An attempt to study the history of sleep will reveal a lot of interesting facts about how this important human behavior has been viewed by many people down through the ages. It is only in recent times, that we have come to really appreciate how and why we fall asleep. The popular philosopher Plato even claimed that sleep was the result of some kind of vapor coming from the stomach and rising through the upper part of the body till it arrived at the brain and clogged it. However, today we know that sleep is a vital multi-staged body process in which the consciousness is suspended, the nervous system is inactive, the eyes are closed, and the postural muscles are relaxed. Here is a brief write up about the history of sleep, the evolution of the sleeping bed, and other interesting facts about sleep history.

Ancient Writings on Sleep

From the ancient religious writings, including the Bible, we see that sleep helped people to connect with the spiritual realm through dreams. In Genesis 28, Jacob received a revelation of a divine plan for his life and his descendants while sleeping. The ancient Egyptians, in 800 B.C. built temples to worship the goddess Isis and interpret dreams. The Greek and Romans devoted time to worship the gods Hypnos and Somnus who are directly connected with sleep. In fact the Greeks regarded sleep as a transitional state in between life and death. Similarly, a Greek philosopher and physician Alcmaeon claimed that sleep was caused by blood moving from the surface of the body to the interior. With this philosophical background, we can see how vital sleep was to ancient historians and philosophers. But how did our ancestors lay down to sleep at night?

The History of Sleep and the Bed

Today, we are used to sleeping on multi-piece bed furniture consisting of a bed frame, mattress, pillow, bedspread and blanket. But in pre-historic times, there was no bed. In 10,000 BC, men and women still slept on the hard ground. Gradually, leaves and straw were placed on the ground for improved comfort and warmth. Later on, animal hides were placed on the straw to create a primitive mattress. The earliest from of bedding which is dated to 77,000 BC was found in the Sibudu Cave in South Africa. It was made of sedge and leaves of cryptocarya woodii. After many centuries, the stone bed was invented. Examples of this type of bed were found after a massive storm destroyed the Scottish town of Orkney in 1850. A neolithic dwelling existing between 3200BC and 2200BC was unearthed, and a large stone slab bed was found in each home. This is similar to what we see in Genesis 28 where Jacob gathered stones to make a bed before sleeping. However, the Egyptians who lived within the same period made elaborate high bedsteads with steps to climb up to them. They also had special bolsters to serve as pillows and hung curtains around them. Pharaohs and queens had beds made out of wood, with a head rest made of metal, wood or stone. Our modern bed can be traced to the Greeks whose bed had a wooden frame, a headboard and bands of hides with skins placed on them.

Our Modern Sleep Patterns

Presently, we have become accustomed to an 8-hour long stretch of sleep. But just about three centuries ago. It was not so. Extensive research by historian Roger Ekirch shows that people who lived before the 1800s had a segmented pattern of sleep. This consisted of two short periods of sleep consisting of about 3 to 4 hours each. At this time in history, it was normal to sleep for a few hours as soon as it got dark then wake up to eat, drink, pray, meditate, read, have sex, or chat with friends. Thereafter, another three or four hours of sleep will be enjoyed before dawn.

However with the invention of the light bulb and extensive street lighting, there is hardly any time of complete darkness anymore. With the advent of the industrial revolution and the 40-hour work week, with a recommended 8 hours of sleep, most people now try to sleep for eight hours at a stretch. I finally decided to just buy the top 3 sleep apnea solutions online on based of good morning snore solution reviews and then review them to have a more definitive and hands on opinion of what was going to work for me. The subtle nuances made me appreciate these products and this product category even more once I was able to differentiate what was going to be crucial in making one work for me.


That was a brief history of sleep revealing some of the documented facts about it as well as the evolution of the bed and our modern sleeping habits. Today, we have the most comfortable sleeping apparatus. But we are confronted with so many sleep challenges due to the prevalence of digital technology and gadgets that keep us up at night and radiate bright light into our eyes. Thus, making it difficult for many of us to get sufficient hours of sleep.