Everyone has heard the expression, “I’m exhausted; I’m going to hit the hay”. Unless you live on a farm and sleep in the barn, this expression makes little to no sense in this modern era; so where does this term come from?
It is believed, as far back as 200 BC, citizens of the Roman Empire slept on cloth bags stuffed with reeds or hay. It would make sense for the origin of this saying to be traced to the days when people slept in this fashion, but despite this ancient custom, for thousands of years the expression “hit the hay” did not find its way into popular culture until the early 20th century; where it was used by exhausted athletes to underscore their need for sleep. Beds at this time were still stuffed with hay – and probably didn’t cost $1000’s of dollars like they do today. That alone, would make a person rest easier!
With the birth of box spring and mattress, the need to stuff pillows and mattresses with hay fell out of style but the staying remained as a way to say it is time to go to bed for the night.