10 Things You Never Knew About Your Bed

A Million Years in a Day: A History of Everyday Life by Greg Jenner explores the origins of our daily routines. The following excerpt details the history of beds.

QDT Editor
June 28, 2016

These 10 facts definitely won't put you to sleep:

  1. The oldest bed ever found is 77,000 years old. It's the remains of multiple of mattresses stitched together from rushes and leaves, including those from the river wild-quince, a tree that produces an insect-repelling chemical. This may have minimized the lethal scourge of malaria.

  2. Posh ancient Egyptians slept in raised wooden beds with latticed reed frames and stone pillows to keep their hair from getting messy.

  3. Medieval Japanese pillows could be filled with hot or cool water, depending on the season.

  4. The Greek aristocracy were famed for their fairly rough bedclothe—Spartan soldiers slept on thistles to toughen them up—while the Roman elite imported sumptuous silks from Persia and China.

  5. The debauched teenage Roman emperor, Elagabalus—who also happens to be the inventor of the whoopee cushion—had his dining couches and beds sculpted entirely from silver.

  6. In the Middle Ages, servants in castles slept in the great hall, en masse. Sharing a bed was such a common occurrence that even medieval guidebooks for foreign tourists translated handy phrases for chastising snorers, duvet hoarders, and dreamers who thrashed about in their sleep.

  7. Medieval lords often travelled around their lands, so their beds were collapsible so as to be portable.

  8. Until the 20th century, some poorer families slept together in the same bed, segregated by gender. Yet, bizarrely, it was also common in 17th century America for travelling strangers to pay to share the family bed.

  9. In the 19th century, doctors advised that children shouldn't sleep with parents, reasoning that the older occupants would drain their youthful vitality.

  10. There was also debate in the 19th century about whether spouses should sleep in the same bed. Some thought it killed the romance to have to lie next to your snoring, farting partner; others thought two sleepers would inevitably disturb each other, by one being too hot, cold, or alert; moralists worried that such proximity induced improper sexual temptation; and physicians thought it wasn’t very hygienic to wallow in someone else’s bodily excretions.

For more facts like these, check out A Million Years in a Day by Greg Jenner, available on AmazonBarnes & NoblePowellsIndieBound, and Booksamillion.

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