The history of mattresses can be traced back to the primitive age when stones are the basic tool for living. The word mattress originated from an Arabic word which meant “a mat that was thrown in a certain area.” It eventually evolved into the word “materas” during the assimilation of European and Arab cultures, basically known as a material (which was thrown on the floor) to be slept on.
As early as the Neolithic period, people were already conscious on the materials they slept on. Primitive men, who lived in caves, had stones as their beds. They covered these stone beds with animal skins, leaves, grasses and straws. About 3,000 B.C., mattresses evolved in such a way that there were already stuffing inside the mattresses. In Persia (present day Iran), goatskins (used as coverings for sleeping) were filled with water. Some historians claimed that was the first form of water bed. In Egypt, palm boughs were used as cushions to those who sleep. It was also during this era that the first cotton mattress was developed. The evolution of mattresses continued even during the Dark Age.
The Renaissance period during the 15th century marked the beginning of more luxurious mattresses. During this time, straws, feathers, leaves were stuffed inside a thin-sized long pouch which were made of silks and velvets. Thus, the birth of silk and velvet beds.
It was in the 16th century when people started to use a platform, made of timber, as their beds. It had latticed ropes or leather as its supports. These platforms were covered with a mattress made of soft fillings.
The 18th century gave rise to new mattresses which had the basic characteristics of the mattresses of modern times. During the early 18th century, fillings inside the mattress started to include cotton and wool. In mid 18th century, fillings included coconut fibers and horsehair. It was also at this time that the mattresses were buttoned to put in-place the stuffing, and its edges were stitched. The quality of its linen also improved.
In 1850s, the first cast iron spring beds were invented. It was primarily used at first for chair seats. Eventually, it evolved to the construction of coil spring bed. The invention of spring beds was prompted by the need for hygienic and comfortable place to sleep. The first innerspring mattress was invested in 1871 by German Heinrich Westphal. In 1873, Sir James Paget presented a modern waterbed designed by Neil Arnott to the St. Bartholomew’s Hospital as a treatment and prevention of pressure ulcers.
In the 19th century, the box spring iron cast beds were invented. The most expensive mattress emerged in 1929 which was made of latex rubber. Innerspring and pocket mattresses were also introduced during this time. It was also during the 19th century that the Murphy Bedding was introduced in the market by American William Lawrence Murphy. The Murphy Bed, patented with a name “in-a-dor” bed, folded into a wall closet, thus, saving a lot of space. In the late 1960s, NASA invented a mattress material that is now famously known as the memory foam. As time evolved, different kinds of mattresses emerged such as cotton, vinyl, and inner spring.
Nowadays, there are different kinds of mattresses, depending on the materials it was made of – such as latex, fiber, or polyurethane.