I know films and historical accuracy are, unfortunately, enemies, but a couple of years ago I saw a film that included a family living in close quarters in a cabin and they all slept on cots on the floor to the exception of the parents.

Recently, I looked through some pictures of real life (old) cabins and they featured bed structures that kept the mattresses / cots off the floor.

Example 1

example 2

Was there a reason for this? Was sleeping on a cot on a cabin floor too cold (at least in Canadian and Alaskan winters) in real life? Or would big families have beds only for some and the rest would really sleep on the floor?

  • In rural Mexico, I was told that beds are constructed off the ground because there may be fleas in the dirt. May 7, 2017 at 22:26
  • 2
    When you say "on the floor," do you mean that the bedding materials (straw, mattress, ...) were directly on the floor? Air is a good insulator, and in cold weather the floor would be cold. You can also store things underneath a bed that's off the floor.
    – user2848
    May 7, 2017 at 23:52
  • 3
    And it is much easier to get into and out of a bed that is raised. After a certain age, that is much more important. Fundamentally raised beds are more comfortable. They stay dry, they are easier to temperature control, they're easier to care for, etc.
    – MCW
    May 8, 2017 at 1:22
  • @BenCrowell: yes. In the film, they would get their cots, put them on the floor anywhere in the house and get to sleep. Then, in the morning, they'd put the cots away. May 8, 2017 at 7:51
  • I suppose a raised bed gives slightly more protection from snakes, rats and other vermin?
    – TheHonRose
    Jun 7, 2017 at 4:15

1 Answer 1


Ignorance and myths ruled the day back then. I don't remember which museum I saw it in, but I saw a bed on display that was used by someone in the upper class. Each leg of the frame was inside a wide can like container that was filled with a fluid that would repulse any insect or vermin away from the bed frame. Very practical setup actually for said purpose.

  • 1
    service men were doing this in WWII and Vietnam as well, I have been told this many times before on camp-outs, that THIS is the way they learned etc...
    – ed.hank
    May 8, 2017 at 10:50

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