I’m sure many of us share treasured childhood memories, and one of mine is when my mother would tuck me in at night and say, “Sleep tight.” I now often hear myself repeating that phrase, which leads me to wonder where “sleep tight” actually originated.
History shows that the phrase “sleep tight” has always been used in the English-speaking world, and is associated with the rhyme "good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite." The “sleep tight” part may refer back to when mattress foundations were made from ropes, which needed to be pulled tight to provide a well-sprung bed. The ropes were spread across the bed frame in a criss-cross pattern to form a sleeping platform. They would sag with time and weight, and had to be tightened periodically, hence the phrase “sleep tight.” This brings to mind why it’s important to know what type of foundation your mattress is on. Most of us have had common commercial mattresses at one time or another. We may have told by a salesperson, “This price includes the set,” which we assume means we’re getting a box-spring foundation. I’m here to tell you that that’s not always the case. I speak to customers all day long who assume that the foundation they have now is a box spring, when actually it contains no springs at all – just thin wood. I call this a “faux” or “impostor” box spring. Innerspring mattresses are designed specifically to be supported by a box-spring foundation. With a “faux” foundation, the innerspring mattress will lack proper support, which in turn will not provide the sleeper with the proper support. It becomes a vicious cycle. Some people try placing plywood between the mattress and the foundation, hoping it will do the trick. When it doesn’t work and the mattress becomes increasingly uncomfortable from lack of support, a chemically-laden memory-foam pillow top may be added. It goes on and on as the mattress dips and sags in an unusually short period of time. It’s only when the entire situation becomes unbearable that we’re forced to pay attention and purchase a new mattress. Sadly, if the underlying problem hasn’t been recognized the first time, the pattern is often repeated. On a more positive note, we’ve come a long way in terms of technology from using a rope foundation that needs to be tightened to prevent sagging. We now offer platform-slat bed frames, which require no maintenance and allow natural rubber mattresses to have the air circulation they need without using a foundation. Yet when it comes to traditional innerspring, steel-coil mattresses, my biggest concern is that the general mattress buyer is often still unaware of the need such mattresses have for a steel-coil box-spring foundation to support them. Think of the two pieces as a team, working together to provide the perfect, comfortable support. So when you find it’s time to replace that not-so-old, sagging mattress set, remember to look inside the potentially empty “box spring” that came with your mattress to see what’s inside. I hope you always will “sleep tight”!