hit the hay
hit the hay,
also, hit the sack
- to go to sleep or head to bed.
- I have to get up early, so I better hit the hay soon.
- Before you hit the hay, make sure you take the garbage out to the curb.
- I’m exhausted. I’m going to hit the hay.
- Although I hit the hay around midnight, I didn’t actually fall asleep until well after one o’clock.
The phrase takes its meaning from the act of sleeping on a bed of hay or upon a mattress stuffed with hay—a common mattress filler used in the 19th Century.
While non-idiomatic and literal uses of the phrase appear in 19th-century literature, the figurative and idiomatic expression seems to have arose in the early part of the 20th Century. The boxer and Olympic gold medalist, Samuel Berger, is often credited with uttering the first recorded use of the phrase in the early years of the century. It was well-established within military circles by the time of the First World War; whether this is owing to Berger’s popularity or an earlier traditional use is not known. However, by the mid-1910s and early-20s, it regularly appears in literature and is utilized with such familiarity that it either took root quickly or it had circulated amongst ordinary working-class families for some time. The latter is highly likely since it expresses familiarity with a working-class form of bedding.