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What is a Featherbed?

Updated May 16, 2024
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As the lyrics of an old song go, everything old is new again, and that is truly the case when it comes to featherbeds. A featherbed may bring to mind Grandma's, or Great-Great-Grandma's house, but the cycle has come full circle and featherbeds are now considered luxury items and not everyday household articles.

Featherbeds are mattress toppers that provide extra cushion and comfort to the sleeper. Filled with feathers, goose or otherwise, a featherbed is a separate piece that is placed on top of the mattress and covered by a bed sheet. Perhaps featherbeds are back in vogue for the same reasons they were popular in the first place — they are relatively lightweight, promote comfortable sleep, and help regulate body temperature.

Researchers are still finding out just how important a sound night's sleep is to overall good health. Getting enough rest promotes growth of new cells, reduces stress, and refreshes the mind and body. Because a featherbed is so comfortable, (some people liken it to sleeping on a cloud), their benefits can be considerable.

Using a featherbed can also help reduce energy bills. It provides warmth during the winter months by trapping body heat; and because air is able to circulate through its loft, a featherbed will also keep you cool in summer.

Historians have determined that the featherbed originated in Northern Europe, though exactly when is unclear. They do know that people in that region have been sleeping on featherbeds for centuries — and with a primary food source of duck and geese — the theory is that some thinking person decided to put the feathers and down to good use. The result was the comfortable featherbed.

You can buy a featherbed through a specialty sleep or mattress shop, major high-end department stores, or online at linen and bedding sites. Featherbeds range in price, starting at about $100 US Dollars.

To care for your featherbed, the best advice may be to cover it. You cannot wash a featherbed but merely spot clean it, so protect your featherbed with at least one washable cover, or duvet. Daily fluffing will extend the life of a featherbed, and an occasional airing in the sun will keep your featherbed smelling clean and fresh.

If you still aren't sure whether a featherbed is right for you, consider a reservation at a nearby bed and breakfast or top-notch hotel. Many of these accommodations provide fluffy, cozy featherbeds. After a single night's satisfying slumber, you may just become a convert.

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Discussion Comments
By anon152234 — On Feb 13, 2011

I own a great downbed (an uppity cousin to a high end featherbed) and I bought a cover with my bodycloud downbed from them and air it in my home from time to time. I leave the snowgoose comforter folded back in the "open bed" position to breath and expel moisture and freshen up the downbed. Once a year I put it in the sun.

By Gretchen — On Oct 04, 2008

You advise airing feather/down items in the sun. the Hungarian maker of my down comforter advised me to never air it in the sun, always in the shade to protect the down from over-drying, becoming brittle.

By jabuka — On Apr 29, 2008

Feather beds will last anywhere from 3 to 10 years. Their longevity depends on the humidity. Because moisture causes down to mildew, if you perspire and or you live in a damper climate, feather beds will have a shorter lifespan.

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