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Pillows have long been produced around the world in order to help solve the reoccurring problem of neck, back, and shoulder pain while sleeping. Besides for comfort, the pillow was also used for keeping bugs and insects out of people's hair, mouth, nose, and ears while sleeping.
Pillows have supposedly been around since 7000 BCE, in early Mesopotamia. Of course, they were made of stone and so understandably less comfortable; very unlike what we think of as pillows today. In fact, it is said that these stone pillows were made to help keep bugs from crawling into the ears of wealthier citizens.
Who invented pillows?! Sometime between 5 and 23 million years ago tree-dwelling great apes began building sleeping platforms, including wooden pillows, to improve their sleep. The earliest recorded use of the modern human device dates back to the civilizations of Mesopotamia around 7,000 BC. During this time, only the wealthy classes used pillows. The number of pillows symbolized status so the more pillows one owned the more affluence they held.
Pillow use has been associated with the mummies and tombs of ancient Egypt during the 11th dynasty, dating to 2055–1985 B.C. Ancient Egyptian pillows were wooden or stone headrests. These pillows were mostly used by placing them under the heads of the deceased because the head of a human was considered to be the essence of life and sacred.
The Romans and Greeks of ancient Europe mastered the creation of the softer type pillow. These pillows were stuffed with reeds, feathers, and straw in order to make them softer and more comfortable. Only upper-class people typically owned these softer pillows; however, all classes of people were allowed to use some type of pillow while sleeping, lying down or sitting in order to give them support.
Chinese pillows were traditionally solid with less comfort, though sometimes used with a softer fabric over them. Over many Chinese dynasties, pillows were made from a wide range of materials including bamboo, jade, porcelain, wood, and bronze. Between 581 and 618 in the Tang Dynasty, ceramic pillows became the most popular with mass production. Chinese ceramic pillows reached their peak in terms of production and use during the Song, Jin, and Yuan dynasties between the 10th and 14th century, but slowly phased out during the Ming and Qing dynasties between 1368 and 1911 with the emergence of better pillow making materials.
Fillers are chosen on the basis of comfort, resilience, thermal properties, cost and also for medical and ethical reasons. The most common synthetic fillers are materials derived from polymer fibers, such as polyester and memory foam. Synthetic fillers in general are inexpensive and in the case of memory foam can retain their form longer. Natural fillers have been used since antiquity. The most common are feathers, down, wool, latex, cotton (particularly in India), and buckwheat.
Down is usually the softer filler and offer good insulation, but is more expensive due to its relative scarcity. Down has been known to be plucked from live geese, but there are already cruelty-free certifications for down products.
Since 1990s, more different materials like memory foam, latex, & even plastic tubes join the pillow markets with more comforts and purposes.
The choice of bed pillow depends to some extent upon sleeping positions: one manufacturer recommends a thinner and softer pillow for sleeping face down, medium support for sleeping on one's back, and a thicker and firmer pillow for sleeping on the side. With new technology and materials for pillows, people are getting more choice for a better sleep and dream.