Many Cultures Don't Use Mattresses — Here's What They Sleep on Instead
Not everybody sleeps on a typical mattress. Read this blog post to discover the different types of beds around the world.
It's easy to assume that most people sleep on soft, comfy mattresses like yours. The truth is the U.S. and other western cultures are outliers in the bed world. In other cultures, it's often the norm to use alternative beds. Chalk this up to changing socioeconomic factors, preferences and long-standing traditions. Traditional western beds tend to run pricier with their expensive frames and mattresses.
Many international sleepers also avoid traditional western beds. The reasons are they take up a lot of space and are usually difficult to move around. Also, many types of beds in the western world are too soft by international standards. They don't provide enough back support.
Intrigued? Read on to find out more about the most popular alternative beds around the world.
The Most Popular Alternative Beds — and Where to Find Them
India: The Charpai
The charpai has a long cultural history in the Indian subcontinent.
Many consider this traditional bed a sign of growing poverty in India. Others consider it a nostalgic item. Even so, the charpai has endured for the past several centuries.
The charpai has a footed frame, measuring up to 4 feet in length and width. Handwoven ropes or fabrics make up the top of the bed. It's widely known as the rope bed.
People sleep on these rope beds without any pillows, blankets or mattresses. The point is to increase ventilation and reduce humidity. And if you think about it, these are what often disrupt a peaceful night's sleep.
Japan: The Futon
Futons or shikibutons are comfortable yet firm rectangular cushions. They're slim and easy to fold.
Traditional futons have a cotton filling for increased back support and cushioned comfort. Tatami mats serve as a base to keep them in place. But, modern shikibutons have a foam filling. They're a bit thinner for more portability and easy storage.
Futons typically measure 3 to 4 inches in height. It's possible to find them in a variety of sizes to suit modern lifestyles. But tradition-wise, these beds are a single-person sleeping unit.
China: The Kang Stove Bed
When it comes to different kinds of beds, the Chinese kang bed stove stands out for its sheer strangeness.
The kang bed is a large platform that rests upon bricks or other materials. It takes up quite a bit of space. Inside the layered brick area is another platform that’s used as a heat source — almost like a small furnace.
The furnace contains hot coals to keep sleepers warm and cozy. This is especially helpful during the harsh northern Chinese winters.
The kang bed is a general sitting area for the family during the day. At night, all beddings go back on for sweet slumber.
South America: The Hammock
A hammock is a minimalist bed made of strong nets and rope. It’s suspended using rope or chain between two points.
It’s still not clear who invented the hammock. But it's known that Christopher Columbus was the first European to note it.
In the west, most people use a hammock for rest and relaxation. But it's primarily used for sleep in different parts of South America. That said, the way different cultures across South America use hammocks varies.
In El Salvador people sleep in hammocks to protect themselves from earthquakes. But in Brazil or Venezuela, the hammock is a work of fine art and creativity.
Vast jungles surround other South American countries. People have to take necessary precautions to fend off insect attacks.
They suspend hammocks in these areas a few feet or more above ground. This keeps sleepers both safe and comfortable.
So, now you know more about the different beds around the world. Makes your box spring mattress feel a little dull, huh? If so, you’re not alone.
But here's the truth. It’s common for international sleepers to thrive without a traditional mattress.
Luckily all the alternative bed types listed above are still in active use today. Why not reach both your sleep and travel goals in one fell swoop by giving them a try?
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