The pillow is the icing on the cake when it comes to sleep. Have you ever tried to sleep without a pillow? They make a huge difference. A good night's rest is nearly impossible without a comfy pillow to support your head while you're sleeping. But how did it all begin? Who put a pillow under their head first, and how has the pillow evolved?
The earliest pillow dates back more than 9,000 years ago to ancient Mesopotamia. The first pillow was nothing like the pillows we have today. Archaelogists say it was made of stone, and the top was carved into a curved shape to support the head. The purpose of these pillows wasn't to be comfortable. Their role was to keep the sleeper's head off the ground to prevent bugs from crawling into their eyes, ears and mouth.
Other early civilizations used these hard-curved "pillows" for different reasons. The Egyptians believed the head was an important center of life for the body, so pillows were intended to support it and protect it. The ancient Chinese had the means to make soft pillows, but they believed that soft pillows sapped energy from those who slept on them. Instead, they crafted beautifully decorated hard pillows made of wood, stone, bamboo, bronze and jade. For the Japanese, pillows were used by Geishas to keep their necks raised off the ground (ouch!) so they could keep their hair looking perfect for days on end.
It was the ancient Greeks and Romans who paved the way for our modern day pillow. They used pillows stuffed with cotton, reeds or straw. This modification of the pillow continued into the Middle Ages, but using a pillow came to be viewed as a sign of weakness by the men of those times so they weren't too common. At one point, the only people who slept on pillows were the king and queen and pregnant women.
Pillows didn't become widely used until the Industrial Revolution. Advancements in technology and mass production resulted in pillows becoming a necessity rather than a luxury. Today, beds and couches are decorated with pillows that are both practical and decorative. Pillows have continued to evolve and improve. Fortunately, unlike ancient civilizations, we focus on comfort. Pillow manufactures have flooded the market, filling pillows with everything from feathers to foam and latex. From antimicrobial, antibacterial and hypoallergenic properities to providing our heads and necks with better support, these pillow makers have one goal in common: to improve our sleep.
Today high-tech companies are creating pillows that pair comfort with practical features. Now you can have a pillow with stereo speakers and a built-in alarm. You can sleep on a pillow that lets you adjust its firmness with a remote control. Yes, the pillow has come a long way.