History of Pillows

Ever wondered where the concept of pillows came from?

We have the answers to the question of the history of pillows.

What is a Pillow?

Let's start with - what is a pillow?  A pillow is used to support your body to rest, find comfort or for therapeutic reasons after injury. Pillows may also be used for decoration.

Who Invented Pillows? 

The oldest pillow is believed to be created 9,000 years ago

Pillows have been used throughout history, in different forms and styles. They have also been used by other species – not only humans! 

Apes for instance can be seen using rocks, their arms/elbows or piles of grass to support their head and neck while they rest. Rest (and quality rest) is important for all species – so its not surprising to find all species looking for ways to complement and improve their rest periods.

A typical pillow is designed to support the head and neck during sleep. In recent times they are made from a cotton outer and a poly, feather or down filling. Sometimes they may even be memory foam.

In ancient times well-to-do Egyptians, Mesopotamians, Romans and Greeks had versions of pillows which looked like firm headrests – typically made from stone, ceramic, porcelain for example. Sometimes they could be carved from wood or marble. They were designed to support the head during rest and protect elaborate hairstyles of the wealthy and upper classes. In ancient China versions of this pillow style headrest have been found in Jade. Japanese Geishas also had a version used to protect their hairstyles and ensure their elaborate hairstyles could be preserved. These headrests were also used in burials such as those in ancient pyramids.

First pillow

The oldest known bedding was found in cave in Southern Africa, and is believed to be dated at up to 227,000 years old. It was a grass matting placed over burned camphor wood, the smell of which was believed to eliminate and deter pests. This bedding was believed owned by Homo Sapiens, or similar species.

Pillow Revolution

During the industrial revolution pillows became more common in everyday homes. They evolved into a cotton sack, which could be stuffed with reeds, straw, feathers or leaves by the owner, to create the style of pillow for their sleeping style. The fillings could also be replaced and refreshed regularly, as many homes and beds had bugs and fleas.

From the 1900’s onwards the contemporary pillow came to be. It evolved from a stuffed cotton outer, into the lush, plush versions we have in our homes today with fillings ranging from feathers, poly, wool, bamboo and wheat husk.  Memory foam was developed by NASA in recent times and has become one of the fastest growing pillow materials. 

The Future of the Pillow

What next for pillows? What is the future for pillows – what designs will we see next?

Key themes emerging are anti-toxin and anti-bacterial fibres, to allow pillows to circulate air and last longer. A move towards ethically sourced and natural fibres is underway, as is moves to enable recycling options s for old pillows. Durability is a hot topic – with issues such as machine washability top of mind for busy families.

Tech, in particular sleeptech is likely to play a big role in the future pillow. Temperature censors, sleep quality sensors are likely to feature – to help you improve the quality of your sleep. Technology to suggest the right height and firmness is also sought after – as more people realise the increases in wellbeing gained from having the right pillow for you and your sleep style.
Another issue likely to be addressed with sleeptech is hot/cold sleepers, and recommending the right fabric for you based on your sleep temperature. Bamboo fibres for instance are good for hot sleepers, as are cottons.


We hope you learnt something about the past, present and future for pillows. At #GoKindly we’re passionate about providing everyone with a high quality, restful sleep. Everyone has different patterns of sleep, and sleep styles – we’re passionate about finding what is right for you.