The success that made Sweden seasick

HISTORY OF TECHNOLOGY. In an everyday life filled with simple foam mattresses, the warm, rippling sleeping place became a luxury without its equal during the 1980s. But the story has its beginnings as early as the 19th century – and is about bedsores.

The water-filled, warm bed began to increase in popularity around the world in the 1970s and 1980s. During the happy 70’s sometimes marketed with the slightly equivocal slogan “Good for two things, one is to sleep”.

The boom did not come to Sweden until the 1980s, and much as a response to the meager supply of mattress types during this time period, says Mikael Gillenäng. He was one of the first to start importing and selling water beds at home.

– I imported the water bubble itself from Canada and then built my own bed frames. At that time, the beds had wooden frames and consisted of an entire double mattress. It posed some problems when you slept two in bed and one was a little lighter and ended up on an “alpine peak” of water. Now they normally come as single mattresses with fiber cushioning in which adjusts the hardness of the bed, he says.

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The non-woven fabrics that are placed inside the water-filled casing remove the feeling of “splashing around” that occurred during the waterbed’s childhood. The outer shell of the water bladder consists of a vinyl mixture which in itself is heavy, but also very elastic.

From the beginning, the rubber mass was also mixed with a certain amount of lead to keep it malleable, but it was soon banned.

– After lead was banned, we had a period where I felt that there was a lower durability of the water bubble. On the other hand, the waterbed lasts for very many years compared to a conventional bed with springs and other things that can be worn, says Mikael Gillenäng, whose company Crystal Bad still sells single waterbeds today.

Facts: Invented in the 19th century

The doctor and inventor Neil Arnott (1788–1874) developed a type of waterbed as early as the 19th century, with the aim of preventing bedsores. However, he never patented his mattress. It was not until 1893 that there was a patent in which a British physician, Dr Portsmouth, presented a similar invention.

One problem with the early waterbeds was the lack of heaters. Only when the water could be heated to a comfortable temperature did the bed break through on the market. The water bed is filled with ordinary, untreated water that can be emptied if necessary.


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