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Who Invented the Bed? The History of Beds Examined

Who Invented the Bed? The History of Beds Examined

For millenniums, human beings have been evolving the place they lay to sleep or unwind. From ice-cold stone, bare wood, and spring beds, to today's memory-foam structures, the bed has come such a long way.

The oldest recognized 'bed' was crafted by apes in the Miocene period, nearly 23 and 5 million years back. It entailed a heap of tree branches, leaves, and soft grass for cushioning. Apes then started weaving platform beds using vines and grass, improving the quality of their sleep.

While the idea of the bed has stayed the same, its constituents have changed over time. Here, we examine the bed's evolution from nomadic pilings to the ultra-modern ones we fancy today.

old room

The History of Beds in Pre-historic times (8,000BC)

Earlier on, our forefathers were hunters and gatherers. Since they were always on the move, night times involved crafting a grass-filled temporary structure. One would then curl up in it as it formed the home plus bed for that particular night.

The Ancient History of Beds

The early man existed as apes and embraced a nomadic way of life. They would often sleep on tree branches since, at this point, they did not have any permanent structures. Furthermore, their brain capacity was small, and they barely devised long-term solutions.

As the ancient man started adopting a more settled lifestyle, there was a need to find relatively permanent solutions. Such included a more structured place to sleep or rest.

According to renowned archaeologist Lynn Wadley, our fore-parents dug out caves, forming hollows that they curled up in and slept.

Sub-Saharan Africa

About 77,000 years ago, the earliest form of bed was found in Sibudu Cave, situated in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. The bedding comprised layers of compact flora, mostly grass and leaves. The reeds and soft twigs formed a mattress-like cushioning.

The bed's size was about 22 square feet, with its height being one foot high. This was enough to accommodate the whole family during bedtime. Occasionally, they would burn down the bed to eradicate any pests and trash that it housed. Such would prompt them to collect fresh flora for the bed's set-up.

Over the bed was a fine sheet of plant substance that would guard them against mosquitoes, flies, and bedbugs. This layer is comprised of insect-killing flora, which became the earliest known source of medicinal plants in humankind.

The Neolithic Era (3200BC – 2200BC)

The Neolithic Era's beds entailed a stone bedstead, which formed a platform for one to lay. The people of Skara Brae village in Scotland's Orkney Islands made them.

Residents of Skara Brae used stone since there was a wood shortage in Orkney. They constructed the stone bed at the center of the room. The bed on the right was always bigger than the one on the right. This was because the one on the right was meant for males, whereas the one on the left was for females.

The Bronze Age in Ancient Egypt (3000BC – 1000BC)

The Early Egyptians invented the raised wooden bed, which had animal-shaped stands. The elevation served two roles: To keep one from the cold floor plus to shield them from bugs, mice, and snakes that crept at night.

Its upper side, where one would lay their head, was elevated. For regular persons, the bed was bare wood only. However, for people with status, such as kings, it was decorated with gold, bronze, jewels, leather, or ebony. A woven mat would then be laid over the wooden bed. A mattress comprising wool cushioning was placed over it. A piece of wood or stone would then be placed as a pillow or headrest.

The Iron Age in Ancient Rome (1000BC – 476 AD)

During the Iron Age, the Roman Empire was associated with elevated metallic beds for the well-heeled in society. The beds had metal support that held the woven or feathery filling that shaped the mattress.

On the other hand, regular people slept on elevated wooden beds. Theirs had wool cords that suspended the mattress. The poor used a mat on the ground as a bed.

Whatever your status in society, everyone in the Roman Empire had a woolen blanket. It offered them warmth and protection from crawling and flying insects as they slept.

medieval bed history

The Medieval History of Beds (5th – 15th Century)

During medieval periods in Europe, the societal status of people influenced their sleeping arrangements. The rich slept on beds made from carved wood and decorated with gold, jewels, or beads. Their beds were elevated, with some needing a stepping stool for one to get on.

It was during these times that four-postered beds got invented. Such beds had velvet hangings and canopies, which demonstrated wealth. Their mattresses were fluffy and thick, consisting of feathers. The wealthy also had soft bedsheets made of fine linen.

On the other hand, the poor slept on a bag filled with hay on the cold floor. They would then use a woolen blanket for covering.

The Renaissance History of Beds (14th-17th Century)

The Renaissance period is associated with grand bed canopies and roped central platform bed designs. Here, the four-postered beds belonging to the rich had a separate bedroom situated on the upper floor of the house. Such beds would also have wooden trunks underneath for extra storage.

The rich had grandiose beds with elaborate carvings, paintings, or jewelry. The bedrooms with these beds got treated with royalty as they would house important visitors for special meetings.

The Modern History of Beds

This period ranges from the 18th Century to modern-day beds. It is characterized by beds with humbler designs, which are sturdier and more comfortable.

The History of Beds in the 18th and 19th Century

The 18th Century brought an end to the bedroom being designated only for house guests and meetings. It started being treated as a private area for sleep. In addition, it was through this time that servants stopped sleeping on one's bedroom floor.

The 19th Century saw bedrooms being treated as secluded areas for sleep and sex. It was characterized by increased volume creation of bed parts, causing different bed types to become cheaper and more accessible. The creaky metal springs were also invented for better bolstering, replacing ropes and woolen straps.

The Murphy Bed of the 20th Century

The Murphy bed or a pull-down bed is designed to save space. It is multifunctional since it leans against the wall, forming a cabinet or closet. Modern designs of the same contain options like lighting, office components, and storage cabinets.

Smithsonian Mag revealed that the Murphy bed got invented in San Fransisco around 1900. At the time, William Lawrence Murphy fell for one young and budding opera singer. However, courting customs prohibited a lady from accessing a man's bedroom.

In 1911, William Lawrence Murphy first patented the Murphy bed. It also forms a guest/dressing room, a sleeping porch, or a parlor.

Instead of box springs, here, the mattress attaches to the Murphy bed frame via a retention system. It reinforces the structure when held up.

It was during this time that the waterbed, too, was invented. Innerspring, as well as inner foam mattresses, were designed, providing better comfort and bolstering.

Also read: Do Platform Beds Need Box Springs? [COMPLETE GUIDE]

The 21st Century Bed

Today, there exists an array of bed options for humans to select. Apart from the four-postered and platform beds which remain prevalent, other modern designs exist. These include loft, the bunk, and wrought iron.

Modern mattresses include air-filled ones, memory foam, latex, innerspring, and hybrids.


Even though the bed has advanced over the years, its concept has defied time. Still, you are seeking a comfy place to let you rest, unwind, re-energize, and sleep.

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