The world’s a big place, filled with many different cultures that all adhere to their unique habits, traditions and mentalities, and yet we are all driven by the same needs. In this case, the need to sleep! But how does the UK sleep differently from other cultures? Do we all use the same type of bed?
We've decided to look at that universally loved bedroom centrepiece: the bed. This list may be more akin to celebrating this month as International Bed Month, though, as featured below, these are just a handful of the weird and wonderful types of beds our cousins from around the globe rest their heads on.
How does the world sleep?
Keeping things relatively close to home, Europe is home to many different countries, each with different types of beds and cultural differences.
Scandinavia, Germany and Austria
Anyone who's shared a bed with someone will know the eternal pain of trying to share a duvet. One person wants more, the other is bundled up in it, and no one is really happy. But our fellow Europeans in the Scandinavian countries, Germany and Austria, have it all figured out. In these countries, people share a bed, but each has their own duvet. Not only do they not have to worry about someone hogging the covers, but they can choose their tog and moderate their temperature much easier!
Germany takes it one step further, with it being common to have two single beds instead of a large bed. Sometimes these are two beds with a small gap between them, whereas others are a single bed frame with two mattresses. This means that people can have their own duvets and a mattress firmness or type to suit their sleeping preferences! A bed with a large mattress is referred to as Französiche Betten or a French bed, which isn't quite what we know French beds to be!
In Norway, ice beds exist. Now, don't get angry at us, Norwegians - we need to point out to people that Norwegians don't sleep on ice beds. As you might expect, it's more of a touristy thing to do. It could be one to add to your bucket list! But it's still cool (no pun intended), so we thought we'd include it.
Moving on to our cousins across the pond, America lives and breathes (and sleeps) by the ‘bigger is better’ mantra. Though it’s no longer unique to the states, many sizes are called some variant of a ‘California’ bed, which can expand to ridiculous proportions.
Take, for example, the California king bed or the Grand King beds, which can extend to 360cm long. These ‘triple’ sized beds are often found in the fanciest rooms of the most exclusive hotels, commonly listed under names like the ‘Emperor’ or ‘Caesar’ beds. It makes sense since only kings could justify sleeping in such enormous beds.
Central and South America
South of the border, things are a little more humble, as it was in South America that the beloved hammock originated. The word "hammock" comes from the Arawak people of the Caribbean and South America and means 'stretch of cloth'. Developed during the Pre-Columbian era, hammocks have always been handmade in various fabrics and shapes. Nowadays, the simple hammock has been adapted into many different iterations, some specifically crafted for unique scenarios such as sleeping on the side of mountains.
Still used and enjoyed today, many people across Latin America choose the hammock as their primary bed, unlike the rest of the world, who mainly use it when feeling sloth-like in the sun.
Most of Africa utilises the same types of beds that we’re familiar with, albeit with one distinction. Sub-Saharan Africa (Ethiopia, Mali, Uganda, etc) is almost plagued with mosquitos which, as well as irritating beyond belief, carry life-threatening diseases like malaria. These pests are a real problem, so to try and reduce their presence, most beds will be adorned with nets, often made of strong polyester or treated with insecticide, to keep those abrasive blood-suckers at bay.
Another noteworthy means of sleeping is an enthralling combination of camping, meeting five-star hotels' quality. ‘Star beds’, as they’re known, are luxurious getaways for those wishing to sleep under the stars (in the highest possible degree of comfort). The options range from small, elevated, and isolated platforms to private roofless rooms, all in the wilderness with a bed always looking up to a clear sky. They’re incredibly pricey, but they’re also just plain incredible.
Asia is home to many different types of beds, all weird and wonderful. The different types of bed used varies by country - so let's look at how these beds differ in separate parts of the continent!
India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
Cultural differences are funny - what we might see as uncomfortable, others could see as completely blissful. An example is the charpai, meaning "four-footed", or manji. A traditional bed from the Indian subcontinent, the charpai consists of a wooden frame and ropes or fabric. The ropes are tied around the frame and form a net where the user can lie in peace and relaxation. Charpai makers can make these special beds to custom specifications, so you can truly have a bed that will suit your needs!
No pillows or blankets are needed; it also serves as a place to sit. A benefit to the woven nature is that it provides support without needing a mattress, offering plenty of ventilation. In a place that can get very hot and humid, like India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, this is key for a good sleep!
We see a shift from a fairly basic setup to an elaborate sleep system from India to China. Primarily seen in northern China, the kang bed-stove is designed to keep things warm for the entire family. A large brick or clay platform is built with interior cavities, spreading heat from a stove across the platform. This makes the platform nice and toasty, so an entire family sleeps atop it at night to fend off that northern Chinese chill. Some families may have their home designed so that the whole floor is heated in this way, called a dikang, with di meaning floor.
With Japanese beds, the rich and the poor sleep on traditional futons. These futons are entirely different from what Western cultures call a futon (basically just sofa beds) as they occupy an entire room in their complete form. First, the floor is covered with tatami, a mat made from rice straws atop compressed wood chipboards, and these are essentially carpets. Then there’s the futon itself, a thin mattress that can be folded to make it thicker or for storage. It’s an ingeniously simple solution to saving space whilst maximising comfort.
Japan has even more unusual sleeping arrangements, such as capsule and love hotels, but those are entirely different stories altogether…
South Korea is an interesting mix of both the Japanese futon style and the Chinese kang, though it's important to note that the Korean style is very much its own thing. Almost all Korean homes have something called ondol, a traditional Korean heating system that results in a warm floor. Believed to have originated in the Bronze Age (900-800BC), ondol features channels underneath the floor called gorae, and the smoke from fireplaces in the kitchen would travel through these gorae and heat the floors.
It's a little more advanced now, but the basic principle is the same. Pipes underneath the floor use hot water instead of smoke, though you can experience a traditional ondol in a temple or a traditional hanok, or Korean house. As you might expect, Koreans would sleep on the floor with a thin mattress and blankets, all toasty warm even in the cold winter! Whilst many Koreans sleep in beds like our homes now, there are still homes where people will still sleep on the floor and enjoy the benefit of a warm floor!
Out of this world
So we've covered people on the planet, but what about the people sleeping in Space? Whilst free from the Earth's gravity, astronauts can't simply lie on a bed. Their weightlessness means they must strap themselves in so they don't float around.
To aid this endeavour (and make it a comfortable affair), they have specially made sleeping arrangements consisting of small cabins with an odd mix of sleeping bags and straightjacket. They are subject to all the usual elements of sleep, such as dreaming and snoring, though factors like motion sickness (or even pure, giddy excitement from being in space) have been reported to lower the number of winks they get.
Are you fascinated by beds in different cultures?
Those were just a handful of the unusual beds we tracked down worldwide. Have you heard of any that make mine seem mundane? Tweet us, find us on Facebook, and tag us on Instagram with your favourites.
If you're looking for a comfortable (and snazzy!) upgrade for your bedroom, then why not look at the different types of TV Beds we offer at Happy Beds?