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History of Pillows

Where did pillows come from, and when were they invented? Pillows have a long and colorful history, read our guide below to get a better understanding of the comfortable, supportive and cozy bedroom essential.

The History of Pillows

The concept of a pillow traces back thousands of years to ancient Mesopotamia. It was a rare item only to be used by the wealthy. In fact, the number of pillows symbolized just how affluent one was. However, these weren’t fluffy, they were hard pillows made out of wood.

The ancient Egyptians also used hard pillows as headrests for mummies. It was believed that these pillows would support the mummy’s head, encourage proper circulation and repel demons on the afterlife.

The early Chinese Dynasties took pillow making to a whole new level as they created pillows out of bamboo, wood, bronze and porcelain. Eventually, ceramic became the most popular material and was used instead of soft materials because the Chinese believed that soft pillows stole one’s vitality and didn’t protect from demons.

It wasn’t until the Ancient Greek and Roman civilizations that the soft pillow became more common. Like the Mesopotamians, they were only for the wealthy. Typically, they were stuffed with feathers or straw to make them softer. Surprisingly, by the Middle Ages, pillows had lost their importance and became more of a novelty item for pregnant women.

The pillow made a resurgence in the early 19th century due to the Industrial Revolution, where improved technology allowed for the mass production of textiles. It was during this era that the pillow, as we know it today, was introduced. These pillows were first created using feathers and down from geese to provide what was then seen as incredible comfort and efficient breathability.

By the mid-1800’s, cotton became a widespread material and used in many industries. Soon, pillow makers shifted to cotton-filled pillows as a way to reduce costs, offer improved firmness, and increase stability for the neck. By the end of the 1800’s, cotton pillows were the most common on the market.

In the early 1900’s, manufacturers once again started looking for pillow alternatives. After experimenting with a wide range of textiles, polyester became the preferred choice due to it costing less than cotton, down and feathers. Additionally, it provided different levels of firmness and was easier to wash. Poly-filled pillows were released to the public in the 1950’s and became a huge success.

A few years after polyester’s public debut, scientists at NASA created a revolutionary material that would eventually make its way to the pillow industry two decades later – memory foam. This material changed the way we experience pillows today because of its many benefits like support, alignment, and comfort. After the turn of the 21st century, manufacturers were looking to improve on memory foam’s weaknesses like heat retention. Additional foams were created like latex foam, which offers more support, comfort and cooling airflow than memory foam.

Nowadays, manufacturers have built off the success of memory and latex foam by creating hybrid, adjustable and cooling pillows to maximize comfort, breathability, and support.

With many modern pillows to choose from, finding the right fit can be difficult. For an in-depth look into what kind of pillows are available, firmness levels and recommendations on the best pillow for you sleep position. Visit our Pillow Buying Guide.



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