If you were middle class or wealthy in the Middle Ages you would have enjoyed a comfortable night's sleep in a bed with warm bedclothes and curtains. But if you worked as a servant, you may have had no more than your cloak to keep you warm.

We take sleeping in a bedroom for granted now, but in the middle ages, a separate room for sleeping was a luxury that only the most wealthy could afford. Cottagers slept on stone slabs covered with a thin mattress of hay or peat moss.

These were usually wooden frames with rope webbing which had to be tightened frequently (the origin of the saying: "Sleep tight"), over which were laid one or more mattresses stuffed with down, feathers, straw, or similar materials. As you can see from the illustration, bed linen and bolsters and pillows were also in use.

Many such beds might have a truckle that fitted underneath: a smaller bed used either by some of the children in the family or a servant or servants. Probably the next step down was the box bed.

It provided privacy and kept out the draughts (which were greatly feared as a source of disease) and possibly kept body warmth in. These often had a shelf or kind of hammock across the bottom for the baby.

The poor might just sleep on a palliasse, which is essentially a big bag made of canvas or ticking that can be stuffed with straw, horsehair, or other such materials. This could be put on the floor, and several people might share one.

Some beds were shaped so that the sleeping position was similar to sleeping in a recliner today: a reclined back so that the sleeper was sitting semi-upright, with support under the legs. Most people did not sleep for a solid eight-hour stretch at night but had two periods of sleep with a wakeful break in between.