large pad for supporting the reclining body, used as or on a bed

A mattress is a mat or pad, usually placed on top of a bed, where somebody sleeps or lies on. It usually contains compliant stuffing such as feathers, cotton and foam rubber. Many have springs inside.[1]

A pillow top queen-size mattress.

The word mattress came from Arabic words meaning "to throw" and "place where something is thrown" or "mat, cushion." During the Crusades, Europeans slept on cushions thrown on the floor, and the word materas eventually became Middle English through the Romance languages.[2]



The earliest known form of a mattress dates back to approximately 77,000 years ago. It was discovered by archaeologists in a rock shelter located in Sibudu, South Africa. It was full of various types of grass and leaves, some of which were natural insect repellent to combat nuisances like mosquitos and other insects.[3]

Between 3000 and 1000 BCE, other cultures in early history began to adopt elevated sleeping surfaces as humans and civilizations evolved. In ancient Egypt, these raised beds were typically made from wood for protection from snakes and rodents. Raised beds were also helpful as a way of regulating temperature and to protect against cold and heat.

Beds became simpler in the 19th century, with four-posters falling out of style. Mattresses were transformed when coil springs were introduced in the 1870s, and metal frames became more common. At the beginning of the 20th century, beds and mattresses could be mass produced for the first time, making them more accessible. As more companies began making mattresses, buying a mattress became much more about comfort and preference, which remains the case today.