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Forum LockedDid they really sleep sitting up ?

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Northman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Did they really sleep sitting up ?
    Posted: 12-Jul-2006 at 05:39
Yes - they slept sitting up - or semi-sitting up, supported by large cushins.
Although, I have never heard any of the reasons mentioned above - but both of them could be true. People were extremely supersticious.
 
A very common bedstyle between 1500 to early 1900's was the "alkove". A bed built into the wall, and typically no more than 150 cm long (5 feet).
I have collected a few samples in the picture below, and as you can see, it was widespread through all social layers, from castles and merchanthouses to small farmsteads. 
They were used in northern Europe, possibly all of Europe - along with the "canopy-bed" we know from some castles. 
 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Aelfgifu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 12-Jul-2006 at 04:56
The beds I have seen in a castle in Holland would have been to short even for that, but the bed was post medieval, probably 16th century. It might have been a practice from later times.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Constantine XI Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 11-Jul-2006 at 23:54
To be honest the issue has never come up in my medieval studies, which leads me to believe there was not any truth in it. Even in our lecture on medieval understanding of medical science such a practice was never mentioned. As Europe entered the High Middle Ages (11th century-mid 14th century), the place was very densely populated thanks to intensive cultivation of grain crops. This meant that many people grew to a substantially shorter height than they do today or during the Dark Ages. They had a lower protein diet and crop failure resulted in more severe famines (resulting in stunted growth), than it did for peoples reliant on pastoral or nomadic lifestyles. I even read a figure stating that the average height of medieval people during the High Middle Ages was a mere 5 ft 3 inches, a possible explanation for such small beds.

Edited by Constantine XI - 12-Jul-2006 at 04:58
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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Jul-2006 at 08:00
I noticed the beds in the old hospital at Beaune, now a museum, were very short.
 
There must be some reason, I guess. I don't think people were that much shorter.
 
I had to sleep sitting up for a while when I had pleurisy and empyema, because it was too painful to lie down, and I think there are other medical reasons sometimes.
 
I'm more inclined to think though that it was simply to save space (and expense).
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Aelfgifu Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Jul-2006 at 06:50
Actually, my great grandparents still slept sitting up in bed, my mother can still remember them doing so. This is not on old wives tale, it is totally true.
But I heard it was because they believed you would die if too much of the blood went to your head. Children could sleep lying down, as their brains were yet undeveloped, and thus less likely to be damaged. Silly, I know, but it is what they believed.


Edited by Aelfgifu - 10-Jul-2006 at 07:33

Women hold their councils of war in kitchens: the knives are there, and the cups of coffee, and the towels to dry the tears.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote tadamson Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Jul-2006 at 06:07
old wives tale - 
you get similar stories from guides all over the place, no truth in them though...
rgds.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Komnenos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 10-Jul-2006 at 05:44
Whilst on my short vacation, I visited a castle in Luxemburg and during the tour ,we came across the lordly resting chamber with a somewhat small bed. The guide told the astonished group that the reason, it was rather shorter than usual, was the fact that in the Middle Ages, the good Christian people of Europe slept sitting up, fearing to lie down as this position was reserved for the dead.
Although I had come across this notion once before, in this particular case I thought the bed wasn't all that tiny, and certainly not designed to sleep in a sitting position.
Anyway, can anybody verify (or not) that the theory that people slept sitting down, is correct, and if yes, how widespread it was in Medieval Europe?
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