As we celebrate our Independence Day, my thoughts turn to the lives of the people that paved the way for all of us today. I was curious of their daily lives and how sleep may differ from today’s.
Beds in that era were not made of springs (the spring bed was not made popular until the late 1800’s!) but rather were filled with various materials found naturally. Moss, straw, dried corn husks, wheat chaff, or feathers were the most common fills for a bed before cotton became a more popular choice. It took almost 90 lbs of feathers to fill a single feather bed! Not quite the most responsive materials to cushion a body after a long days work!
Beds during this era were made to each individual and there were no standard sizes. Contrary to popular beliefs, beds were often similar in lengths to today’s beds. Often people slept propped up by pillows which meant their bed would be made shorter. (no adjustable bases to help prop them up!). Interestingly, there is only a 1/4″ difference between the height of a soldier in the Revolutionary War versus World War II.
The biggest difference in sleep was that our ancestors used to sleep twice a night! Imagine it’s 8pm and you have your night-cap on, you blow out your candles and fall asleep. Some hours pass and its 12:30 am and now you are awake doing quiet reading, praying, or even visiting your neighbors because they too are up! Afterwards, you settle back down for a few hours sleep before dawn. This was a very common practice during this period. In fact, research has found that we did not sleep in an 8 hour chunk like we do now, but rather a 12 hour range made up of sleep for 3-4 hours, wakefulness of two to three hours, and then sleep again until morning! This practice of “first sleep” and “second sleep” eventually died out around the advent of street lighting and then electric indoor light.
So after you are done celebrating the 4th, and are getting ready for your sleep, think of how different sleep is today. And if your bed feels like it’s made of straw or lumpy moss, come down and try our SleepMapper and we will help you find the right bed. Who knows, maybe you’ll sleep right thru “second sleep”! Happy Independence Day to all!!