If there’s one thing just about every human has in common, it’s that we all sleep on a mattress each and every night. At least, in many Western nations.
There’s a pretty good chance it’s the one thing we all take for granted and don’t think too much about, other than when we’ve had a long, rough day and could do with a nice relaxing sleep or to curl up with a good book.
We’ve seen major changes in our mattresses over the years, and as we understand more and more about sleep, technologies like gel-infused foams, cool-to-touch materials and other features have begun cropping up in our beds. Though, our mattresses weren’t always like this — and in fact, there was a time when sleep surfaces didn’t really exist at all.
That said, if you’ve ever wondered where the mattress came from and why we’re not all sleeping on our bedroom floors, Sleepify has an awesome, informative post for you below!
Let’s have a look at who invented the mattress.
The First Appearance Of The Mattress
Although many of us would assume that the mattress has been around for a rather long while, the modern mattress as we know it today had only appeared in the mid-1800s.
Around the 1850s was the time ‘mattresses’ first began to look like what we know them as today — the cotton-filled, plush and thick sleep surfaces that enabled lumbar support and a good level of bounce.
The first materials that hit the mattress industry were both cotton and wool. Essentially, these materials were the most versatile and fibrous and were able to simply be ‘stuffed’ into fabric casements and used as the basis for mattresses.
Going a little further forward, during the iron age, mattresses were then able to make use of cast iron springs which enabled a tonne more support to go with the ultra-soft cotton, wool and even horse hair cushioning.
During this time, these springs were also integrated into seats and other machinery or factory chairs.
That said, we can trace the coil spring and innerspring bed all the way back to the mid-1850s so it’s no wonder than this technology is starting to fade and has begun to be replaced by the more advanced latex, memory foam and bamboo.
The First Innerspring
When it comes to an authentic innerspring mattress, and not a simple cast iron spring integrated soft-top bed, we have Heinrich Westphal to thank.
The German inventor first invented the innerspring mattress in 1871, though being a rather primitive time with regards to accepting change, no one really liked the idea of the innerspring mattresses until around 60 years later.
That said, Heinrich Westphal never received recognition for his invention during his time, and lived in poverty for much of his life following the invention.
To end, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that the innerspring mattress begun to hit the mainstream and became an essential item in just about every Western home around the world.
The History Of the Mattress
Of course, the mattress that Heinrich invented back in the 1870s didn’t simply come out of thin air. Beds and mattresses have been in use in different forms for thousands of years and we can trace our beds all the way back to the Stone Age.
It is interesting to know that ‘mattress’ means a ‘floor accessory for sleeping.’ The modern word comes from the word “materas.”
The Neolithic Sleeping Surfaces
To understand where the mattress in your bedroom came from, we can wind our calendars all the way back to 3,000BC where our Neolithic ancestors worked to develop sleep surfaces from animal skin, grass and straw to lay over the top of rocks and the ground.
Of course, these surfaces were dependant on the materials available, though researchers have settled on animal skins and local grasses for being the primary materials used. There is also evidence of palm leaves, twigs and branches being used for the fillings in these mattresses.
That in mind, humans have been quite focused on developing the mattress for an exceedingly long period of time.
Moving on from the Neolithic period, the Dark Ages or Middle Ages saw a tonne of improvement in mattresses too.
The Renaissance Mattress
In the time of Leonardo da Vinci, the mattress took another major leap forward in that fabric pouches were developed for cotton, feathers and other soft materials to be stuffed within.
This change essentially created a surface that could be filled up with soft, plush materials for sleeping, rather than hard sticks and twigs.
There was also the use of velvet and silk casings for these mattresses too, which kickstarted the use of silk and other luxurious materials in the bedding ‘industry’ of the time.
Shortly after these changes in mattress internal layouts, rudimentary bed frames became commonplace. Wooden platforms were developed to support these mattresses and make it easier for sleepers to get in and out of bed.
Towards the end of the Renaissance period, soft stuffings also became common for mattresses and the beds began to take on their more modern look and feel, albeit without any sort of internal support beyond the bed frames used below.
NASA and the Foams
Going beyond the innerspring invention in 1871 and jumping into the 1960s, NASA’s work on foam for their astronauts had a significant effect on the bedding industry.
Once NASA had pushed for the development of the memory foam for seating in the Shuttles, this material was then one of the most sought after in the world, at least with when it came to anything to do with shoes, sleeping, sitting and more.
This memory foam then kickstarted a trend in the mattress industry whereby brands did all that they could to create sleeping surfaces that were soft, supportive and cradled the body as we slept. As a result, foams slowly became the more demanded and standardised material for mattresses, gradually eating away at the innerspring and coil spring market.
The Modern Mattress
Leaping into the 2020s, and we have a tonne of different materials now on offer that were undoubtedly spurred by NASA’s invention of memory foam.
We have the option of latex, bamboo, responsive fibre, polyurethane and more.
All of these materials are a lot more comfortable and arguably better for the environment than their metal coil counterparts and are easily shipped to homes in boxes, making them easier than ever to get your hands on.
With the above in mind, it’s clear to see that a tonne has gone into the mattress to get it to where we are today, and we’re right in the middle of a new mattress revolution.
The leap from springs to foams happened quite gradually, though we’re already making moves from memory foam to all-new proprietary foams that have their own special features and technologies.
Whether it’s cool-touch technology, muscle repair features or anything else, we’re sure there are some incredible, new sleep-focused mattresses right around the corner.