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Bed Basics
Bed Basics

The Best Air Mattresses: How to Pick the Right One

Sleeping girl lying on her bed with cat in a darkened bedroom with moon visible through the window, colored vector illustration.
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Comfortable, portable and convenient, air mattresses can provide a great night of rest. If you are searching for a temporary sleep space to store in a guest room at your home or to use while camping, there is likely an inflatable bed that meets your needs.

“[Air mattresses] are a short-term solution to having family visiting for a weekend, and your office is turned into a bedroom,” Sleep Expert® Robert Aguayo says. “You have the ability to easily put it out and take it down right away for visitors.”

But with numerous styles and prices ranging from under $50 to several hundred dollars, finding the right one can be a challenge. Not sure where to get started? Use these tips to make finding your next air mattress as easy as one, two, zzz.

What Are the Different Sizes of Air Mattresses?

Generally, inflatable beds mirror the sizes of traditional mattresses. You’ll want to consider the number of sleepers—a twin or full for single sleepers and a queen or larger for couples—but don’t forget to consider the space you have to set up your air mattress. Measure the area in your home or tent where you intend to inflate the bed to ensure there is enough room to move around it. Larger mattresses also take longer to inflate.

Standard mattress measurements are:

  • Twin: 39" x 75"
  • Twin XL: 39" x 80"
  • Full: 54" x 75"
  • Queen: 60" x 80"
  • King: 76" x 80"
  • California King: 72" x 84"

An additional measurement to consider is the height of the inflatable bed. Single-height air mattresses typically measure up to 10 inches tall, while double-height beds are taller than that. Your preferences will determine how tall of a mattress you need: If you or your guests could struggle getting off a lower-profile bed, you’ll want to go with a double-height air mattress. Plus, the extra height can also provide additional comfort. “The first thing I look at as I have gotten older is the height,” Aguayo explains. “A thicker mattress does hold more air, so you’re getting more benefits from it.”

But if you plan to use the inflatable bed for camping or traveling, a single-height mattress will be lighter and easier to store away. Make sure to check the description or packaging for the mattress you’re considering to understand the height once inflated.

Air Mattress Materials & Design

There are a variety of materials and design features used in the construction of these beds. You might be wondering: What is the best material for an air mattress? When it comes to the primary material used, there are two popular options:

  • Polyvinyl chloride: Also known as PVC, this is the most common material used in air mattress construction. It’s flexible and waterproof, and PVC is often the most affordable material.
  • Thermoplastic polyurethane: This premium, highly durable material, sometimes known as TPU, is lighter than PVC and is designed to maintain its shape and not deflate easily.

Another material you’ll find is flocked fabric sewn on the on top of the air mattress to avoid the feeling of sleeping on plastic. It is also adhered to the bottom of the air mattress to limit slipping on flooring like hardwood, tile and nylon tent fabric.

Air coils are an interior design feature that provides the support you need for a great night’s rest. Unlike springs you’d find in a traditional mattress, these vertical chambers fill with air and help distribute the weight evenly—you’ll likely want 30 to 40 coils for maximum support. You may also find mattresses with air beams that run horizontally across the bed, but these may not offer the same level of support as coils.

To maximize your comfort, Aguayo recommends adding a mattress topper if you want the best night of sleep on your inflatable bed. “Air mattresses provide great support, but they’re not designed so much with pressure-relieving material on top,” Aguayo says. “Adding some sort of comfort layer on top will help you stay asleep longer and uninterrupted.” If you’re searching for a mattress topper for your inflatable bed, check out the wide selection of styles at Mattress Firm today.

Air Mattress Pumps

Are you worried you’ll lose your breath while blowing up an inflatable bed? You shouldn’t be! The days of huffing and puffing to inflate your air mattress are over; modern pumps, either internal or external, make the process quick and easy,. Some will even allow you to set the bed to plush or firm by turning a dial or pressing a button.

  • Internal: It is hard to beat the convenience of an internal pump. Inflation is quick with a battery- or electric-powered pump, plus there is no worry of struggling with or losing external pieces. “When it is internal, that’s when it has the features to let the air in and out slowly, and you have more of that accessibility at the press of a button,” Aguayo says.
  • External: There are a variety of external pumps to choose from—some are electric-powered, making them a good choice for home use. Others have battery-powered or manual pumps that inflate by hand or foot, both of which are good choices for campers. Just remember: Manual pumps can be a heck of a workout.

Types of Air Mattresses

Generally, you’ll be deciding between two distinct styles of inflatable beds. Some are great for indoor use, while others are a better fit for camping. Check out the options below to find the perfect one for you.

Best Air Mattresses for Guests

Whether it’s the in-laws visiting for the holidays, your kids having a sleepover or the surprise of last-minute guests, many scenarios call for an air mattress, and there’s a wide selection of air mattresses to help you become the host with the most. While it’s tempting to want to buy the largest mattress, it’s important to ensure your guests have enough room to move around the bed freely. Also, if you have limited storage space, try picking an inflatable bed that packs down small.

Beautyrest® Posture-Lux™ 15" Air Mattress

Choose from twin, full and queen sizes for this inflatable bed with a 15-inch profile. Setup and takedown are quick and easy with a hands-free electric express pump that inflates and deflates the mattress in minutes. Plus, the adjustable comfort control allows you to go from soft to firm with a touch of a button, and the patented off-coil design provides cushioned support like a standard mattress.

Beautyrest® Comfort Plus™ 17" Air Mattress

At 17 inches tall, this bed comes in twin and full sizes and is treated with Sleep Fresh antimicrobial treatment to help make it last. A cooling top with edge support increases airflow for pleasant nights, and the Sure-Lock™ built-in pump is spring-loaded, so it inflates quickly and won’t leak.

Beautyrest® Skyrise 14" Air Mattress

This twin-size mattress has a 14-inch profile and a hands-free electric pump that simplifies inflation and deflation. Plus, the one-touch comfort control allows you to adjust the comfort level from soft to firm, and the bed is made with extra-thick, puncture-resistant vinyl to help prevent leakage.

Best Air Mattresses for Camping

Outdoor enthusiast? You, too, can take the comfort of home on the road. If you’re planning a multiday backpacking trip, a single-height mattress can help save on packing space for other gear. However, if you’re not carrying the bed on your back, prioritize other factors, like comfort, size and convenience. These mattresses work just as well in your home if you’re hosting unexpected guests.

Coleman® QuickBed® Elite Extra High Air Mattress

This lower-profile twin-size mattress with a 9.5-inch height features the AirTight® system, tested to be leak-free, so it stays inflated while you sleep. Plus, the Double Lock™ valve is dual-sealed to prevent leakage. You can rest easy on the ComfortStrong™ coil construction and a soft top that provides the comfort you deserve.

RealTree EDGE Outdoor Sport 13" Queen Air Mattress

This queen-size mattress has a 13-inch profile and comes with a one-touch control that allows you to adjust the comfort of the bed from firm to plush. An electric pump quickly inflates and deflates the mattress, and the PolyFusion fabric is soft to the touch but designed not to stretch or lose pressure.

Coleman® SupportRest™ Plus PillowStop™ Double High Air Mattress

Another queen-size mattress, this bed comes with an 18-inch profile and an antimicrobial sleep surface that resists odor, mold, mildew and fungus. The PillowStop design uses a raised head at the top of the bed to help keep your pillows in place, and the Support Lock™ reinforced construction provides a more stable sleeping surface.

Luxury Air Mattresses

Beautyrest® Comfort Plus™ 18" Air Mattress

Standing one-and-a-half feet tall, at 18 inches, this queen-size inflatable bed can feel like you’re sleeping on a traditional mattress, thanks to its offset coil design, which reduces motion transfer, and its cooling top for comfortable nights. The leak-proof, stretch-proof design means you’ll wake up on the same size air mattress that you went to sleep on.

Budget Inflatable Mattresses

Coleman® SupportRest™ Plus PillowStop™ Double High Twin Air Mattress

For a low-cost, high-quality air mattress, Coleman’s bed is surprisingly high-end. The twin-size mattress has a raised-head design, intended to keep your pillow in place under your head. The 18-inch profile and the Support Lock™ construction help this feel like a typical sleep surface, making it great for a guest room or a camping trip.

Air Mattress Care and Use

Once you find the right air mattress, you’ll want to take care of it to keep it around for as long as possible. When properly stored and cared for, certain air mattresses can last up to 10 years, with the typical range from three to 10 years. Use these tips to help make your inflatable bed a refreshing sleep space for years to come.

  • Inspect your air mattress before using it. Remove it from storage and spread the bed out before inflation. Check for any holes, tears or mold.
  • Clean the ground where you plan to place the bed before inflating. “Whether it’s hardwood, tile or carpet, clean it because you don’t want anything poking [the air mattress],” Aguayo recommends.
  • Inflate the mattress to its proper capacity. You want to maintain consistent air pressure while in use. Underinflated beds create uneven weight distribution, which can lead to the eventual wearing of the material. Overinflated mattresses put extra stress on their seams.
  • Use bedding. It will make the night even more comfortable, and it can also protect your mattress from sharp objects like pet claws. Sheets will also help prevent the buildup of dust and sweat on the inflatable bed.
  • Store it properly. After deflating the mattress, roll it up and store it in its bag or box. “Pack it the way it came packed,” Aguayo advises. “Rolling it up and throwing it in the closet…that’s where little punctures and tears come from.” Also, keep your bed in a storage space away from extreme heat and cold, as well as moisture.
  • Clean it regularly. Use warm water and light soap to wipe the mattress down while inflated. Make sure you give it plenty of time to dry before storing it.

Air Mattress FAQ

What is the difference between an air bed and an air mattress?

The terms are often used interchangeably, but some reference to "air beds" may be specific to types of hospital beds, and sometimes air mattresses that come with a raised base.

Can you sleep on an air mattress every night?

Most air mattresses can handle daily use for a year or two. You should not sleep on an air mattress every night if you get worse sleep on one than on alternatives. Whether a person can sleep on an air mattress every night is entirely up to differences in body type.

Should you use sheets on an air mattress?

Sheets are optional and safe to use on most air mattresses, however, some sheets may block important functions. Be sure to check the instructions specific to your air mattress to be certain standard sheets should be used.

Can air mattresses get bedbugs?

Yes, air mattresses can get bedbugs, though it is quite rare as most air mattresses have very few seams for the bugs to live in.

How do you know when an air mattress is full?

An air mattress is full when there is enough air in it for the bed to be comfortable for the sleeper. Add air if the mattress is too soft, and release air if the mattress is too firm.

Are you ready to find your next air mattress? Stop in to your local Mattress Firm and let our Sleep Experts® help you find what you’re searching for. Or shop our selection of air mattresses online now.

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