Some people swear by air mattresses while others swear at them, but no one can deny they are more portable and convenient than regular mattresses. They can also be quite comfortable -- that is, until a bubble develops right underneath your lower spine. Bubbles are hard and uncomfortable, and they form when you overinflate the mattress. You can often get rid of one by letting some of the air out. Overinflation can rupture a seam inside the mattress, though, and when this happens, it usually isn't something you can fix. You may still be able to use the mattress, as long as you don't inflate it to capacity.
Air Mattresses -- The Good
Some people prefer air mattresses to regular ones, even for nightly use. A properly inflated air mattress provides cushiony comfort and enough support to keep your spine aligned throughout the night. Even if you prefer regular mattresses, an air mattress may be your only realistic option when you need a portable mattress for occasional use, such as a camping trip or a weekend visit with the relatives. When not inflated, it fits easily into a duffel bag or a closet, and whether you use a hand pump or an electric one, it takes only a few minutes to fill it with air. Even when inflated, it's light and easy to maneuver into your tent or onto the living room floor.
Punctures are the main hazard associated with air mattresses. If you don't clear the ground properly before laying one out in the forest, or you fall asleep with keys in your pocket, you could wake up with nothing but a flat pad between your body and the ground. Leaks can also occur if you forget to tighten the cap on the inflation tube. While a puncture will put your mattress out of commission until you find the hole and patch it, this is usually easy to do, and most mattresses come with all the equipment you need to make a great repair.
Lumps and bulges are more serious problems than a leak. They can occur when an internal seam ruptures and allows air to pass between sections. The reason air mattresses have a ribbed or diamond-shaped structure is to prevent the whole mattress from blowing up like a balloon when you fill it with air, and that's what happens on a small scale when one of the seams ruptures. The resulting bulge makes sleeping difficult, if not impossible. Bulging may be the result of
- A factory defect.
- Age .
- Exceeding the weight limit.
- Overinflating the mattress.
There's no way to fix ruptured seams yourself, but don't throw the mattress away just yet.
Repairing a Bulge
If your mattress has a bulge, there's a good chance it has too much air in it, so the first thing to do is let some of the air out in a controlled way while you press on the bulge to make it go down. If your mattress has an attached pump, open the valve slightly to allow air to escape slowly. Press on the bulge until it flattens enough to make sleeping possible, then close the valve. No attached pump? Get a helper to open the blow hole and keep a finger over the opening to control the outflow of air while you press the bulge.
Large bulges may go away if you let all the air out of the mattress and reinflate it. Pump air slowly, keeping an eye on the bulge, and stop pumping as soon as the bulge starts to reappear.
If you can't inflate the mattress enough to make it comfortable for sleeping without having the bulge reappear, it's time for a new mattress. Your muscles, spine and lower back will thank you if you don't force them to spend the night on a mattress with insufficient air to support them.
- Overinflation is one of the most common causes of bubble formation. To prevent overinflation on a new air mattress, pump it up around 90 percent of capacity the first couple of times you use it.
- Don't exceed the recommended weight limit. If you and your partner both sleep on a mattress designed for one person, it puts unnecessary pressure on the seams, and that can cause a bulge or even a leak.
Chris Deziel is a contractor, builder and general fix-it pro who has been active in the construction trades for 40 years. He has degrees in science and humanities and years of teaching experience. An avid craftsman and musician, Deziel began writing on home improvement topics in 2010. He worked as an expert consultant with eHow Now and Pro Referral -- a Home Depot site. A DIYer by nature, Deziel regularly shares tips and tricks for a better home and garden at Hunker.com.