Mattress History

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In ancient times people slept on straw like animals, and with the development of fabrics, they invented pillows and slept on padded cloth. In 17th Century England beds were made with wood frames, with rope or leather supports, and a bag of straw for mattresses. Elaborate beds were a sign of wealth, more than they are today. J.P. Leggett invented steel coil mattresses in 1885; they were not popular at first but over time became the leading mattress type in the UK and US.

Latex mattresses were introduced in the 1930s. Waterbeds were used even in ancient times: goat skins filled with water were employed for Persia mattresses in the 2nd millennium BCE. In the second half of the 19th Century rubber mattresses fitted for water were introduced to cope with bed sores. They were sold by mail order and would break and release water frequently.

Soft sprung mattresses have been popular in the past 50 years. They are often accused of being a source of back pain, but doctors who have studied the issue doubt that, and many are skeptical about whether “orthopedic mattresses” are effective.

Mattresses have been around for thousands of years. Humans originally slept on makeshift mattresses stuffed with leaves and animal hair in order to stay warm and dry. According to the Discovery Channel show ‘How it’s made,’ the wealthy often had their mattresses raised above the ground by placing them onto wooden frames or bedsteads; and the concept of a raised bed didn’t become common among the middle class until the 1600s. Encyclopedia.com states that the innerspring mattress was developed in the mid 1800s but wasn’t popularized until after World War I when it was mass produced by the Zalmon Simmons, Jr., bedstead company.

While there have been several improvements on the innerspring mattress and other types of mattresses introduced to the market, several centuries later we still rely on virtually the same product. The fact that the mattress has survived through time is a testament to the importance human beings have placed on getting a good night’s sleep.

Mattress Types and Sizes

Mattresses are built in many different sizes but the most commonly purchased are twin, full, queen, and king. Twin mattresses are 39 inches wide by 75 inches long; full (also known as double) mattresses are 53 inches wide by 75 inches long; queen mattresses are 60 inches wide by 80 inches long; and king mattresses are 76 inches wide by 80 inches long. Mattress thickness varies from brand to brand due to differences in building materials.

Popular mattress types include innerspring, foam, water, air, synthetic fill and animal hair fill.

Innerspring or coil mattresses start out as a series of metal coils attached to a metal mattress frame. This metal frame is then covered with several layers of fabric to prevent any coils from poking through and to provide enough cushioning for comfort. This type of mattress can have open coils that are hourglass shaped or pocket coils that are barrel-shaped and provide more support.

Foam mattresses were introduced in the 1970s and gained popularity because they were hypoallergenic, mold resistant and easy to maintain; they are still popular today for the same reasons. Memory foam is a gel-like material that adjusts to pressure and bounces back once the pressure is released. It is an improved version of NASA memory foam technology and a Swedish company introduced it to the general public in the early 1990s.

Surprisingly, waterbeds have been around for thousands of years and were originally made from animal skins filled with water. The informational site, about.com, states that these beds were sold in the United States during the late 1800s as therapeutic devices but boomed in popularity during the 1960s as vinyl became popular. Air beds are also commonly crafted from vinyl but unlike waterbeds they are rarely used as permanent mattresses due to the inevitable air leakage.

There are also mattresses that are filled with synthetic fibers, such as futon mattresses; and animal hair mattresses that use wool and horse hair. One luxury mattress filled with horse hair, cotton and wool currently retails for around $50,000.

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