The mattress is a piece of furniture used to lie down. It represents a significant element of comfort in a good night’s sleep. It is usually associated with a bed via a base.
Mattresses can be made in many ways, originally by stuffing bags with straw, wool, horsehair, corn leaf, sound, etc. There are also feather mattresses, comfortable but more expensive. Currently, the most commonly manufactured mattresses consist of artificial foams, springs (both of which may also be associated) or latex (natural or synthetic). The main constituent of the mattress (latex, foam or springs) is called the heart. The core is surrounded by a lining which may be different from one side to the other for more or less heat: those will be the summer and winter sides. A manufacturer's brand label is generally present on the winter side. A mattress is naturally associated with a box spring; the sleeping quality depends not only on the choice of the mattress but also the choice of the box spring which will serve as its basis.
In Ancient history
The rich Romans used couches to eat and sleep as well, covering them with linen sheets when necessary. More generally, we slept on simple mats made of fibers, wool or horse hair, covering ourselves with blankets made of felt or wool, eventually embellished with cotton, fur or even silk (depending on the market and the climate).
From the Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution
The beds were simple wooden embellished (or not) boxes, later covered with a mattress. These were originally bags filled with straw for the majority and with feathers for the wealthy. Over time, the feed was replaced by textile, ranging from cotton to artificial fibers.
The wealthy slept on mattresses made of linen (like sheets) and stuffed with goose or duck down in four-poster wooden beds. The middle classes slept on mattresses made of thin felt (like sheets) and stuffed with sheep wool, carded horsehair or goose and duck feather. If bed cabinets were very popular in some French regions (Brittany, Poitou, Auvergne), they usually were just simple benches, sometimes topped with low sides. The poorest often slept fully clothed on litters made of hay or mattresses placed directly on the floor and made of homespun bags, stuffed with wheat straw or wood chips or fern leaves. These materials were rustic but had the advantage of absorbing moisture and insulate cold floors, and so they brought some comfort. Farmers usually slept as close to the fireplace as they could in the common room.
From the Industrial Revolution to the present day
The use of the base, which began as a simple lattice of interwoven branches, became widespread. They can be made with slats, springs, lattice fabric. If the shape of the beds followed the fashions and styles (Louis XV, Empire, Louis Philippe, boat), the innovation was to employ new material. The use of iron and steel competition wood and copper and also allowed the manufacture of coil springs or flanges that increase the bed’s comfort. Cotton plays a predominant role for sheets, quilts or mattresses. Incidentally, so do kapok filled duvets and cheap mattresses. From 1900, with the introduction of viscose fiber (fibranne, but also artificial silk) synthetic fibers tend to take a prominent place.
The bed, from the Industrial revolution to this day
These furnishings, which were rather small (sized to fit people but also to better retain heat) tend to expand. Alongside traditional beds appear the cage bed and cozy bed, but also wall beds: convertible sofa, chair bed, vertical bed, trundle bed, mobile-bearing bed, and for scouts and soldiers, camp beds have the great advantage of being easily turned into stretchers. For children, the traditional bed with vertical bars is followed by bed linen, quilted, foldable (bed-bag or bed-umbrella). In health care facilities and patients' homes, medical advice often suggests using “medicalized” beds. They are motorized, electrically operated, with articulated and moving parts: backrest, leg rest top and bottom, height adjustable, on wheels with brakes, head and footboard bracket, movable barriers, serum carrier, etc... The mattresses are often adapted to the concerned person’s pathology (foam, cut foam, molded foam viscoelastic foam, air mattresses, with/without compressors, etc...). These "medicalized" beds are available in pharmacies. The pharmacist is indeed a healthcare professional, and as such is ethically and professionally responsible for the medical equipment he delivers.