History of Pillow: Everything You Must Know

History of Pillow: Everything You Must Know

Pillows are unsung heroes. There, we said it! When it comes to sleep and comfort, mattress always take the spotlight. But we tend to forget about the supporting actors aka our fluffy and cozy pillows that support our neck and head.

But these fluffy things, which are also sometimes our cuddle buddies, have evolved since their inception.

Infact, did you know? The first recorded use of a pillow dates back to ancient Mesopotamia around 7,000 BCE. These early pillows were made of stone and served as a support for the head and neck.

Intrigued? Well, this article will wow you then because we are here to take you on a trip to the past and tell you all about the history of pillows. Read on!


The Origins Of The Pillow: The First Pillow

‘No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.’

Pillows have always held a special place in our lives. It is crucial for your sleep as it helps us with the much-needed support to our head and neck and maintains spinal alignment.

But remember, these little pieces of cloud-like sleep companions were not always this comfy.

The origins of the pillow can be traced back to ancient civilizations, all the way back to Mesopotamia around 7,000 BCE. If you are wondering where Mesopotamia is today, it is modern Iraq.

But as mentioned earlier, these early pillows were not the soft, comfortable cushions we are familiar with today. Instead, they were made of stone.

Yes, the first pillows were stone pillows.

The Mesopotamians crafted these stone Pillows to provide support for the head and neck while sleeping. Comfort was never in the equation when it came to the design and build of the world's first pillow. Instead, its main purpose was to slightly elevate the head and prevent insects from crawling into the sleeper's ears, nose, and mouth.

However, we humans always enjoyed art. So, these stone pillows were often carved with intricate designs and symbols as per the artistic sensibilities of the time.

Imagine still having to sleep on a stone pillow!

But wait, it gets interesting. Not everyone was privy to the stone pillows as stones were expensive and these pillows were considered a luxury.

Did you know? The word "pillow" comes from the Middle English word "pilwe," which originally referred to a cloth case filled with feathers.


Pillows Through Ages And Regions

But just like anything else, pillows also evolved with time and through regions. Take a look!


1. China

From Mesopotamia, let's travel all the way to China as they are well-known for their use of pillows.

The ancient Chinese advocated a hard pillow as they believed a soft one could rob the body of energy and vitality.

The ancient Chinese used ceramic pillows as it was not only practical but also carried cultural and symbolic significance. The intricate designs and patterns on these pillows often depicted themes related to Chinese mythology, animals, or other culturally significant symbols. Infact, it become ceramic was extremely popular during during the Tang (618–907 A.D) and Song (960–1279 A.D) dynasties.

One of the reasons why hard pillows were used was because they were said to have health benefits. It was believed to help with breathing and promote overall well-being.

That's not all. In ancient China, it was also believed that a firm pillow would stimulate blood circulation to the head and, in turn, keep the hair healthier.

Apart from ceramic, wood, bamboo, and bronze pillows were also made.

Did you know? Kao Lien, during the Ming Dynasty, described a medicinal pillow made of red cedar with 120 holes filled with a trituration of 32 medicinal herbs. It was believed that sleeping on such a pillow could have various health benefits.

2. Egypt

The use of pillows in ancient Egypt can again be traced back thousands of years. Infact, it is safe to say that the ancient Egyptians valued comfort in their daily lives and pillows were crucial to sleep.

Some of the earliest pillows in ancient Egypt were made of stone, wood, ivory, or ceramics. Just like in Mesopotamia and China, these pillows carried intricate designs and symbols.

During those times, pillows were not merely practical items for sleeping but also held symbolic significance. They were associated with notions of comfort, rest, and the afterlife.

In burial practices, pillows were sometimes included in tombs to provide comfort to the deceased in the afterlife. These pillows were usually made of stone or other durable materials.

Some pillows featured hieroglyphs or symbols that held religious or spiritual significance. The inscriptions on these pillows could be related to the individual's name, titles, or protective spells.

Did you know? In ancient Egypt, headrests or pillows were placed under the heads of the deceased to ward off evil spirits.

3. Greece and Rome

If we look at the history of pillows, maybe we have to thank the Romans and the Greeks for giving us softer pillows. Some may argue that we would have gotten there eventually, but who knows?

But this does not mean they didn't have hard pillows. Ancient Romans and Greeks used a variety of materials for their pillows, including wood, stone, and ceramics. However, the wealthier individuals used more comfortable pillows made of softer materials like feathers or straw.

Romans also had a type of couch called a "lectus" or "lectus cubicularis," which was a cushioned bed used for reclining during meals or relaxation. This has a slightly elevated headrest that was used like a pillow.

But that was not the end of the story. Pillows were quite sought-after in both Greek and Roman cultures. They played a role in the dining customs of ancient Greece, especially during banquets and symposia. Guests would recline on cushions or pillows while dining.

Even Romans used pillows for various daily activities. For instance, they were used for reclining while dining or engaging in leisure activities.

Lastly, like with Egyptians, pillows were sometimes included in Roman burials. This was to keep the deceased comfortable in their afterlife. These burial pillows were often made of stone or other durable materials.

Did you know? In medieval Europe, pillows were a luxury item, and only the nobility could afford them. Common people often slept with their heads on wooden or stone blocks.


The Beginning Of Modern Pillows

Just like everything else with mankind, pillows also evolved into something better.

If we look back, the beginning of modern pillows is closely tied to the development of textiles and increased trade.

During the medieval period, pillows started to become more common in Europe. We would see the wealthy use soft and cozy materials, such as down feathers, to stuff their pillows. This is probably when pillows were not only used for practical reasons but also comfort.

The Renaissance also saw people steer towards comfort and luxury. With the Industrial Revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, there was a surge in manufacturing capabilities, which helped with the mass production of textiles. So soon, softer and cozier nighttime companions were available to all.

Infact, by the 19th century, innovative minds worked hard to further elevate the beauty and comfort of the pillows. They even used materials like cotton and synthetic fibers.

Then came the 20th century, which brought with it further advancements. We then saw materials like memory foam, synthetic fills, etc. As expected, these pillows became the epitome of comfort.

Did you know? The most expensive pillow ever made is the T4000 from Swedish luxury brand Hefel, priced at a whopping $50,000, featuring 24-carat gold threads.


Pillows Of Today

Now, it’s time to talk about the pillows of today that are at their peak of innovation. We have one for everything, don’t we? From a travel pillow to body pillows, a range of variety keeps us company. But let’s unpack a little about our snooze partners.

Today, you are spoilt for choices. From memory foam and down feathers to advanced sleep tech like SmartGrid, the options are plenty.

But pillows are no longer mere sleep accessories. They have become a focal point in wellness. There are specialized designs that offer targeted support for neck and back comfort. These modern pillows are designed keeping sleep ergonomics in mind.

We also have technological innovations, such as cooling gel-infused pillows, SmatGrids, etc, which contribute to temperature regulation for a more restful slumber.

From orthopedic pillows to customizable options, modern pillows are the perfect amalgamation of comfort, style, and health in today's sleep culture.

Did you know? The Japanese have a unique type of pillow called a "makura," which is traditionally used for neck support while sleeping on the floor.



How was the history of pillows ride? Now you know everything you must know about ancient pillows. While once upon a time stones were a luxury, today you have plenty of options. If you are looking for an ideal pillow to give you the best sleep, The Sleep Company is here for you.

Now, you no longer have to worry about waking up with any aches or pains because The Sleep Company brings you the patented Japanese SmartGrid Technology in the pillows too. Made of Hyper-elastic polymer, these pillows strike the perfect balance between comfort and support, giving you the most luxurious sleep of your life.

What are you still waiting for? Your ideal sleep companion aka pillow is just a click away!