Katy Brand reveals how the bed, past and present, has been shaped by our attitudes to sleep, sex, and status.
After a long journey, there’s nothing nicer for Katy than climbing into her own bed. It’s often the first major purchase we make when we grow up and leave home.
Its significance was not lost on our ancestors. The bed was often the place where societal attitudes to sleep, superstition, sex, and status were played out, sometimes in dramatic form.
So where did the bed come from, and what can this everyday object tell us about ourselves?
A sleeper in early modern times believed that sleep was akin to death, with the devil waiting to pounce after darkness. So bed-time rituals were performed at the bedside and wolves’ teeth were often hung around the sleeper’s neck. Iron daggers were dangled over the cradles of infants at night to prevent them from being changed into demon babies.
While we may have outgrown a fear of the devil, sleep expert and neuroscientist Prof Russell Foster fears the modern-day obsession that’s disrupting our sleep – our mobile devices. His advice? Prepare your bed for a good night’s sleep and defend it with a passion.
Also featuring resident public historian Greg Jenner, and Prof Sasha Handley, expert on Early Modern History and sleep during this time.
Producer: Beth Eastwood