Last Updated on January 1, 2023
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If you’ve ever thought about buying an air mattress (also known as an air bed or inflatable mattress) you have probably wondered about the benefits and drawbacks of owning one.
Although they aren’t as big or (mostly only available up to Queen size) expensive as a comparatively sized conventional type such as latex or spring, they still certainly have high owner satisfaction, and unlike the former two an air bed can be used in many scenarios. Some of the uses could be as a permanently fixed bed, a temporary guest bed, or taken on backpacking and camping trips. Whichever your requirement it’s great to understand their pros and cons. Here we discuss them in further detail below:
One of the main advantages of having an air bed, especially when it’s used in-home as a permanent or main bed, is that it allows for custom firmness. You can set as firm or soft as you please. Add more air for a firm finish, or reduce for a plush and soft surface. This is great, mainly when used for guests because everyone likes their sleep surface slightly differently.
Although an inflatable one is not necessarily considered the undisputed mattress for back issues, the fact that you can adjust the firmness is a huge benefit for people who have back problems and other types of body or joint pains. This is because some nights the bed may be too soft, so with the press of a button you can quickly add some air for a firmer surface, which will offer better pain relief and better body contouring. Other nights the bed may be too firm, so likewise you can simply deflate a little with one touch and soften the surface.
Sharing a Bed
Still, on the subject of adjustable firmness, almost every full size and above have two separate inner chambers, which means you can have one side firmer or softer than the other depending on you or your partner’s preference. No more disputes as to whether it’s too firm or soft simply set however you like best.
Because of the PVC material used to manufacture them, there are no nasty off-gassing odors like you may find when a memory foam mattress is new.
Sagging is when the surface tends to give way slowly after years of usage, thus creating a crater-like effect where the person sleeps. When sagging occurs, it usually means time to start thinking about a replacement. A conventional full-size memory foam mattress or some innerspring versions will sag after years of usage, but with an air bed, this isn’t the case as you simply inflate with more air, which eliminates the sag.
The hard-wearing PVC and ability to counter sagging issues increases the lifespan tremendously over innerspring, latex, or foam. The average conventional type such as latex or spring will last between 7-10 years depending on quality, whereas an air bed can easily last 15 years. More often, if it’s an air mattress with a built-in pump that you have, the pump will fail before the bed will, but these can be replaced easily at a low cost.
Depending on the quality of the pump, an air bed can be inflated to full size within minutes, for example, a raised twin size can be inflated fully in approximately 5 minutes. A non-raised slightly smaller camping mattress can be inflated in about 3 minutes.
Well known brands such as Coleman and Intex have managed to bring their prices right down. For example, a twin air mattress can be purchased for as little as $30 online, whereas a twin memory foam mattress can easily cost $300 for a decent quality one.
Depending on its size, an inflatable mattress can be used indoors or outdoors. For example, a twin size low profile option can be taken on camping trips, or, it can be rolled up and left aside as a guest bed for the occasional visitors which you’d easily assemble on the living room floor. Likewise, some people also lay them across their back seat during road trips, which is much more comfortable than sleeping in the car seat.
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A larger permanent/fixed usage inflatable mattress can take anything between 30 – 60 minutes to assemble and may require two people. However, once it’s assembled the only thing you’ll need to worry about is whether to increase or decrease air based on your preference.
Some owners complain of noisy pumps, but these are usually only in budget brands. Also considering pumps are only ever used to inflate or deflate, it’s probably not very often you’ll be using it.
Because of the mechanical nature and reliance upon the built-in pump, if it becomes faulty, you’ll need it repaired either by way of cost or warranty. If your inflatable mattress requires an external pump instead, simply buy a new one from Amazon which should cost no more than $15.
Warranties are generally shorter than that of latex and innerspring, so if the PVC bed structure or pump develops a fault you may need to pay towards it. However, nowadays the cost of a new one will usually be the same as a repair, so you’re better off looking for a new replacement rather than paying towards a fix.
Well, hopefully, this post makes things a little clearer now and will aid in your decision making. For further information please also check our air mattress reviews.
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Lindsay is a contributor and the senior editor of all content posted on this site. She is in this role due to her somewhat unrivaled expertise through previous retail experience in the mattress and bedding industry.
25 thoughts on “Air Mattress Pros and Cons”
I have been using air mattresses for many Years now, and can honestly say that I find them much nicer to sleep on than either foam or spring ones.
I prefer the ones made by Coleman, as they are reliable and affordable at about 40 dollars each. They usually last about 12-18 months of daily use, then you buy a new one.
As the article said quite correctly you must be aware that air condenses, and that the bed will require topping up from time to time, but they are cheap to buy and VERY comfortable. I consider them to be as comfortable as a TEMPUR mattress at a small fraction of the price. I like the fact that I can sleep on the floor, no problems with falling out of bed, and when I wish to vacuum I can just pick it up and move it with one hand.
As well due to the PVC material construction, you don’t have to worry about insect infestation. Dust mites and Bedbugs love spring mattresses, as they can burrow into the quilted ticking and then nest/breed inside the coconut fibre padding. This cannot happen with air beds; if you get insects in your spring mattress you really have to throw out, cleaning them isn’t really ever 100% certain. If you live in a rental situation, or apartment building you will encounter such insects.
One problem with airbed use is very cold weather, on such nights you find the bed cold as it is full of cold air, there is no insulation, as there would be with a spring mattress. You cannot heat the bed, so I just put 2 blankets under the bottom sheet and that solves the problem. Hope this helps.
Thanks Elliot for your input. Some very good points you discuss here.
Dude this was an awesome comment! I’m so glad I found someone who has input on this – I’m officially switching to air mattresses permanently as well as getting as many plastic varieties of furniture as possible. Me and my dad have had to deal with bugs and its the worst thing on the planet. I hate fabric beds now and am considering getting multiple blow up couches now too!
Thanks Elliot for your comment. You didn’t make mention of Mice, can’t Mice borrow into the inner compartment of the Air Bed in order to make it their abode? These hardy creatures love seeking shelter and breeding grounds were suits them.
I rent an apartment and am dealing with the fourth infestation of bed bugs (entomologists say it is two words since bed bugs are true bugs) in about four years. Odd that in the four years prior to 2017 I never saw a single one. The fact that bed bugs cannot as you say, Elliot, burrow into an air bed as they do my innerspring mattress is a HUGE selling point in my opinion.
is it helpful in bed sore patients??
Hi Sarita, considering air mattresses have a very customizable feature of tailoring between firm or plush, they could potentially help with bed sores. However, this may be a matter for a medical professional to confirm. Many thanks
Air mattresses are commonly used to prevent bed sores. Especially, alternating pressure air mattresses are proven to be good for this purpose. You can find an early study in the journal “Research in nursing and health” here. Essentially, sleeping on air can prevent bed sores, which is a major issue in American hospitals. Alternating pressure can redistribute the patient’s body weight. There are simply not enough nurses to do that manually. In fact, bed sores can be VERY dangerous. If you have problems with that, you might want to look at high-quality alternating pressure air mattresses.
Thanks for the article i’m actually considering buying one – and this has really helped me making a final decision.
I have a curved spin so an air mattress is much more comfortable, and I rarely wake with back pain. I have a queen in my bedroom and twin in my office. I recommend them for anyone, especially if you’re on a limited budget.
I am concerned about the “coldness”. I take blood thinners and am cold a lot, but the comfort it would provide for back pain makes me want to but one and try it. I just wonder about winter. Could you use a heated under blanket?
I think it mainly depends on the model you go for, because certain models have different surfaces. I would love to give you a definitive answer but you would really need to send this query to the manufacturer once you choose the air bed you’d like to buy.
Use mattress pads and then different type of sheet depending on season (flannel in winter, cotton blend in summer). This has worked for me since I have several health issues that effect my body temperature.
For my sleep number air mattress I use a mattress pad all year and then different sheets for winter (flannel) and summer (cotton blend). I need to replace 1 mattress shortly and waiting for the big sale. I will never purchase a spring or foam mattress again. Loooove my air mattress, adjustable daily to my body needs.
I’m considering buying one. My question is can one assemble the mattress at home easily? I mean does one need some kind of expertise in doing that? This is because I live in a rural area and can only get it to buy online. Many thanks
If your air bed comes with a built-in pump, it’s very easy to inflate. Just plug into the mains power outlet and use the switch. The bed will come with instructions hopefully. If it has no built-in pump, you may have to hook up a pump to the bed a inflate it manually. The bed may come with a separate pump, or it may not. It depends on the bed. It really sounds more complicated than it is. But hopefully, you’ll be fine.
Elliot, I know they cost much more than a Coleman, but you can get a Sleep Number, Air-Pedic, or Night-Air by Boyd Sleep airbed with foam comfort layers which will insulate you from the cold air, especially if the foam is memory foam. Also, with Air-Pedic and Boyd Sleep (they make them for Thomasville) you can have three chambers for your side of the bed instead of one. This means that you can adjust the lumbar separately. These air beds also last much longer than a Coleman or Intek air mattress.
Thank you so much for this keep posting really informative air mattress pros and cons are the helpful for this!!
Little help here. Can any sharp object like pins or needle pierce the air mattress ?
Thanks for your support.
Is there a particular mattress that promotes sleeping face up?
Other sleeping positions are a supposed health risk, especially for bed-ridden persons.
Just make sure if using an air mattress that it’s inflated fully and firm. This will keep your back and spine in a healthy condition.
Please, do you know? If two are sleeping on, say, a queen size air mattress, does the whole bed bob around when one person rolls over? Like, the lighter person bobs up and down?
Yes, unfortunately it does
I am using an air bed for the last three months, I gave up the normal one because of the noise (you know what I mean). The air bed is so comfy, zero noise and guess what, whenever I have a party or a lot of guests I just let the air out fold it together and walaaaaa I have a massive free space again.