We are well familiar with all the health and beauty benefits of sleep. Yet it is not only that we need to sleep enough and give our bodies the needed time to recover, but shall be also very rigorous when comes to the comfort of our beds.
Research shows that people sleep better and experience fewer symptoms of stress when sleeping on newer beds, but while we can not change our beds as often as we might wish to, we could carefully select our supportive frames and mattresses.
The UK mattress manufacturing industry generates an annual revenue of over £700m with the replacement of old mattresses accounting for two-thirds of total purchases.
If you haven’t shopped for a new mattress recently, there are many options to choose from – from the classic spring ones to the newer latex and gel, through cold and memory foam to air-, water- and even hybrid mattresses.
The world of mattresses evoked in parallel with the history of the bed. We know that Tutankhamen had a bed of ebony and gold but what for a mattress did he use? In the Roman Empire mattresses were stuffed with reeds, hay, wood or feathers – depending on one’s social and financial status. And not to forget, Romans had also discovered the waterbed.
Through Renaissance mattresses were made of straw and feathers stuffed into coarse ticks. The first true mattresses appeared in 16th century. The phrase “sleep tight” comes from that times, when mattresses were placed on top of ropes that needed regular tightening, to prevent from sagging. Two centuries later the filling already included natural materials like coconut fiber, cotton, wool and even horse hairs. The first box- springs, acting as shock absorbers, were invented in late 19th century and in the next century the market got over-flooded with new technologies and varieties.
The word mattress comes from the Middle Latin matracium, which was borrowed from the Arabic matrah (place where something is thrown). In 12th century the word entered the Italian and French languages and a century later was part of the English vocabulary as well. With the first written reference coming from 1300s’ early South-English legendary, the life of Saint Vincent: “Make a bed..Of quilt [a sack stuffed with wool and straw and used as a cushion] and of mattress.”
The next written reference comes from the register of the Church of England, from one of the first wills recorded in The Court of Probate, around 1395: My second best feather bed, with canvas mattress. Obviously a bed and a mattress was precious enough to be included in a will, but when a feather bed with a canvas mattress was the owner’s second best, we are left to wonder what was his bed of first choice and what for a mattress it could had had.