In Western societies, human beings spend approximately 1/3 of their lives in bed. A comfortable bed can make the difference between waking up rested and being tired, even after a full night's sleep. Air beds and water beds each have qualities which add or detract to their sleeping comfort and general desirability.

What is an Air Bed?

The concept of an air bed is self explanatory. A mattress, usually made of reinforced plastic or vinyl, is filled with air so that the pressure of the enclosed air is great enough to support the weight of a human body. Air mattresses can be designed to allow for greater or less firmness. Conventional air mattresses have a very low profile, although some more recent models are designed to be at or near the height of a conventional bed, for more ease in climbing onto and getting off of the air mattress. Older air mattresses required external pumps, but newer models nearly always come equipped with their own pumps.

Air Bed Advantages

Air mattresses are relatively inexpensive. They can be inflated quickly and deflated to save space when they are not needed. They are also light and portable, which makes them ideal for use on camping trips or whenever temporary sleep space is needed, for instance, for sleepovers or overnight guests.

What Is a Water Bed?

Water beds were invented in the late 1960s, and peaked in popularity in the American market during the 1970s. True to their name, they are mattresses filled with water to a level which will support the weight of a human body. The water is usually contained within an inner waterproof core, with other materials making up the balance of the mattress. Water beds are sometimes heated to add to the comfort of the mattress.

Water Bed Advantages

Water beds can be extremely restful for sleepers who enjoy the gentle undulation of the water within the mattress. They conform to the shape of the body to relieve pressure, which can provide joint relief. Because they are heated, water beds can also be very comfortable on chilly winter nights. The therapeutic qualities of water beds are well known; water-filled mattresses had been used for invalids for 100 years previous to the invention of the water bed.

Air Bed vs Water Bed

As mentioned earlier, air beds are relatively inexpensive and portable. This is in contrast to a water bed, which is usually very expensive. Additionally, many water beds require reinforced floors in order to support their weight. Many movers refuse to move water beds and some apartment complexes do not allow them.

Both water beds and air mattresses are prone to puncture. However, water beds are designed so that the vulnerable water core is somewhat shielded from the threat of puncturing. On the other hand, air mattresses have no such protection -- any breach in the seal results in either a slow or a fast leak and eventually the mattress will deflate. In fact, air mattresses are generally not very durable, while water beds can have a life of many years, with proper care.