Pillows have been around since ancient times, but back then, they had a completely different purpose. The earliest use of pillows was in Mesopotamia, approximately around 7,000 BC. These early pillows were made of stone and carved into the shape of a crib, but they were not intended for sleeping. Instead, these stone pillows were used to raise the head so that insects would not sleep in your mouth, nose or ears.
Since stone was expensive, pillows were only used by the rich. Egyptian pillows were made of marble, ivory, ceramic, wood or stone. The Egyptians not only elevated their heads high off the ground but also placed pillows with images of the gods under the heads of their dead to keep evil spirits away. In ancient China, society was advanced enough to make soft textile pillows, but the Chinese believed that soft pillows were a luxury that would steal energy from the body. They preferred rugged pillows made of porcelain or bamboo, and those who could afford this luxury slept on cushions made of bronze or jade.
The ancient Greeks and Romans introduced the idea of the soft pillow. Citizens used pillows made of fabric filled with natural materials such as cotton, reed or straw. The rich used pillows filled with soft feathers. After the fall of the Roman Empire, soft pillows became a rarity again, which most people couldn't afford.
During his reign, King Henry VII banned soft pillows for all but pregnant women. By the 16th century, soft pillows had become more common. The upholstery often had to be changed because of mold and bugs. With the sudden oversupply of affordable textiles available for purchase, almost anyone could get their hands on a soft pillow to sleep on. People filled their pillows with the soft material that was available.
Cushions for sofas and chairs first appeared in homes, especially among the wealthy. Pillows stayed pretty much the same until the 1960s when polyester filling was invented. For the environmentally-conscious sleeper, environmentally friendly pillow fillers such as buckwheat and dried lavender pods are available. No matter what type of pillow you choose, today’s options are certainly a far cry from the stone pillows available in Mesopotamia!