From straw to pocket springs: The history of the modern bed
Sleeping is an essential part of our lives, and we spend on average a third of our lives sleeping. But how did sleep evolve and how did the modern bed come into being? Let’s dive into the history of sleep.
The evolution of our sleep cycles
Humans have been sleeping since the beginning of time. In the early days of mankind, our ancestors probably slept like other animals, just when they were tired. But as society evolved, rhythms linked to daylight and darkness emerged. Thus, the sleep-wake cycle was formed. In the 1950s, American sleep researcher Nathaniel Kleitman discovered that the sleep cycle consists of different phases. During sleep, we move through different stages, from light sleep to deep sleep and REM sleep. REM stands for Rapid Eye Movement, as the eyes move rapidly during this stage.
The invention of the modern bed
We all love to stretch out in our beds at night. But how did it actually come about? The modern bed is a relatively recent invention and it has come a long way to arrive at the comfortable and supportive bed we sleep on today.
Humans have been sleeping since the dawn of time, but in the early days of humanity, our ancestors probably slept on the ground or on a simple platform made of branches and leaves. As society developed, beds became more sophisticated. In ancient Egypt, people slept on raised beds made of wood or stone, decorated with gold and precious stones. In the Middle Ages, beds were made of wooden frames filled with straw or feathers.
The invention of the coil spring
In the 19th century, the bed was still not as comfortable as we know it today. It was often filled with hay, straw or even horsehair and offered little support to the sleeper. That changed when American inventor George W. Simmons invented a metal bed frame with coil springs in 1857. This was a huge improvement over the wooden beds used up until then. The coil springs provided more support and springiness, making the bed much more comfortable. This invention was the predecessor of our wonderfully comfortable box-spring beds.
The invention of the modern mattress
But it was German inventor Heinrich Westphal who invented the modern spring mattress in 1871. This was filled with metal springs wrapped in layers of cotton and wool. This type of mattress was much more comfortable than the old straw and hay mattresses. Westphal patented his invention and started selling mattresses to hotels and hospitals. His mattresses soon became popular and Westphal opened a mattress factory in Berlin.
The development of modern technologies
In the 20th century, more and more new technologies were developed that made the bed even more comfortable. In the 1930s, mattresses filled with latex were invented, which provided even more support than the old mattresses. In the 1960s, waterbeds entered the market, which became popular for their comfort and support. Today, there are mattresses made of different materials and technologies, such as memory foam, pocket springs and hybrid mattresses.
Sleeping is an essential part of our lives.It is fascinating to see how our sleeping habits have evolved throughout history. From the evolution of our sleep cycles to the invention of the modern bed, we have come a long way. But one thing remains the same: we all need good sleep to stay healthy and happy.