A bed is a piece of furniture (or a location) primarily used as a place to sleep, and often used for relaxation. To make a bed more comfortable, a mattress is usually placed on top of it. The second layer is the box spring Inner-sprung Base. The box spring or "divan" is a large mattress-sized box containing wood and springs that provide additional support and suspension for the mattress. The third layer is the bed frame. The bed frame lifts the mattress/mattress-box spring off the ground.
A dust ruffle, bed skirt, or valance sheet may be used to make the bed frame match the rest of the bedding. For greater head support, most people use a pillow, placed at the top of a mattress. Also used is some form of covering blanket to provide warmth to the sleeper, often bed sheets, a quilt, or a duvet. Some people prefer to dispense with the box spring and bed frame, and replace it with a platform bed style. This is more common in Europe.
Early beds were little more than piles of straw or some other natural materials. An important change was raising them off the ground, to avoid draughts, dirt, and pests. The Egyptians had high bedsteads that were ascended by steps, with bolsters or pillows, and curtains to hang round. The elite of Egyptian society, such as its pharaohs and queens, even had beds made of wood and gilded with gold. Often there was a head-rest as well, semi-cylindrical and made of stone, wood or metal. Assyrians, Medes and Persians had beds of a similar kind, and frequently decorated their furniture with inlays or appliqués of metal, mother-of-pearl and ivory.
The oldest account of a bed is probably that of Odysseus: a charpoy woven of rope, plays a role in the Odyssey. A similar bed can be seen at the St Fagans National History Museum in Wales. Odysseus also gives an account of how he crafted the nuptial bed for himself and Penelope, out of an ancient, huge olive tree trunk that used to grow on the spot before the bridal chamber was built. His detailed description finally persuades the doubting Penelope that the shipwrecked, aged man is indeed her long-lost husband. Homer also mentions the inlaying of the woodwork of beds with gold, silver and ivory. The Greek bed had a wooden frame, with a board at the head and bands of hide laced across, upon which skins were placed. At a later period the bedstead was often veneered with expensive woods; sometimes it was of solid ivory veneered with tortoise-shell and with silver feet; often it was of bronze. The pillows and coverings also became more costly and beautiful; the most celebrated places for their manufacture were Miletus, Corinth and Carthage. Folding beds, too, appear in the vase paintings.
The Roman mattresses were stuffed with reeds, hay, wool or feathers; the last was used towards the end of the Republic, when custom demanded luxury. Small cushions were placed at the head and sometimes at the back. The bedsteads were high and could only be ascended by the help of steps. They were often arranged for two persons, and had a board or railing at the back as well as the raised portion at the head. The counterpanes were sometimes very costly, generally purple embroidered with figures in gold; and rich hangings fell to the ground masking the front. The bedsteads themselves were often of bronze inlaid with silver, and Elagabalus had one of solid silver. In the walls of some of the houses at Pompeii bed niches are found, which were probably closed by curtains or sliding partitions. Ancient Romans had various kinds of beds for repose. These included:
The ancient Germans lay on the floor on beds of leaves covered with skins, or in a kind of shallow chest filled with leaves and moss. In the early Middle Ages they laid carpets on the floor or on a bench against the wall, placed upon them mattresses stuffed with feathers, wool or animal hair, and used skins as a covering. They appear to have generally lain naked in bed, wrapping themselves in the large linen sheets which were stretched over the cushions. In the thirteenth century luxury increased, and bedsteads were made of wood much decorated with inlaid, carved and painted ornament. They also used folding beds, which served as couches by day and had cushions covered with silk laid upon leather. At night a linen sheet was spread and pillows placed, while silk-covered skins served as coverlets. Curtains were hung from the ceiling or from an iron arm projecting from the wall. The Carolingian manuscripts show metal bedsteads much higher at the head than at the feet, and this shape continued in use until the thirteenth century in France, many cushions being added to raise the body to a sloping position. Elevating the head and shoulders helps aid breathing, especially when one is suffering from congestion or conditions affecting the lungs.
In the twelfth-century manuscripts the bedsteads appear much richer, with inlays, carving and painting, and with embroidered coverlets and mattresses in harmony. Curtains were hung above the bed, and a small hanging lamp is often shown. In the fourteenth century the woodwork became of less importance, being generally entirely covered by hangings of rich materials. Silk, velvet and even cloth of gold were much used. Inventories from the beginning of the fourteenth century give details of these hangings lined with fur and richly embroidered. Then it was that the tester bed made its first appearance, the tester being slung from the ceiling or fastened to the walls, a form which developed later into a room within a room, shut in by double curtains, sometimes even so as to exclude all drafts. The space between bed and wall was called the ruelle, and very intimate friends were received there.
In the fifteenth century beds became very large, reaching to a length of seven or eight feet by six or seven feet wide. The mattresses were often filled with pea-shucks, straw or feathers. At this time great personages were in the habit of carrying most of their property about with them, including beds and bed-hangings, and for this reason the bedsteads were for the most part mere frameworks to be covered up; but about the beginning of the sixteenth century bedsteads were made lighter and more decorative, since the lords remained in the same place for longer periods.
In the seventeenth century, which has been called "the century of magnificent beds," the style a la duchesse, with tester and curtains only at the head, replaced the more enclosed beds in France, though they lasted much longer in England. Louis XIV had an enormous number of sumptuous beds, as many as 413 being described in the inventories of his palaces. Some of them had embroideries enriched with pearls, and figures on a silver or golden ground. The great bed at Versailles had crimson velvet curtains on which "The Triumph of Venus" was embroidered. So much gold was used that the velvet scarcely showed.
In the eighteenth century, feather pillows were first used as coverings in Germany, which in the fashions of the bed and the curious etiquette connected with the bedchamber followed France for the most part. The beds were a la duchesse, but in France itself there was great variety both of name and shape. The custom of the "bed of justice" upon which the king of France reclined when he was present in parliament, the princes being seated, the great officials standing, and the lesser officials kneeling, was held to denote the royal power even more than the throne. Louis XI is credited with its first use, and the custom lasted till the end of the monarchy. In the chambre de parade, where the ceremonial bed was placed, certain persons, such as ambassadors or great lords, whom it was desired to honor, were received in a more intimate fashion than the crowd of courtiers. At Versailles women received their friends in their beds, both before and after childbirth, during periods of mourning, and even directly after marriage - in fact in any circumstances which were thought deserving of congratulation or condolence. During the seventeenth century, this curious custom became general, perhaps to avoid the tiresome details of etiquette. Portable beds were used in high society in France till the end of the ancien regime. The earliest of which mention has been found belonged to Charles the Bold. They had curtains over a light framework, and were in their way as fine as the stationary beds.
Iron beds appear in the eighteenth century; the advertisements recommend them as free from the insects which sometimes infested wooden bedsteads. Childhood diseases and epidemics were not understood before and during the Victorian Age, but it was believed that a metal bed could be more thoroughly disinfected to better control infectious diseases. Elsewhere, there was also the closed bed with sliding or folding shutters, and in England - where beds were commonly quite simple in form - the four poster was the usual citizen's bed until the middle of the nineteenth century.
There are many varieties of beds:
Bed frames, also called bed steads, are made of wood or metal. The frame is made up of head, foot, and side rails. For heavy duty or larger frames (such as for queen- and king-sized beds), the bed frame also includes a center support rail. These rails are assembled to create a box for the mattress or mattress/box spring to sit on.
Types of bed frames include:
Though not truly parts of a bed frame, many people include headboards, footboards, and bed rails in their definition of bed frames. Headboards and footboards can be wood or metal. They can be stained, painted, or covered in fabric or leather.
Bed rails are made of wood or metal and are attached to a headboard and footboard. Wooden slats are placed perpendicular to the bed rails to support the mattress/mattress box spring.
Bed rails and frames are often attached to the bed post using knock-down fittings.  A knock-down fitting enables the bed to be easily dismantled for removal. Primary knock-down fittings for bed rails are as follows:
Beds come in a wide array of shapes and sizes. Most countries have a standard set of four sizes of mattresses. While the Double size appears to be standard among English speaking countries, based on the imperial measurement of 4 ft 6 in by 6 ft 3 in, the sizes for other bed types tend to vary. The European sizes differ; they are based on the metric system.
A king-sized bed differs from the other sizes in implementation, as it is not common to have a king-sized box spring; rather, two smaller box-springs are used under a king-sized mattress. It is a common misconception that on a U.S. Standard or Eastern King, the box springs are identical in size to a Twin Extra-Long, however Twin Extra-Long mattresses next to each other add up to 78 inches wide instead of the 76 inch width that is standard for an Eastern King.
Modern manufacturing conventions have resulted in a limited number of standard sizes of commercial bedding for mattresses and box springs. They vary by country of origin.
|U.S.||Australia||UK / Ireland||Europe|
|Twin / Single||39 × 75 in
3’3" × 6’3″
97 × 191 cm
|36 × 75 in
3’ × 6’3″
91 × 191 cm
|35 × 79 in
~2’11.43″ × ~6’6.74″
90 × 200 cm
|Double / Full||54 × 75 in
4’6″ × 6’3″
137 × 191 cm
|55 × 79 in
~4ft 7.12in × ~6’6.74″
140 × 200 cm
|60 × 80 in
5’ × 6’8″
152 × 203 cm
|60 × 78 in
5’ × 6’6″
152 × 198 cm
|63 × 79 in
5’3″ × ~6’6.74″
160 × 200 cm
(UK/Ire) Super King
|76 × 80 in
6’4″ × 6’8″
193 × 203 cm
|72 × 80 in
6’ × 6’8″
183 × 203 cm
|72 × 78 in
6’ × 6’6″
183 × 198 cm
|71 × 79 in
~5’11″ × ~6’6.74″
180 × 200 cm
The sizes in the UK and Ireland, other than the Double, vary compared to the U.S. sizes, being generally smaller. The U.S. Queen corresponds to UK King and King to Super King. The European or continental basic sizes are similar to the UK but have a set length of 2 metres. The denominations Queen, King and Super King are not used in continental Europe, and Double refers to 140cm or any higher width. Instead of these US/UK denominations, the bed width is given in centimeters.
These dimensions are for the mattress—the actual bed frame will be a little bigger in order to fully encompass and support the mattress. The thickness of the mattress may vary considerably.
Historically, Single referred to a bed size that was half the width of a Double, that is, approximately the width of one pillow. In Western nations, such beds have become quite rare, with a Twin bed becoming the standard for one-person sleeping. Without another common use for the term Single and with the term Double being widely used, Single has come to be another term for a twin bed in these places.
Modern continental Europe practice is to refer to a bed by explicit width or size ("80 cm bed" or "80x200 cm bed"). Other sizes found include:
Most mattress sizes in the Netherlands are also available in extra long. Meaning 2.2 m instead of 2.0 m.
The following bed sizes are available in New Zealand:
All links retrieved May 25, 2016.
New World Encyclopedia writers and editors rewrote and completed the Wikipedia article in accordance with New World Encyclopedia standards. This article abides by terms of the Creative Commons CC-by-sa 3.0 License (CC-by-sa), which may be used and disseminated with proper attribution. Credit is due under the terms of this license that can reference both the New World Encyclopedia contributors and the selfless volunteer contributors of the Wikimedia Foundation. To cite this article click here for a list of acceptable citing formats.The history of earlier contributions by wikipedians is accessible to researchers here:
Note: Some restrictions may apply to use of individual images which are separately licensed.