Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sleeping surface - air mattresses and foam mattresses for cheap

There are many ads on TV and the radio for various mattresses targeted at people with back pain. I don't have $1000-$3000 to spend on such things, but I have found a pretty comfortable couple of solutions that cost far less.

I slept on a cheap air mattress from Walmart (the $15 kind, though amazon sells it for more) for about 4 years (actually, they wear out about once a year, so I've been thru a few of these now). Although I haven't tried a huge range of beds to compare it to, so far the air mattress is the least comfortable when I get into it at night, and yet, I awake with less back pain than with most other mattress I've tried. It's a trade-off I'm willing to accept. Given the low price I think everybody should at least give it a try. One of the big benefits of air mattresses are that you can try different levels of inflation and determine how hard/stiff you want your mattress to be. You may find that a really stiff mattress feels too hard when you go to sleep, but leaves you with the least pain in the morning.

Note that paying more for an air-mattress doesn't necessarily mean it will be better. The more deluxe models often have two chambers, one on top of the other, which means it's pretty much guaranteed to sag.

Air mattresses don't work so well if two people are sleeping in the bed, however. To replace my air-mattress I looked into foam beds, and found a model from IKEA which has about the same level of stiffness, but better suited to my current needs. It was only $250, but a bit of a leap of faith, since it cannot be returned (at least in California). I'd say that it's actually more comfortable than an air mattress on the whole, since it feels good when you get into it at night, and I don't tend to wake up in pain either, even for just one person, though it's not as adjustable, since you can't pump it up when you want an extra firm night's rest. At the least, it's tied for the comfort level of the air mattress which was my previous most-favorite mattress. Unfortunately, it's made of polyurethane foam, so it won't last forever, but after about 2 years it's about as firm as it was new. IKEA claims 10+ years of potential service, but I doubt that is accurate if you use it ever night.

I still use the air mattress once in a while - whenever I go on a trip. It's nice knowing that no matter where I stay, there will be a very comfortable mattress waiting for me in my suitcase.

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