If you’re thinking about purchasing an air mattress (sometimes known as an inflatable mattress or air bed) you may have wondered what advantages and disadvantages they have to offer.
Air beds tend to be smaller than conventional beds (queen size is generally the biggest you can get) as well as less expensive than a similar sized “real” bed, they still score high on owner satisfaction and can be used more flexibly than spring or latex beds. You can use an air mattress as your permanent bed, as an occasional guest bed, or as a portable bed for camping and backpacking expeditions. Whatever you want your air bed for, it’s important that you know what they have to offer as well as their limitations.
Customized Firmness: One big advantage of an air bed particularly when used as a main, permanent bed is that you can easily customize the firmness. You can make it as soft or as firm as you like. Inflating it more gives you a firm mattress, and less air means a softer plush surface. If you’re using it as a guest bed, they will appreciate being able to adjust the firmness to their own preferred level.
Back Pain: Air beds are not generally considered the absolute best option for back problems, but they do have one big advantage. Because it’s so easy to change the firmness, you can do this whenever you like in order to reduce back, joint and other body pain. Some nights you may feel the need for a firmer surface, and you can accomplish this just by pressing a button to add air. On other nights you may wish you had a softer mattress; likewise you just need to deflate it slightly by touching a button, and you’ve got a plusher mattress almost instantly.
Sharing with a partner: Practically every full size or bigger air mattress has two separate chambers inside, meaning that the two sides of the bed don’t have to be the same firmness. Instead of arguing with your partner about whether the bed is too soft or hard, you can just set your own side to the level you prefer.
Odorless: Air mattresses are made from a PVC material, which means you won’t have to deal with unpleasant off-gassing smells or toxic VOCs as you often do with a new memory foam mattress.
No sagging: After years of use, a conventional bed can start to sag, leaving a crater or depression where you normally sleep. Sagging is a sign that you should start looking for a new mattress. Innerspring and memory foam mattresses will eventually sag, but air beds will never give you this problem. If there’s a sag, you just need to add some air and the sag will be gone.
Better Durability: PVC is a hard-wearing material, and the problem of sagging doesn’t exist with air beds, so they tend to last longer than conventional beds. Most spring or latex beds, depending on their quality, will last for 7 to 10 years, but an air bed can last 15 years easily. In most cases, the built-in pump will break down before the bed itself, but it’s easy and inexpensive to replace these.
Fast Inflation: Depending what pump you have, you can fully inflate most air beds in a matter of minutes. As an example, it would only take about 5 minutes to fully inflate a twin size raised air bed. A low profile smaller camping bed would take about 3 minutes to inflate.
Low Cost: Familiar brands like Intex and Coleman have succeeded in bringing down their prices significantly. You can now buy a twin airbed online for 30 dollars, but a twin size memory foam mattress may cost 300 dollars for a good quality one.
Multiple Uses: Depending which size you buy, you can use an air mattress outdoors or indoors. A low profile twin airbed can be carried along when you camp, or packed up and stored to be brought out when you need to turn your living room floor into a temporary guest room. Other people bring them along on overnight road trips and lay them out on the back seat for a more comfortable sleeping option than sitting upright in a car seat.
Replacing the Pump: This is particularly a problem if your bed uses a built-in pump. If it breaks down you will need to repair or replace it, whether you pay for it yourself or it’s covered by warranty. If your mattress uses an external pump, you can easily find a new one online for no more than 15 dollars.
Short Warranty: Air mattresses usually come with shorter warranties than innerspring or latex, so a problem with the PVC structure itself or the pump may end up costing you money. These days repairing the bed may cost as much as just buying a new one, so you might want to look at replacing it instead of paying to replace it.
Long Assembly Process: A large model that’s intended as a permanent bed may take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour to put together, and you may need someone to help you. But once it’s together, you’ll have nothing to trouble you except choosing how much to inflate it to get your preferred firmness.
Pump Noise: Some people have complained that the pump makes noise, but this is only likely to be a problem with budget brands. Also, you only use the pump when you’re deflating or inflating the bed, so it shouldn’t disturb you very often.
We hope that this information leaves you with a bit more understanding of air beds to help you make your decision.