becomes an experience, rather than just a necessity. The turn of the century welcomes the King size mattress and the ultra sleeping experience. And mattresses continue to expand as we evolve.