Modern History (19th Century – Today)
In modern times, beds and mattresses are still largely based on the same structure people have been using since the beginning: a soft mattress on a raised bed frame.
In the 1800s, springs were introduced to the mattress component for better support, then in the 1940s the futon made its way from Japan to North America, and today we have many different mattress options made from different materials. Find out more about your modern mattress options below.
Origin of the word “mattress”
The English word “mattress” comes from a combination of the Arabic word “matrah” and the French word “materas.” It likely came into existence sometime in the 11th century during the Crusades, when English- and French-speakers were traveling to lands where the people spoke Arabic, and the word “mattress” was created.
Related: Etymology of sleep
What were the first mattresses like?
The very first mattress was created millions of years ago, by humanity’s ancestors: the ancient apes. This very first mattress was made of piles of plant material to make sleeping more comfortable for the apes, and we have been improving upon this basic design ever since.
When it comes to modern mattresses, the first innerspring mattress was made in 1871 by a man named Heinrich Westphal, but it wasn’t very popular. It actually wasn’t until the 1930s that people started sleeping on what we would consider a modern mattress with an innerspring system.
Before the innerspring mattress was invented, people slept on mattresses, they were just very different from what we know as a “mattress” today. They were essentially extra-large pillows big enough for your whole body, a fabric case filled with down, cotton, or hay, depending on your wealth.
The invention of the modern mattress improved our sleep quality tremendously, and the strides we continue to make in this field are absolutely vital to our sleep health and overall wellbeing.
History of different types of mattresses