Do you sleep on an inflatable mattress?
January 15, 2019 12:50 PM   Subscribe

Do you use an inflatable mattress as your regular bed? Tell me about your experience!

For various reasons, I've been sleeping on an inflatable mattress for the past few nights and my back feels better than it has in a long time. For those same reasons, I have about a month of air mattress use ahead of me, and if my back is still feeling great, I'm going to consider just....sleeping on one permanently.

Right now I'm sleeping on a Serta from Target, inflated very firm. I'd be in the market for a cat-proof air mattress and some washable covers to use instead of sheets. I'd like a durable air mattress that stays inflated consistently. (The Serta requires a little topping up before bed but is comfortable all night, and that's fine.)

If you use an air mattress, which one would you recommend? What about covers? What about cats? What are the drawbacks? How long have you been using one?

Obviously, even a fairly pricey queen air mattress will be under $200 and I'd be comfortable replacing it annually if needed.
posted by Frowner to Home & Garden (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I had a long-term house guest for a while, and since I didn't have a spare mattress I let her use the inflatable mattress I normally used for camping. She was a fairly small woman, but she ended up going through two mattresses in a year and a half or so - the internal bit of plastic that splits the mattress into "chambers" breaks or comes unglued or something, with the result that 4 even lengthwise chambers became 2 normal ones and one double-sized (and double-height) one.

Nicer mattresses with a more "quilted" design may last longer, but based on my experience and everything I've read about them, none of them are really designed to stand up to long-term nightly (as opposed to only-occasional) use. You might end up replacing it every so often, as you indicated.

I also don't know of one that doesn't need a bit of topping up every day or so.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:07 PM on January 15 [3 favorites]

I used an air mattress for a few months several years ago. The worst drawback I remember is that it's cold. I used to put a blanket under the bottom sheet for a little more warmth and insulation, and sleep in really warm pajamas, but sleeping on a plain old air mattress is just a lot less cozy and warm. Can you keep your room warmer to compensate?

I think it's pretty standard to have to inflate a bit every night or every few days, more often as it gets older.
posted by john_snow at 1:08 PM on January 15 [5 favorites]

I did this for two years and it was fine. I was young and had no back problems though so YMMV. Mine was some cheap brand from a department store. I had to patch it a couple of times. It also sucks the heat out of you in winter so you might need extra blankets.
posted by lollusc at 1:09 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

We tried using air mattresses and went through three (of increasing quality and price) over the period of maybe six months. Every one of them sprung a leak, despite being used under gentle conditions and within the weight limits.

At this point, I have developed an antipathy to air mattresses. I expect that I'll wake up feeling like I'm in a bouncy house.
posted by Lexica at 1:10 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]

I'll also add that I (an over-200lb male) have had a lot of luck avoiding back pain with a memory-foam mattress, if that helps for comparison purposes. They aren't cheap, though.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:10 PM on January 15

I did for a summer and it didn't do my back any favors. But if it's making a noticeable improvement on your quality of life, I wouldn't change anything up if you can live with needing to top off occasionally.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:18 PM on January 15

I slept on an air mattress for three months or so - when fall/winter rolled around I got uncomfortably cold (and I generally sleep hot) so I switched to a regular mattress, but until then I was fine. It was a nice-ish one, an aerobed with pump built in.
posted by mskyle at 1:28 PM on January 15

Regarding the coldness factor, which I'd forgotten: In my friend's case, it helped a lot to put an unzipped cheapo sleeping bag on top of the mattress before putting on the fitted sheet.
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:38 PM on January 15

I've done this a few times. I've never had one make it more than 6 months or so without developing a slow leak. Even with a top-of-the-line chambered Aerobed, air mattresses are just not built to stay inflated for long periods, or be re-inflated daily.

Also consider the amount you are planning to spend here -- even best case scenario and you have to replace yearly, over the average 10 year lifespan of a regular mattress, that's $2000. You can buy a really nice mattress for that amount of money.

I also like very firm mattresses, so I bought a Tempur-Pedic knock-off on Amazon. It's been almost 3 years and it's as firm as the day I bought it. A full size mattress is only $462, and comes with a 20 year warrenty.
posted by ananci at 1:40 PM on January 15 [5 favorites]

I slept on a Coleman quick bed (king size! yeah!) for about three years or so. It was awesome. I got a king sized bed for $50. It was pretty comfortable, although I can sleep on just about anything - before the air mattress I was sleeping on a couch. You will have to top it off occasionally, but not often. I gave mine a puff about once every two or three weeks, longer if I was lazy. They do eventually go bad. I remember averaging about nine months to a year, but at $50 each that's still pretty affordable. The biggest problem for you would be cat-proofing. I never had cats, but I let a friend who did borrow one of my air mattresses once, and that was the end of that air mattress. I'm not sure how that would work.

Really, the only drawback for me was other people's reaction to finding out I slept on an air mattress. It's not perceived as an "adult" bed. These people were sleeping in tiny twin beds, but somehow my king size mattress wasn't "serious"? Whatever, man. I'd totally do it again.
posted by kevinbelt at 1:42 PM on January 15

I did for probably 6 months at a time two different times, with a nice mattress similar to yours. I didn't get back pain and it was kind of nice to adjust the firmness to my preferred level. Eventually would have one breakdown and need to find another.

There might be social or romantic consequences. A girlfriend was so against it that she had a local guy pull up to my house with a truck full of mattresses for me to choose from. So that was the end of that.
posted by jander03 at 2:01 PM on January 15 [4 favorites]

I slept on one for several months once. Seconding the sentiment here -- they're kind of a pain and they tend to leak, and a partially-deflated mattress is not very comfortable.

I also spent about six months on a Coleman cot and that was much better. Surprisingly comfortable.
posted by neckro23 at 2:18 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]

In addition to the coldness factor, anything I do to mitigate it means that I sweat and those mattresses just don't breathe. Maybe I'm just Goldilocks.

I also find memory-foam to be uncomfortably lacking breathability.
posted by freezer cake at 2:31 PM on January 15 [2 favorites]

I didn't spend anywhere near that long with it, but I did buy a Coleman GuestRest on the recommendation of this Wirecutter review when I needed to sleep on an air mattress for a few weeks, and it was pretty decent. If it were a situation where I'd been planning ahead or knew it was going to be much longer, I probably would've gotten their top recommended one. As it is, I think I topped it up twice in a week and a half? I was glad to get my "regular" mattress back (partially because the extra height of frame and boxspring), but I'd sleep on it again in a pinch if I had to.
posted by epersonae at 2:33 PM on January 15

I slept on an AeroBed for many years, and would recommend them. I'd recommend the mattress that is one level up from their basic model.
posted by WCityMike at 2:41 PM on January 15

I slept on an air mattress for 1.5-2 years when I was in university. I liked it. It will slowly leak but I found that it kind of became a cocoon for a while and was quite nice. I never had any company on it so not sure how good it would be for that.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:24 PM on January 15

I use a Thermarest Mondoking. Almost four years now. I used to keep it inflated but found that I my back felt much better with the cap off. It gets a tiny bit warm on hot summer days summer but eh.
posted by TrinsicWS at 3:51 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

I slept on a Coleman air bed for two years. I started on it during my cancer treatment when I was having horrible bone pain, and just kind of stuck with it until I moved. It did feel good on my back.

For catproofing, I wrapped a comforter around it, and then covered it with a deep-pocketed fitted sheet. I always was going to sew a custom cover, kind of like a big pillow sham, but I never got around to it.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:03 PM on January 15

Oh I just remembered a big disadvantage. Air mattresses are terrible for sexy funtimes. Too much bounce.
posted by lollusc at 5:20 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

I was doing this for several months after moving in with my gf and then breaking up. It was her bed and I felt fine sleeping on the mattress, so I got that. It was fine for months and very comfortable for my back - lots of support. The thing to know is that it's nowhere near as warm as a traditional bed, because under you is - air. I dealt with this by putting a quilt and a blanket and a sheet under me, and all the other covers available on top. Also, you can't use a heated mattress pad or electric blanket on an air mattress. Depending on where you live, this may not matter as much for you as it did for me.
posted by bile and syntax at 6:00 PM on January 15

I had to use them after moving to a new place and yeah, mine sprung a leak after three months, was cold, and oh yeah, being low to the ground is rougher getting up, especially with back problems.

Why not get a firm mattress from Ikea plus a platform frame? That would probably meet your needs without sending a succession of busted air mattresses to the landfill.
posted by emjaybee at 6:08 PM on January 15

I had a select comfort bed for 12 years after getting married. My wife likes a mattress so soft it's more like a hammock, and at the time I was sleeping on an invalid egg crate foam pad on a sheet of plywood. We were both happy with the bed for the 12 years it lasted. At the time, a queen size was $800, though I'm sure it's gone up since. Still well worth the money. At the time we had betweeen 6 and 10 cats, no leaks. We went with "normal air beds" for about 7 months. 3 of them in 7 months with only 4 cats. We're probably going to go with a foam bed next, possibly a zinus, as you can order custom firmness layers, because my back won't tolerate softness. Just my experience. I do not work for any bed manufacturer
posted by Redhush at 7:01 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

The cheapest sleep number bed is essentially an air mattress built to last. Been sleeping on one for years, and the quilted top keeps it from being too cold. I loved it at first, but now I have trouble finding a firmness that I like. But it worked great for probably the first six or seven years I had it. I’m just not big on it anymore.
posted by stoneweaver at 7:50 PM on January 15

Check out the select comfort / sleep number air mattresses - they are “permanent” air mattresses. My parents have one and love it.
posted by samthemander at 10:02 PM on January 15 [1 favorite]

Slept on an $11 Intex twin size for 2 months, just needed a bit of air once a week. Was nicer than some other beds I've had.
posted by Sophont at 11:18 PM on January 15

Oh I just remembered a big disadvantage. Air mattresses are terrible for sexy funtimes. Too much bounce.

Can confirm. It's interesting once, in my experience.
posted by joycehealy at 4:55 AM on January 16

We had an air mattress for a while. It sprung a leak, of course, and we couldn't afford a pump at the time, so we had to blow it up manually every day. Also, because it leaked, we would end up together in a sink in the middle every night.

The day we bought a mattress and box spring and got to sleep off the floor in our basement apartment was a very happy one.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:46 AM on January 16

My roommate has slept on one for the last 2 years. He has to top it off with the built-in pump every other week or so, and he's had to replace it 6 or 7 times due to it springing a leak. I'm told he keeps returning them as defective and exchanging for a new one when takes the busted one back to Target, where he first bought it.

As for sexy funtimes, he doesn't tend to do that at our place, for the reasons others have stated above.
posted by hootenatty at 11:53 AM on January 16 [1 favorite]

Nthing to look into a SleepNumber bed if you're looking for an air mattress option that's built to last. I have one after developing back issues with my previous (really nice) inner-spring mattress, and it's been great. The air mattress part is inside a layer of foam and fabric so it should be warm and reasonably cat-proof (unless you have a particularly determined cat).
posted by Aleyn at 12:01 PM on January 16

I've been sleeping on this one for the past 7+ months and have inflated it exactly once, that being the day I set it up. It's more comfortable than any "proper" bed I've ever slept in, and far more adaptable for temperature regulation as well.
posted by ToddBurson at 5:59 PM on January 16

Opposite of an air mattress, but I've been sleeping on a Japanese-style floor futon for the past two years for similar reasons of economy and wanting a very firm mattress with back support. I linked the one I bought; it sells for less than $100.
posted by Theiform at 11:21 PM on January 16

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