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A bed is manufactured in a Carpenter's workshop and then constructed on an indoor floor. A constructed bed is the base object used to create bedrooms, but barracks can also be created from them. Manufacturing a bed requires one piece of wood. Dwarves gain unhappy thoughts from sleeping without a bed and happy thoughts from having their own, high quality bed, so building beds is often a necessity for a happy fortress.
A beginning fortress might only need 4-5 beds for their initial 7 dwarves, although as time passes and their sleeping rhythms get more out of synch, that number drops. Although a fortress of 100 dwarves might only need a dozen or so beds to accommodate all sleepers at any one time, by the time a fortress reaches that size, some private bedrooms will, most likely, be a good idea, and bedrooms can only be defined from a bed.
Unlike many other pieces of furniture, beds can only be created from wood (however, artifact beds may be made of anything). When settling treeless areas, it is prudent to bring as many goods as possible to maximize the number of wagons you get, as well as excavating a large area around the cave river to encourage the growth of tower-caps as soon as possible.
To assign a dwarf their own bed, first, define a bedroom from that bed by querying the bed, then making a room, and using +/- to set the size of that room. Then, hit aassign, and choose a dwarf from the alphabetical list - the green ones are unassigned, the brown ones already have their own beds assigned. You can (re-)assign a bed when a different dwarf is already sleeping in it - the assignment will take effect when they wake up. Only one single dwarf can be assigned to any one bed, though it is possible for one dwarf to be assigned to multiple beds. If, after you assign a dwarf their bed, you see two dwarves listed, don't panic - it's okay, they're married, and will share that bed.
Note that manually assigning beds to dwarves is not strictly necessary - as long as a bedroom is designated from each bed, a dwarf will automatically claim it when when it comes time to sleep.
Injured dwarves will rest in un-assigned beds until they recover. Dwarves who can drag themselves to bed will usually choose their own. They may however use any constructed bed that does not belong to another dwarf, including beds that are not part of any defined room. This is the standard result from the "recover wounded" job. Dwarves resting in beds will recover faster than those left lying around. According to Toady, beds that are built but are not in any defined room will be considered "hospital beds" and further increase healing speed.
Beds can be deconstructed even while a dwarf is sleeping in them. The dwarf will wake up and be temporarily stunned, no other harm is caused. See noise, however.
Barracks • Bedroom • Dining room • Jail • Meeting hall • Office • Sculpture garden • Tomb • Zoo
Lever • Pressure plate • Trap • Support
Archery target • Kennel • Shop • Siege engine • Trade depot • Wagon • Well