Since the dawn of man (and woman), human beings have needed a place to sleep. Over the years, mattress materials have evolved from little more than a pile of leaves into the plush, spring-supported, foam, and even memory foam masterpieces we have today. The following timeline shows exactly how we progressed from sleeping on leaves to memory foam.

  • People began the construction of primitive beds made of stones in the caves they inhabited during the Neolithic Era. These rocks were covered with leaves and grass, and were often wrapped in the hides of hunted animals.
  • Egyptian pharaohs were the first to sleep on raised beds after discovering the benefits of slumbering on raised platforms. Soon, most societies began to sleep this way.
  • The Greeks take sleeping on a raised platform to a whole new level and are the first to create decorative and often ornate beds and bed stands. Numerous pillows, pelts and strips of hide adorning beds become a symbol of wealth and status.
  • The basic and common mattress during these eras; however, it continues to be some form of the early mattress. That is to say, it’s a mattress stuffed with organic materials. Straw, cotton, hair and feathers are all popular mattress materials for quite some time.
  • In the 16th and 17th centuries, mattresses were mostly stuffed with pea shucks, feathers and straw, then they were stuffed into cloth cases before being covered in velvets and silks.
  • With the 18th century came the demise of the velvet and silk stuffing and the rise of the lattice work rope, which attached mattresses to their bed frames.
  • A man named Heinrich Westphal patented the steel coil spring in 1871, a device first used in the seats of chairs before making its way into mattresses. More than 50 years after this invention, the innerspring mattress gains popularity.
  • During the early 1900s, a fight for sanitary bedding laws ensued. Before these laws were in place, it was not uncommon for brand new bedding to come complete with a few vermin in tow.
  • In the late 1920s, bedding saw a huge rise in sales, before declining rapidly in the early 1930s.
  • Mattress materials consisted mostly of a combination of felt and raw cotton into the 1950s and 1960s.
  • Foam, a byproduct of war, gains popularity as a mattress material in the mid 1950s.
  • The 1970s brought a rise in the sale of water beds.

In this day and age, mattress materials differ greatly from bed to bed, and each offers its pros and cons. Whether your bed is made of latex, fiber or some form polyurethane, one thing is for certain: it will be much more comfortable than the animal hide stuffed full of leaves of bygone days.