An air mattress is a helpful addition to any home. Whether used as an emergency spare bed, offered to overnight guests, or a mobile bed for outdoor adventures such as camping, an air mattress can be a comfortable place to spend a single night.
An air mattress can be as good as a traditional bed for a single night’s sleep if carefully set up. Positioning the mattress against a wall replicates a headboard, and pillows will support the neck and shoulders.
Air mattresses are designed for occasional use, not for sleeping on permanently. Spending too many nights on an air mattress can lead to spinal misalignment and disturbed sleep caused by overheating and discomfort as the mattress deflates over several hours.
Consider a futon or camp bed if you need a long-term sleeping solution outside of a foam mattress. Over the weeks, these solutions will provide greater health and deeper, superior rest to an air mattress.
Are Air Mattresses Good to Sleep On?
Air mattresses shouldn’t be considered a sustainable, long-term bedding option, but they can be helpful for short-term emergency use. Common reasons to keep an air mattress in the home include:
- Portable beds for occasional overnight visitors if you lack a spare bedroom. An air mattress will likely be more comfortable than a couch.
- Helpful when sleeping outside, such as camping. Air beds are certainly better than sleeping straight on the hard ground.
- Emergency replacements for a damaged bed that is not inhabitable for an evening.
Most people can spend a comfortable night sleeping on an air mattress. Air mattresses are designed for occasional use, not as a replacement for a traditional bedframe and mattress.
Tips for Sleeping on an Air Mattress
Air mattresses have a range of advantages, and they’re certainly better than nothing. To make the most of an air mattress, follow these tips:
Inflate the Air Mattress Appropriately
If your air mattress isn’t inflated enough, it’ll sag and become increasingly uncomfortable as the night progresses. Equally, if you inflate too much, all air will move to the middle of the bed, which places pressure on the seams, making tears likelier.
Take ambient temperature into consideration when inflating an air mattress. The mattress will soften up overnight in a warm room, so it should be inflated to at least 90% capacity. Cool temperatures will harden the mattress, so don’t inflate to excess at the outset.
Position the Air Mattress Well
If you use an air mattress to sleep outside, you may not have much choice about where to position it. In a home, you can take a handful of steps to bolster the comfort of an inflatable bed.
Place the air mattress over something soft, like a rug. This will increase the potential comfort of your bed for the night and prevent it from moving while you’re asleep.
If possible, place the air mattress near a wall. This way, you can replicate the sleeping experience with a headboard, which will help you hold your pillows in place.
Keep Your Weight Central
Wherever possible, keep your weight in the center of an air mattress. Most inflation will be found in the middle of the bed, so sleeping here retains an even air distribution. If you lean to the sides, your air mattress is likelier to deflate.
Protect the Air Mattress from Damage
Some air mattresses are hardier than others, but all are susceptible to the same concerns; if you don’t protect your air mattress, there’s a chance it’ll suffer from wear, tear, and punctures.
The best way to protect an air mattress is to cover as much of it as possible. Apply a fitted sheet just as you would on a regular foam mattress. This will provide an additional layer of fabric that protects the air mattress from penetration.
If you are sleeping outside, elevate the air mattress. At worst, just lay a blanket or groundsheet underneath it. This will prevent small stones and rocks from rubbing against the mattress and piercing it, creating punctures.
Quality Pillows and Blankets
While sleeping on an air mattress is usually considered a “make do and mend” scenario, you’re likelier to sleep well if you use appropriate pillows and blankets.
Consider how an air mattress is unlikely to be made of breathable material when choosing your blankets. If you apply a heavy woolen comforter, you’ll likely overheat during the night. Choose blankets that won’t cause oppressive heat.
Some air mattresses have built-in pillows, but you should always sleep on a large, firm additional pillow. This will offer support to your neck and shoulders, which will combat some of the aches and pains inflicted by a sagging mattress that deflates overnight.
Dangers of Sleeping on an Air Mattress
We have established that you can occasionally sleep on an air mattress, but is it good to sleep on it every night? Sleeping on an air mattress has a range of risks. The longer you use an inflatable mattress, the likelier you’ll struggle.
If you experience difficulty sleeping on an air mattress, don’t repeat the experience. Continued attempts to use an inflatable bed will make the drawbacks increasingly prominent.
Perhaps the most significant long-term concern of sleeping on an air mattress is damage to the back and spine. Air mattresses cannot provide the back with sufficient support while you sleep, as the mattress will soften overnight.
You may be able to spend a single night on an air mattress with no ill effects. Alternatively, you may struggle with minor stiffness that can quickly be stretched or shaken off.
The Journal of Orthopedics and Traumatology warns that continuing to sleep on a soft mattress can risk spinal misalignment. The longer you sleep on an air mattress, the more your hips and shoulders will sink for hours.
All air mattresses lose some of their inflation overnight, even the most expensive models. If you’re fortunate, you’ll not be woken by this. Most people find themselves on a hard floor at least once.
You’ll need to keep your pump handy to re-inflate your mattress so you can get back to sleep. Alternatively, get a self-inflating air mattress that’ll quickly refill itself. That’ll help you fall asleep sooner, but it’ll still be frustrating over the longer term.
Lack of Temperature Regulation
Maintaining an appropriate temperature is pivotal to a good night’s sleep.
Frontiers in Neuroscience confirms that a drop in body temperature accompanies deep sleep, and this cooler temperature ensures we do not wake at night.
A traditional mattress will be designed to accommodate the ideal temperature of human skin, helping you fall asleep and remain that way. Air mattresses are usually constructed from PVC or vinyl, increasing body temperature overnight and making you sweat.
There are ways to combat the heat generated by an air mattress. Apply a mattress topper and breathable cotton sheet to stop your temperature from lurching to extremes. Alas, the limitations of an air mattress will always remain prevalent.
Damage to the Mattress
Air mattresses aren’t famed for their durability. The more frequently you use an air mattress, the likelier it is to become damaged. Everyday wear and tear to impact an air mattress include unsightly rips in the fabric and, more problematically, punctures.
Punctures aren’t always apparent. You could be inflating your bed each night, unaware that it contains a tiny hole caused by pet claws or a rogue nail. These punctures release air too slowly to notice during inflation, becoming apparent when your bed deflates overnight.
If your air mattress is damaged, it’ll need to be replaced. Good air mattresses can be expensive, so this will be an unwelcome expense. You’ll be better off spending this money on a more sustainable alternative.
Air mattresses may be marketed as housing two or more sleepers, but this is rarely the case. As mentioned, weight should be focused on the middle of an air mattress to prevent it from deflating. Two people will need to utilize every inch of the mattress.
Two people may be able to make an air mattress work for a night, but sharing isn’t sustainable any longer. The more time you spend applying additional weight to a blow-up bed, the likelier damage becomes, alongside a lack of sleep for both of you.
If you prefer to sleep alone, the inability to share an air mattress could be considered a positive. It opens up a new set of problems if you need to accommodate a partner’s sleep needs.
Is it Bad to Sleep on Air Mattress Permanently?
Sleeping on an air mattress for a night or two won’t cause harm. You may even find that you sleep better than expected, especially if you’re sleeping under the stars or in an unfamiliar location.
If you’re considering sleeping on an air mattress for more than a night or two, ensure you’re aware of the risks to your health and slumber. It is difficult to achieve high-quality sleep on an air mattress for prolonged periods, even if you follow our outlined tips.
Eventually, sleeping on an air mattress will take its toll. If you have any reason to believe you’ll need such apparatus for long-term use, consider the alternatives to avoid the long-term effects of sleeping on an air mattress.
Alternatives to an Air Mattress
If you have the space in your home, a futon is a better option for prolonged sleep than an air mattress. Most futons are dual-purpose, folding into a recliner when not needed for slumber, which means a futon doesn’t need to take up living space.
Futons are better for the spine than air mattresses. While potentially less comfortable if you’re used to a soft mattress, the firm surface of a futon will keep your spine aligned. Applied Ergonomics confirms that harder surfaces improve back problems.
Consider exchanging your air mattress for a folding camp bed if you need a portable sleeping surface. These will be higher off the ground than an air mattress and will not deflate. The same concerns about long-term back problems remain, though.
An air mattress is an ideal short-term solution but shouldn’t be considered a permanent option. Prolonged sleeping on an air mattress will lead to disturbed sleep and spinal misalignment.