Now, right at bedtime, I turn on a plastic dial near my pillow, which has heat settings between one and 20. A few minutes later, a perfectly even, toasty temperature has enveloped the sheets underneath me. The Hubster keeps an identical gauge, also close to his head, on number one. But since I’m always colder, I start at number 12 and during the night, work my way down to a four.
In any case, I fall asleep, and stay asleep, a lot faster and a lot longer.
I never knew mattress warmers existed until well into adulthood.
This lack of information could be because I grew up in Southern California. In fact, I had no knowledge of flannel sheets until I was in my 30s. That being said, my mother did join the electric blanket craze when I was a teenager, buying a pastel one for each bed, then carefully packing them in their original boxes once spring came around.
Still, I never felt entirely comfortable using one. They absolutely kept me warm on top. But those fat coils full of electrical current also gave me a vague feeling that if I happened to turn around the wrong way in my sleep, I’d wake up on fire.
My first mattress warmer experience was a few decades ago.
I was spending an unusually cold night at a friend’s house in Hollywood, and slept in the guest bedroom with a twin
bed. When I got in, I immediately noticed how cozy and warm the bed felt. My friend explained that the mattress pad
was the warming kind, and that she had found it in a J.C. Penney catalogue. Also, she was from Canada, so knew
about such things.
I wanted my very own pad warmer after that, but considered it a luxury item because even the smallest one cost nearly $200. There was also the fact that I was a single mom then, and needed the money for other things like food and rent and diapers.
Then, last year, we moved to Oregon.
This is a place, as my Ohio-born Hubster likes to say, with “real seasons.” What he means is this: winter brings snow; fall boasts gusty winds, and for at least three months of the year, freezing temperatures at night are the norm.
So, it was now an easy-peasy decision to invest in a mattress warmer because it had become a necessity. Another plus is that the price tag was considerably lower than when I’d last checked, with our purchase costing only a bit over $100.
As it turns out, getting a bed warm before climbing into one is a tricky issue that’s been around for a long time.
In the Medieval era, a servant or woman of the house heated a stone or brick by the fire, then took it to bed. By the 1500s, a brass or copper warming pan shaped not unlike a large banjo hung by the hearth. At bedtime, hot embers from a woodstove were placed inside this contraption, and grabbing its long handle, were carried to sleeping quarters. There, sometimes in a zig-zag pattern, the person doing the warming started at the head of each bed, quickly rubbing the warmer in-between sheets.
When he was a small boy, my spouse remembers something similar.
He recalls visiting a very old great-great aunt and uncle who lived in upstate New York. The bed he slept in was made of feathers, and got warmed with a cast-iron version of the afore-mentioned shape. The sheets, he says, were perfectly heated when he climbed into them a moment later.
Knowing how clumsy I can be, I’m grateful to live in a time where electric mattress pad warmers are available online.
But if I was forced to, even knowing I might burn a few fingers along the way, I’d try to use an old banjo one.
Because honestly, there’s nothing quite as wonderful as a warmed bed on a cold Oregon night.