Happy Sleep Awareness Month! How About Some Pillow History?

With Sleep Awareness Month in full swing, everyone here at Pillows.com has sleep on the brain even more than usual. (And that’s saying something because, as you know, we’re pretty passionate about the subject!) It’s true though: being in the business of sleep, we’re constantly staying on top of the latest sleep research and hunting for the newest and best products to add to our store, and this month is no exception.

As pillow and bedding experts, we think it’s important to discover everything there is to know about the products we sell. And if you’ve ever talked to one of our customer service reps on the phone, you know how much we love sharing everything we learn! So in the spirit of pillow education, we thought it was only fitting to kick off this month’s series of blog posts with a little history lesson: the history of the pillow. So lay back, fluff up your favorite pillow, and dive in!

Think your pillows are rock hard? Think again!

Believe it or not, humans have been using pillows since around 7,000 BC, or about 9,000 years. However, you probably wouldn’t want to use one of these ancient pillows today, as they were made of solid stone! Instead of enveloping your head in a soft cushion like the modern pillows we know and love, these “pillows” featured chiseled grooves for the sleeper’s head and neck to rest in.

Sounds uncomfortable, right?! It gets better. Because without one of these pillows to keep your head off the ground, you would have had to worry about bugs crawling in your hair, mouth, nose, and ears as you slept. Talk about a rock and a hard place! The number of pillows a person owned was also symbolic of his or her social status. (So we like to think that much hasn’t changed!)

Ancient Mesopotamian pillow via hankeringforhistory.com

As it turns out, pillow technology didn’t improve much in the 5,000 years between 7,000 BC and 2,000 BC. Like the Mesopotamians, the ancient Egyptians also had a penchant for hard pillows, sticking with stone and wood as their construction materials. Unlike their Mesopotamian predecessors, however, they weren’t even intended for living people! Instead of using them for sleeping or bug protection at night, ancient Egyptians really only used these pillows to prop up the heads of the deceased after death, as they believed the head to be sacred.

Hard pillows were also all the rage in ancient China. (Like parachute pants and mullets, we’re seriously hoping this isn’t a trend that makes a comeback.) The ancient Chinese version of this torture comfort device consisted of a range of materials including bamboo, jade, porcelain, wood, and bronze. In addition to being hard and unforgiving, they were also highly decorative. But instead of using pillowcases like we do today to protect and adorn their pillows (microfiber, anyone?), they usually covered them in carefully painted designs.

chinese pillow
Ancient Chinese Pillow via ancient-chinese-porcelain.com

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither was the first soft pillow!

It wasn’t until the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations came along that humanity first discovered the pure joy that is resting your head on a nice, soft pillow. In addition to feathers, these ancient Greek and Roman pillows were also stuffed with reeds and straw. (While a vast improvement over stone and wood, we’d obviously recommend down or advanced synthetic fibers as filling instead of the reeds and straw, but who are we to judge?!) Like the Mesopotamians, ancient Greeks and Romans also saw pillows as a status symbol, and they even borrowed the practice of putting them under the heads of deceased loved ones from the ancient Egyptians.

While we have the ancient Greeks and Romans to thank for saving us from laying our heads on pillows made of stone, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that modern pillows began to really take shape. And the rest, as they say, is history!

The modern pillow—so many choices!

With so many different materials found in pillows today, choosing the right one to suit your sleep needs can almost be overwhelming! Luckily, that very process is the topic of our next Pillow Talk blog, so check back next week as we walk you through the details! And if you can’t wait that long, feel free to give us a call at 1-800-720-6973 to talk to one of our bedding experts personally. We’d be happy to guide you!

Until next time: sleep well, live well, and be well!


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