Should we keep the waterbed?
July 20, 2009 1:58 PM   Subscribe

Have you ever switched from a waterbed to a more conventional mattress? What kind of mattress (innerspring, foam, etc.) did you switch to and are you happy about it? Conversely, would you never switch?

Mr. A and I have been sleeping on a hard-sided waterbed for about 30 years. We've replaced the mattress a couple of times and have to do so again as the current one has a pinhole leak. We'll patch it for now, but will replace it in the near future.

But we've been thinking about switching to a conventional mattress. We want to change our bedroom furniture and waterbed headboards, etc. haven't changed much from the cheesier part of the 1970s style which didn't appeal to me then, let alone now. On the other hand, we've never slept well on a conventional mattress when travelling.

Have you made the switch? What was your experience?

If we keep with a waterbed, we were thinking of the top end mattress which supposedly has a lumbar support. Have you tried a waterbed mattress with one? (The shops around here don't have any set up for display because about 2 people a year buy one.)
posted by angiep to Home & Garden (12 answers total)
I slept on a waterbed for about 4 years, but gave it up as it became a bit more of a pain in the ass (due to a couple of leaks, and other issues). I found there was a small (few weeks) adjustment period going to a regular mattress, and then I was fine. You definitely get better support for your back on a conventional mattress, looking back I realize there was a lot more spongy give with the waterbed than I realized at the time. Note that this was almost 20 years ago though, so I can't speak to "modern" waterbeds. The mattresses I have used since then have all been inner spring mattresses. I've tried foam mattresses when sleeping at relatives' houses and didn't care for them as much as my not-low-end, but not super-expensive innerspring mattress at the house here. Some foam mattresses I find will reflect your own body heat back at you, which sucks in hot weather. That was one advantage of a waterbed that I do miss in very hot weather though, the fact that you're floating on an enoromous heatsink helps if you can't cool the house/room down in other ways. I have a portable AC now, and had central air when I had the waterbed, so it didn't benefit me as much as it may others.

Overall, I would have to say I probably would not go back to a waterbed, even if the costs were identical for either type of bed.
posted by barc0001 at 2:26 PM on July 20, 2009

I bought a memory foam pad for our mattress and it's super comfortable. With cotton sheets, we haven't had to worry about overheating.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:30 PM on July 20, 2009

I never sleep all that well in hotel beds because of the new surroundings so it might not just be your bed that's the issue.

That said, I have a friend who has a sleep number bed and loves it so much that she would never consider sleeping on anything else. It has some big pluses--you can adjust the firmness for sleeping or sitting up in bed, each side has its own control, and it may be able to simulate more of a waterbed experience. This friend has some major back issues and she says this has been the only thing that works for her consistently.
posted by Kimberly at 2:38 PM on July 20, 2009

Had a water bed for 6? years - made the switch when it started leaking. I don't think I switched to anything very fancy or expensive, and adjusting wasn't too hard for me. After 30 years? Don't know. I have a memory foam mattress now, and it's the most comfortable mattress I've ever owned. It depends entirely on the brand and model you buy, so be sure to test drive a lot of them before you buy.
posted by clarkstonian at 2:56 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: I switched from a waterbed to an innerspring mattress last November. Prior to that, I was having a lot of problems such as snoring, nerve pain (from resting my arm on the hard wooden sides) and bloodflow interruptions resulting in limb numbness. At some point I realized that I was sleeping in a really uneven manner where my arms were above my chest and my head was below my chest. I tried to keep the thing filled up so that it wasn't much of a problem, but it was a losing fight in end. I don't know I slept on that thing for so long, but I'm glad that I switched over to a conventional bed.

I didn't buy a memory foam mattress because in my experience, they retain heat like crazy. I slept in a hotel for about a week with no other choice and just a sheet covering me. It's not a good kind of heat for me - more rugburn than cozy. Then again, if I hadn't stayed in that hotel then I might have made the wrong choice for me as memory foam does seem really good for aching backs. If you're going to try a memory foam mattress, I suggest laying on it for quite a while while asking the salesman questions or something; give it time to show you how it really feels.

For my bed, I demanded a Euro-top/pillow top - makes all the difference.
posted by fujiko at 3:28 PM on July 20, 2009

I wouldn't have switched to a regular mattress if I didn't absolutely have to. I moved into a very, very old house and I don't trust it to support that weight on the upper floors, but hoo boy! Next house will be a waterbed house, if I can help it. I really miss the heat in the winter and the cooling effect in summer, and being gently rocked to sleep.
posted by fish tick at 3:35 PM on July 20, 2009

When we switched to a regular mattress I was very happy, especially being able to sit up and hang out on my bed, and also being abe to rearrange the furniture every now and then. Comfort wise, I love it. The best switch however was from queen to king.
posted by maloon at 3:42 PM on July 20, 2009

I have a semi-waveless Queen waterbed that I've had for 15 years and I really love it. During the cold winters, it is great on my joints, because it's a bit like having a really large hot water bottle in that the bed is never really cold when you crawl in.

I recently had to spend several weeks away from home in a hotel, and the only thing that saved me was that it was a recently refurbished Hampton Inn. OMG -- I just loved their mattresses! They are the only mattress that I've ever slept on that did not give me a backache. There was a few days of overall getting used to the change, but if I was to switch to a mattress instead of a waterbed -- that is the model I would get. I believe you can even purchase them through their website.
posted by Jade Dragon at 4:27 PM on July 20, 2009

I had a waterbed through high school and university, and switched it for an innerspring mattress after spending some time on a sofa bed for a week and finding it more comfortable than my undamped waterbed. The only drawback to the switch was that I was freezing cold in an unheated bed and it took me about a year before I didn't need a pile (7ish) of quilts and wool blankets on me at night.
posted by cardboard at 6:32 PM on July 20, 2009

I switched about 18 months ago with mixed feelings. On the outset, I didn't mind the switch. Recently the mattress I bought has become a problem. I would go one level softer now.

I also read when shoppong for mattresses to spend five minutes on several. Then pick two or three and spend anywhere from 15-30 minutes on the top picks.

As far as select number (air) mattresses, read the comments of owners after several years. I didn't get one because of the mold issue.

YMMV. Good luck.
posted by bach at 10:12 PM on July 20, 2009

Best answer: My boyfriend slept on a waterbed for years followed by a futon and then regular spring mattresses. We bought a Sleep Number bed in 2006 and he said it's the best bed he's ever slept on. I agree. BEST. BED. EVER. We'll never go back to spring mattresses. The Sleep Number bed has a 20 year warranty. What's the typical lifespan of a spring mattress with 2 people sleeping on it? I'd say 3-5 years at most until the dreaded trench forms.

I think the mold issue that bach talked about was a problem with the older models, like 2 generations ago. And if I remember correctly the Sleep Number people replaced all the beds with the mold problem. I wonder if it had anything to do with the thickness of the pillow top (which is the only difference in the bed series, BTW). Seems if there's a sweating issue that would cause a moisture buildup that a thicker pillow top might solve the problem. We went with the mid-level pillow top and have not had any problems with moisture.
posted by wherever, whatever at 1:11 AM on July 21, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks all for your comments. I think we'll switch, probably to an innerspring, later on in the year and then we'll redo our bedroom entirely, new paint, furniture, etc.
posted by angiep at 6:59 PM on July 21, 2009

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