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Where Does the Expression "Sleep Tight" Come From?

Nov 8, 2007
We have all heard the old saying of "sleep tight don't let the bed bugs bite". Since this is incredibly gross, let's just focus on the first part.

Many historians have suggested that the "sleep tight" part actually comes from Colonial times, when the mattresses were laid upon ropes, which were very primitive models of what we know as box springs. The ropes were interwoven, somewhat resembling a hammock, and were expected to be taut and stretched to capacity. If they were not, the mattress would sag in the middle, causing lumps, and making for a very uncomfortable sleep where you just sink into the middle of the bed.

So, sleep tight was actually a good wish for folks, because then your mattress would be comfortable and firm, and great for the back, which of course would prevent restlessness.

Since the days of sleeping on taut ropes are long gone, this expression has slowly developed new meaning. Tight is a word that can be used to mean so many things in slang. But even with the language changes over the years, sleep tight is still a good wish of sorts, in that you want the person to have a wonderful night of rest.

Nowadays, people have attributed this saying to mean the way in which a baby might sleep. Since newborns are coming from an incredibly warm place, that being the womb, they have not gone through the proper development yet to account for body temperature adjustments. As such, they need to be wrapped tightly to stave off the cold, and providing them the comfort they need in order to sleep through their naps. So, in this case, the term "sleep tight" may actually mean to bundle up well so you avoid a chilly night. Or, wrap yourself up and feel cozy because that will help you fight off insomnia.

But, the expression might not be so complex after all. We say this so frivolously, that we often forget that we really do want the person to have a full night of sleep. When we think about all of the ways tight is used now, the actual meaning is 'well' or 'sound' in regards to sleeping.

If we picture what tight sleep is supposed to be, it would most likely be a very plush yet firm mattress, soft and cool linens, cozy pajamas, a wide open space, no distractions, tons of pillows, just to name a few things. Wishing this on someone would imply that sleeping tight is really our fantasy sleep situation. We should be in a place that is warm and inviting and makes us want to stay there for eight hours straight.

So the next time you hear these words uttered to you, simply turn to the person and sincerely remark, 'thank you I surely will'. Then turn over, pull the covers up, and settle in for quite some time. Oh, and be grateful that you no longer have to sleep on ropes!
About the Author
Sherry Harris used to have insomnia. Now she gets a good night sleep with aromatic sleeping mist fragrances. If you are tired of insomnia go to http://www.ScentToSleep.com. Why don't you bookmark the article you are reading right now? You know you will want to find it again soon.
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