I first started thinking about beds years ago when I was in a damp foxhole in Georgia in January. As part of a military exercise, I was finishing up my night watch, keeping an eye out for the presumptive bad guys, though I'm not sure what I was supposed to see on a cold moonless night. As my replacement spelled me, I hunkered down in a thin army issue sleeping bag; frigid, bone tired and fairly oblivious to the rocks and roots that were digging into my back. I did wonder, however, what folks slept on throughout the ages.
It seems that beds came into fashion around 10,000 BC during the Neolithic Age, not to be confused with Neo in The Matrix. Before this, folks just curled up in the dirt and used a flat rock for a pillow; talk about neck pain. No wonder the average life span was about twenty years. Anyway, these Neo people got the idea of putting some grass in a pile and then throwing an animal skin over the top. Voila! You have a junior twin bed. No fitted sheet needed. They also figured out that you could crush grain with a stone to make bread flour. Does it get any better than that?
Jumping ahead to 3600 BC, the Persians weren’t getting enough use out of goat skins, so they sewed some together, filled them with water, and behold, the first water beds were invented. This is what the Iranians (Persians) still use today. They have millions of goats and will soon have nuclear weapons, a slight leap in technology.
By 200 BC the Romans were stuffing cloth bags with reeds, hay and wool to make their beds. If you were part of the upper classes, your bed bag was stuffed with feathers. Your slaves, thus, spent a lot of their time killing ducks. Civilization had its perks. However, if you were a barbarian in the outer regions you still slept on a bunch of itchy pine boughs and used a former enemy’s head for a pillow.
For the next sixteen centuries, beds didn’t change much until the Renaissance came along. A lot of folks with dinero and artistic inclinations began covering their lumpy mattresses with rich brocades, velvets and silks. The beds still weren’t very comfortable, but you were looking good when you lay on them. In the late 1600s, King Louis IV of France had a bed so big that it could fit him, all his mistresses and their kids, plus half his obsequious courtiers.
Over the ensuing years, things sped up for common folk. A box is now used for the mattress so you don't roll into the fireplace in the middle of the night. Then, in 1857, the first coil spring construction for bedding is patented. leading to the inner spring mattress and sex being more noisy than ever. The next century sees a variety of improvements to the basic bed such as artificial mattress fillers (the ducks were happy) and then futons coming along in the 1940s. Japan may have lost the war, but they sure knew how to turn a couch into a bed.
The 1960s saw the introduction of the modern waterbed which was emblematic of the hippie culture and was a real groovy way to sleep. However, when they leaked, life was like a real bummer, man. By 1999, the queen-size mattress beat out the twin for most popular choice. All those folks with restless leg syndrome needed more space. Also more adult singles were doing sleepovers with their main squeeze, so a single bed wouldn't cut it.
Now we have reached a place where bed options are as numerous as pizza toppings. Wanna garlic flavored mattress stuffed with cheese? Anyway, there are all kinds of innerspring mattress designs, 1-10 on the squeaky scale. You can get foam "memory" cores that take 800 years to deteriorate (the planet screams in pain!). How about an air bed? You use to float that in the pool. Finally, sleep number beds, where you can set the firmness on your side at a concrete 70 while your significant other wants the cloud effect at number 25.
If Zog, in 10,000 BC, had been able to score a pillow top mattress, centuries of grumpy humans killing each other might have been avoided. As I lay shivering in that damp foxhole many years ago, my thoughts were not on offing the bad guys. I just wanted the sandman to show me a big pile of leaves somewhere, smothered in goat hides.