Blankets, sheets. Most people have trouble sleeping without them. I have a love/hate thing for them outside of the winter months, when I can’t pile enough of them on.
[…] Blankets are common, but not universal, to humans during sleep, at least in the modern day. But historically, the effort involved in weaving large sheets put blankets at much too high a price point for most to afford. From the linen bedsheets of Egypt around 3500 B.C. to wool sheets during the Roman empire straight through to cotton in medieval Europe, bed coverings were for the wealthy.
By the Early Modern period in Europe, which followed the Middle Ages, production had increased enough so that more middle-class people could afford bedding, though not easily. “The bed, throughout Western Europe at this time, was the most expensive item in the house,” says Roger Ekirch, a historian at Virginia Tech who has written extensively about sleep. “It was the first major item that a newly married couple, if they had the wherewithal, would invest in.” The bed and bedding could make up about a third of the total value of an entire household’s possessions, which explains why bedsheets frequently showed up in wills.
In place of blankets and sheets, other sources of heat were common at night, usually from multiple people sharing a bed, or often livestock.
You can read all about this fascinating need shared by most people, and the reasons why, at Atlas Obscura.