10,000 Years To Develop A Comfy Mattress

Although now redesigned, refined and vastly improved, there is credible evidence that beds and mattresses were invented during the Neolithic period – also known as the “New” Stone Age – almost 10,000 years ago.

The word mattress is originally derived from an Arabic phrase meaning “to throw and place”. Adapted from the Arabic method of sleeping, the Europeans used cushions on the floor, calling it a materas which has eventually evolved to become ‘mattress’ in the modern English language.

Throughout history mattresses have simply been pads placed on top of a bed for the purpose of sleeping. The bed itself was invented to introduce sleeping above the floor and thus avoid draughts, dirt and pests. Although it cannot be confirmed, the first Neolithic mattress was almost certainly filled with leaves or straw and covered by animal skins.

Over the centuries mattresses have been made with a variety of different materials. Around 200 BC in Ancient Rome, mattresses for the average citizen were filled with bags of cloth stuffed with reeds, hay or wool; but the wealthy would have had luxurious feather-filled versions. Even earlier, in Persia approximately 3,500 BC they invented an impressive forerunner of the water-bed; mattresses constructed of goats’ skins filled with water.

Despite the promising early start it took until the 15th century before mattresses became anymore elaborate with the introduction of velvets and silks as coverings. The next phase of redevelopment came at the beginning of the 18th century when most mattresses were stuffed with cotton wool or wool for more comfort. By the middle of the century they took more of a defined mattress shape, similar to today’s, when box-shaped covers were created, bordered and then filled with natural fibres such as coconut and horse hairs.

There was a major technological advance in 1857 when the first coil spring made an appearance. First designed for and tested out on chairs, within eight years coil spring mattresses were ‘de rigueur’. German technologists were credited with the invention of the inner spring mattress in 1871, followed by waterbed mattresses, initially used for medical purposes.

Early twentieth century technology saw the development of the box spring, which smoothed out the hitherto lumpy mattresses, before the introduction of the inner spring and upholstered foundations widely used with artificial mattress fillers during the 1930s.

Mattress technology advanced in leaps and bounds in the late 20th Century and now includes materials first designed for space travel. As we enter the 21st Century there are many types of mattresses available, made from different natural and man-made materials including those first designed for space travel, such as memory foam.

We spend almost a third of our life sleeping, so making sure that we do so on a mattress that is comfortable and hard-wearing should be a prime consideration. Of course, if you want to do it yourself, you could always ignore the thousands of different mattresses available throughout the UK and simply fill a few goats’ skins with water, and do it the Persian way!