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Exploring Expressions of Sleep

July 12, 2016


Sleep like a log and other expressions explained

There are so many expressions in our everyday vernacular that relate to sleep. Some of them are actually about sleep, but some, like the expression “let sleeping dogs lie” aren’t. We have done a little bit of digging around in the annals of history and have unearthed the etymology of some of these expressions.

While some of the expressions are pretty obvious, take sleep like a baby as an example, others are a bit more obscure and surprising. Knowing the meaning behind some of these expressions, or the route of them rather, will definitely score you points in a general knowledge quiz and will most certainly impress your friends.

Sleep like a baby

This one is fairly self explanatory, yet also slightly contradictory. Babies do indeed sleep, and sleep and sleep and sleep. But they do not sleep right through the night and while they might get good quality sleep, I am sure that there are countless mum out there who would dispute that “sleep like a baby” is synonymous with a good night’s sleep.

Sleep tight

This expression dates back to the 1700s. Bed have evolved to such an extent that we probably wouldn’t recognise early examples as the havens of comfort and rest that we associate with them today. Back in the 16th century, people were only just starting to sleep on beds that were raised above the floor. These beds were made of wooden frames with a network of rope or leather strips that were bound together to form a criss cross structure that was used to support the mattress or bedding. The tighter the binding the better the quality of sleep, but the binding would often sag, causing an uncomfortable night’s sleep. So to say to someone “sleep tight” is to wish them a good and comfortable night’s sleep.

Don’t let the bedbugs bite

This expression also dates back to the same period, the 16th century, when mattresses were a far cry from the mattresses of today. There was no memory foam, no pocket spring. No, mattresses back then were predominantly made from straw or animal hair (such as horsehair or wool).The mattresses were a hive of activity for little critters and mites, and often people would wake up having been devoured during the night by these tiny creatures. So “don’t let the bug bit” was often wishful thinking.

ZZZZs

The letter Z, or severals Zs, has been used as a symbol for sleep in comic books and other forms of popular culture. It is thought to date back to the early 1900s, and it was originally thought that its use came about because of the similarity in sound between the letter and snoring. But that theory was disputed and it is not believed that it has more to do with the appearance of the letter. Its shape has been compared to action of sawing wood - the sound most commonly associated with snoring. Today it is used as the universal way of communicating sleep and tiredness.

Wake up on the wrong side of the bed

This well used phrase has come to describe someone who wakes up in a bad mood. It dates way back to the Romans though, to the rule of Augustus Caesar. The Romans were a very superstitious civilisation. It was believed that getting out of bed on the left side would bring bad luck, so it was with great care that they did not get out of bed on the wrong side of the bed for fear of evil omens.

Slept like a log

This is a funny one, because as we know logs do not sleep. It is thought to have come from the early pioneer days in North America when lumberjacking was popular. These burly men would cut down trees with basic tools, such as band saws. The trees were then cut into big logs. This was physically demanding work, so by the end of a day the lumberjacks were exhausted. The expression is thought to be a metaphor, as the logs cut were large heavy blocks that were difficult to move, and the lumberjacks, once asleep, could be compared to these immovable logs.

Whatever your favourite expression might be, a good night’s sleep most definitely starts with a good mattress. Browse our wide range of mattresses today.


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