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Almost everyone equates restful sleep with laying one’s head on a soft, plump bolster pillow. But few are aware of the history of the bolster pillow. The basic form and makeup of pillows – bolsters being one of the most common shapes – have changed little over time.
The name “bolster pillow” comes from the Germans. It indicates a long, cylindrical throw of varying length, stuffed with anything from straw to the modern-day fiber.
The bolster pillow can be traced back to Mesopotamia, and is found extensively throughout ancient Egyptian history, when the head was believed to be the most sacred part of the body. Considered to be the seat of life, bolster pillows took on various forms, sizes, and plush designs or decorations in their preparation for the job of housing the head and supporting the neck. Bolster.net offers a wide selection similar to these so be sure to check out our bolster pillow store. Originally used by the wealthy, the bolster pillow has even been found in ancient Egyptian tombs.
Bolsters were used for comfort in the Far East. Originally known as the “bamboo wife,” women made the bolster of bamboo for their husbands to bring with them when they traveled so they would not feel alone when they slept away from their wives.
The Chinese, believing soft pillows could rob a person of energy and vitality, created their bolster pillows from hard materials – perhaps leather in one season and ceramic in another. Chinese children were encouraged to sleep with bolster pillows the way inhabitants of most Western countries would use a body pillow. These were softer versions of the bolster on which one could rest one’s head at the top end and hug or snuggle up to the rest of it. Bolster users often continued this habit into adulthood.
Many hotels used to provide bolster pillows for the comfort of their guests. This was particularly true in places with warm climates where blankets were unnecessary. It was thought that one could hug the bolster to avoid catching a cold or to help cool down naturally where there was no air conditioning.
Throughout Europe pillows were leaned against the bolster, which spanned the width of the bed across the top and placed against the headboard. This arrangement allowed the head and neck to lie in a more comfortable position. As simple as the bolster pillow is, it is believed to have medical benefits. Bolster pillows are particularly beneficial for people who have shoulder, hip, or back problems.
Bolsters provide support for the head and neck as well as the knees and legs, especially for those who usually sleep on their sides. One can adjust the bolster to create more comfort for restful sleep. Bolsters are great for pregnant women, and can also help support babies when they nurse, freeing up the mother’s arms. They can also be used to keep small babies safe while they are lying on furniture not designed to keep them in.
The basic concept of the bolster is still popular today. The bolster as a body pillow will probably never go out of style, and for decorating, it can be made long or short to fit almost any piece of furniture. The bolster can add a luxurious look or provide a pop of color in an otherwise bland room. Bolsters can add to a design theme in a subtle but elegant way.