Good Night, Sleep Tight, Watch out for the Crack!

Maybe you have visited Germany on a trip and noticed that the hotel beds were a little funny. Large, generously proportioned, down pillows, down comforters. But strangely, when you sink into the middle of the bed you find, well, it’s lacking. There’s a crack down the middle of the bed! And no covers there either. German “king-size” beds are really two twin beds sharing a frame. What about the covers? Also twin.

And guess what: it’s like this in their homes, too. This was a shock to my newly-married-assumptions-about-life when I came to Germany. Like most young couples, we bought a bed frame at IKEA. We went to the mattress store to buy a good mattress and when we got there I realized we would be buying two good mattresses for our one bed frame. I spent some time thinking about this, then asked if there was some kind of filler for the gap. There was, but it created a speed bump, which to me didn’t really solve the problem. I wanted a single mattress with no barrier. In German, beds with a single large mattress are referred to as Französiche Betten (French beds). Perhaps, ahem, that says a lot about the two cultures, but I’ll refrain from commenting further…  By the way, the crack between the mattresses is referred to as the Besucherritze (visitor’s gap) in German, and the foam filler for it is the Liebesbrücke (love bridge).

And what about the covers? Here, too, I wanted one giant cover for the bed and found that all the comforters and sheets were twin-bed size. It was like being in a movie from the 50’s, as if we had two twin beds in one bedroom, and had just put them next to each other. I was less than enamored by the whole thing.

Over the years I have learned to appreciate a few things about the German bed system. For starters, there is no fighting over the covers. Secondly, I don’t get woken up when my spouse turns over at night. And of course, the kids never mind sleeping in the crack of the mattresses. Besides, getting the covers on a twin-size comforter is so incredibly quick and easy. I’ve been searching for a youtube clip of how Germans have perfected the outside-in maneuver, but I have yet to find an appropriate example. Needless to say, you could learn a lot by watching a German make the bed (so quick! so painless! no top sheets!) (now updated with this clip. Watch at 1:50 for the trick)

I have also come up with a few tactics to make the bed more unified. I got a single mattress protector that covers the whole bed, so the crack is less noticeable. I also buy king-size fitted sheets in the US. While we still use two separate comforters (duvets), I also have a king-size quilt over the bed. In the winter, it stays on at night, in the summer it is just to look nice during the day. These are just some small ways I have managed to deal with the bed issue. Considering that we spend about 30% of our lives sleeping, it is worth making it as comfortable (and comforting) as possible!

Were you surprised by German beds? Is your bed also 180x200cm or have you gone for the single-mattress option of 140×200, which is similar to a US double-size bed? Does anyone have the new 160×200 and do they make single mattresses for those? Or maybe there are readers who prefer the side-by-side arrangement? Let me know in the comments!

One thought on “Good Night, Sleep Tight, Watch out for the Crack!

  1. You describe exactly our experience of trying to buy king-size mattresses in Germany. And I, too, had a big psychological barrier about it in the process. The speed bump thing in the middle is simply not the ticket, though a single mattress protector makes it just about acceptable. Luckily, though, we had brought our king-size quilt (duvet) from the UK when we moved over here and have not yet had to replace any of its covers. If we do, I suppose we’ll be ordering them from the UK – just one compromise too far.

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