Before such high-tech innovations as ‘memory foam mattresses’, ‘individual pocket coil springs’ and ‘high-density foam casings’, our ancestors could only dream about the level of comfort and support that’s provided by today’s best beds.
Since the dawn of time, humans have craved for a cosy spot to rest their weary bones. (After spending your days chasing mastodons, the cold hard ground was hardly conducive to a mammoth sleep.)
The world’s oldest bed, which dates back 77 000 years ago, was discovered in Sibudu Caves in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Neolithic beds consisted of a rudimentary mattress made of animal skins stuffed with straw, leaves, reeds, moss or grass. Other than offering a modicum of softness, raising the sleeper off the ground meant avoiding the itch-inducing creepy-crawlies and other creatures that scurried through the night.
Fast forward to 3 200 BC, and the Persians laid claim to the world’s first waterbed, which was stitched together from goat skins. The Egyptians raised the technology to new heights with bed frames made of wood and metal, and webbing made of woven string, which the elite classes would decorate lavishly with precious metals and gems.
By the time the Romans were on the scene, mattresses stuffed with wool and feathers were commonly used. And in the middle ages, sloping beds, in which the sleeper’s head rested higher than his feet were all the rage.
Louis XIV of France certainly enjoyed his lie-ins. He owned 413 beds located amongst his various palaces, and many of them we encrusted with precious stones and gold relief.
But it wasn’t until the mid-19th century that someone thought of using steel coils springs inside a mattress. This innovation – in its various forms – became the standard for the next 150 years.
Considering that we spend almost one-third of our lives sleeping, it’s hardly surprising that beds have evolved into the technical marvels they are today.
THE BEST BEDS ARE SEEN AND NOT HEARD
So what is the epitome of bed technology?
Well, starting with the bed base, the days of squeaking, creaking wooden bed frames and legs have long gone. Today’s best beds tend to be made of virgin polymer and high-grade aluminium. Over and above being perfectly quiet, they’re also perfectly strong; supporting up to 400 kgs of human flesh.
An excellent base must also provide consistent support for your mattress. A slatted base can damage a mattress, causing it to sag irregularly, making it uncomfortable.
Moving up a tad, we arrive at the mattress – the all-important part of the bed that has seen the most technology advancements. A good mattress needs to be firm and offer the right level of support.
A soft, springy mattress is ideal for a bouncy castle, but not so for a bed. Your body will sink into that softness and end up in a bad posture, which will eventually lead to a multitude of aches and pains. There again, a mattress that’s too firm and rigid will mean exacerbating pressure points on shoulders and hips, which also leads to stiffness and pain when you wake up.
The best option is a mattress that conforms to your body shape, while relieving the pressure points, such as mattresses with individual pocketed springs. These types of mattresses are often multi-zoned, which means they support the varying weights of the different parts of your body, thus offering a higher level of support and comfort throughout the night.
For support and comfort lasting many years, look for a mattress with a framed border around its perimeter, that’s coupled with high-density foam casing. This makes it doubly sure that your bed will be sag-free for many years to come.
Another modern innovation in sleep technology is the memory foam mattress. This works by infusing certain chemicals into the foam that help increase its density and thickness when body heat is applied, which manipulates the mattress to align itself with your body shape.
But you do need to be aware that memory foam mattresses retain heat, which can make sleep uncomfortable, especially during the summer months.
IS YOUR MATTRESS FEELING THE HEAT?
While on the subject of heat, if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night feeling hot, bothered and clammy, chances are it’s because your body heat has built up in the mattress. Again, the best beds tackle this by having a series of ventilation holes throughout the foam casing that allows air to circulate freely throughout the mattress. This dissipates the heat build-up and helps you to maintain your body temperature at a constant level throughout the night.
What else do you need to look for in a modern bed? For a multitude of benefits, look for a mattress that’s made of natural latex, which is rubber tapped straight out of a tree. Over and above its durability, this organic material offers far more support when compared to its synthetic counterpart.
A latex mattress is especially beneficial for your spinal cord, as a natural latex mattress has shape-sustaining properties that will contour to your body shape for optimal cushioned comfort. Another benefit of natural latex mattress is that it repels mites, mildew and mould, so expect it to last a good deal longer, too.
If you’re shopping around for the best bed available, do not skimp! A robust and sturdy base bearing a well-designed, well-constructed mattress means more support and more comfort, which in turn leads to the quality, uninterrupted sleep you need to maintain your general health and wellbeing.
Before you buy, do your homework. In fact, start right now by downloading our free guide ‘How to Choose a Better Bed’