Since time immemorial, man has made preparation for sleep by laying an animal pelt on the ground or using plant matter as some sort of mattress. For the poor it remained like this until relatively recently, while the rich could afford expensive and comfortable fabrics. Originally we all slept together on the ground – mainly because we had nowhere else, but also for warmth and security. Even in the Tudor times, the poor all slept on the floor, bedded down together near the fire.
The most important change in the history of sleep has been the invention of the bedroom. Originally, most houses were simple constructions with a fire in the middle of the main room and the smoke from the fire escaping through holes in the roof. It was the advent of non-flammable building materials – allowing us to construct chimneys to vent the smoke – that enabled people to create an extra floor, giving them the extra space to construct the bedroom.
Because we had the space to keep them, we then started to build rope-framed beds for our mattresses. We often constructed two bedrooms: one for the children, and one for the parents and the youngest child. Modern times have seen further improvements, including Vispring’s famous pocket springs. Yet it was the invention of the bedroom itself that made them all possible.
Dr. Neil Stanley
Dr Neil Stanley is an independent sleep expert who has been involved in research for over 35 years. After starting out at the R.A.F. Institute of Aviation Medicine, he moved on to the University of Surrey's Human Psychopharmacology Research Unit, where he was Director of Sleep Research. Today, he travels the world lecturing on various aspects of sleep to both healthcare professionals and the public at large.