July 4th 2022
The history of the mattress
The history of the mattress from antiquity to the present day

Rest is essential for a happy life: sleep greatly affects your quality of life, allowing you to recharge your batteries and maintain a healthy psychophysical balance.
We spend about a third of our life sleeping, but not everyone is aware of the fact that the history of the mattress is almost as long as that of the human race.
Let us retrace the most important stages in the evolution of the mattress, from its beginnings to the present day.

The mattress in antiquity

The first prototype of mattress appeared in the Neolithic period. It consisted of a stack of dry leaves and mixed shrubs on which an animal skin was placed to make it more comfortable. However, this bed was very dirty and damp as it was in direct contact with the ground.

The Egyptians changed the configuration of the bed. It was now supported by a wooden frame with plaited ropes with a palm leaf quilt. The frame lifted it off the ground, creating an arched structure that offered some protection from parasites and snakes. It was the first bed frame ever built and it was during this period that the first real beds appeared, made exclusively for sleeping.

–>Fun fact: it is said that the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun had a bed built for him made of ebony and gold!

Also, during this period, the first cushions appeared, although they were very rudimentary and rather hard, as they were made of wood or stone.

It is only with the ancient Romans that the pillow changed and became much more like the typical pillow we know today. In this period, long cushions of fabric filled with soft materials such as wool or feathers were produced. The mattress also changed. The Romans used sacks stuffed with hay, wool, or feathers (the latter being the prerogative of the noble classes only).

Medioevo e Rinascimento

During the Middle Ages, legume pods, especially pea pods, were added to the mattress filling, and it was placed on top of a leather lattice.

–> Fun fact: this reminds us of Hans Christian Andersen’s famous fable “The Princess and the Pea”. Who is to say that this was not the source of his inspiration?

But the greatest innovation of this period concerns the covers used. For the wealthiest classes, the fabrics became increasingly valuable: cotton, silk, linen, and velvet were among the most common materials used, carefully embroidered by hand.

However, the real leap in quality took place during the Renaissance, a period in which considerable importance was attached to the bedroom, especially by the most affluent social classes.
Luxurious and elegant canopy beds, fitted with comfortable mattresses made of natural fibres (cotton, wool, coconut) and with linen covers, started to appear in the stately homes.

The Industrial Revolution

With the arrival of the industrial revolution, the mattress changed considerably. People began to realise how important it was to get a good night’s sleep. It was in 1871 that the first spring mattress was produced by the German inventor Heinrich Westphal. This was an innovation that would completely change the way we slept.

The 20th Century

In 1928, the Scot John Boyd Dunlop invented a sticky, air impregnated foam, which he used to produce the first latex foam mattress.

Following this, in 1935, the chemist Otto Bayer invented polyurethane foam and this brand-new material soon began to be used in mattresses. This invention marked a fundamental stage in the evolution of the mattress, as it combined comfort with the ability to adequately support the skeleton.

Over time, research and technological innovation resulted in the creation of Memory Foam, a type of foam that gives the mattress the ability to mould to the shape of the body.

–> Fun fact: Memory Foam was invented by NASA to protect astronauts from impacts and to improve the safety of spacecraft seats. At NASA’s request, two scientists developed a synthetic foam made of polyurethane with a slow elastic response that adapted quickly to any body shape, evenly distributed body weight, and evened out body temperature. After the release of this technology to the public in the 1980s, the first Memory mattress came on the market in 1991.

Today, there are many types of mattresses to suit everyone. Somnium offers a wide range of mattresses and bedroom accessories that can be customised for maximum comfort. Have you found what’s right for you yet?

Try the Somnium TEST and find the perfect product for you!