Water Mattress: Benefits and Disadvantages of Using One

Water mattresses became very popular during the 80s. Due to the challenges in caring for them, as well as the risk of damage to houses and belongings, they fell out of favor. While there are risks, are there benefits to using a water mattress? Read on to learn more.

Key takeaways:

What is a water mattress?


A water mattress is a plastic or vinyl mattress filled with water rather than foam or latex.

Traditional water mattresses consisted of a single large chamber that needed to be filled all at once with a hose. In contrast, modern versions feature multiple small tubes for easier filling.

Many water mattresses come with temperature regulation devices so you can heat the water to keep yourself warm during the night.

Water mattresses became trendy in the 1980s, particularly among young people. With time, they found their way into broader usage in places like hospitals, infant nurseries, and convalescent homes. In the 90s, the enthusiasm tapered off, possibly because these mattresses required significant maintenance.

Benefits of a water mattress

Like any mattress, water mattresses have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. People buy them for various reasons. Here are some reasons why some people choose water mattresses over traditional ones:

  • Easy to clean. Unlike mattresses with soft covers, water mattresses are usually made of vinyl, which makes them easier to clean. All you need to do is wipe them down with vinyl cleaner.
  • Less allergens. Traditional mattresses can hold dust mites, leading to allergic reactions, especially in sensitive individuals. Water mattresses are easier to clean, helping avoid this issue altogether. Some models come with a cover that you can remove and wash so dust and mites can’t accumulate.
  • Comfort. Water mattresses are filled with water, so they easily conform to your body's contours. The level of comfort depends on the individual’s perspective. You could compare sleeping on a water mattress to sleeping on a hammock — both offer movement and a cozy cocoon-like sensation. If you find the hammock experience appealing, you'll likely enjoy sleeping on a water mattress too.
  • Temperature control. Some water mattresses come with adjustable heating systems. That means you can keep your mattress at the preferred temperature, even during the winter.
  • Adjustable firmness. With traditional mattresses, you cannot do much about their firmness once you buy them. With a water mattress, you've got flexibility. You can tweak the firmness to your liking by adding more water or taking some out for a softer, medium-firm mattress.
  • Durability. Properly maintained water mattresses can have a long lifespan and are less likely to sag or develop indentations over time.

Disadvantages of water mattresses


While water mattresses can be an excellent fit for certain individuals, they might not be the best choice for everyone. It’s essential to consider the potential drawbacks and assess if they align with your needs and preferences before deciding on a different type of mattress.

The potential downsides of water mattresses you should consider are:

  • Cost. The price of a water mattress depends on its size and any extra features you might want. It can start at just $50 and go up to $2,000 or more. Heated water mattresses may also lead to increased electricity costs.
  • Weight. Water mattresses are heavy, making moving them a bit of a hassle. You may also need a strong bed frame to support their weight.
  • Water leaks. Leaks are rare, but they can occur and cause significant damage to your home.
  • Maintenance. One of the major downsides of water mattresses is the need for periodic maintenance. This includes vinyl conditioning to prevent it from getting brittle and fixing any leaks with a vinyl repair kit.
  • Personal preference. Not everyone enjoys sleeping on a water mattress, as comfort preferences vary from person to person. Also, water mattresses may not be the best option for older individuals, as they may find it more difficult to change positions during the night in these mattresses.

Is a water mattress good for your back?

The mattress you sleep in is one of the factors that may influence your level of low back pain. Some mattresses can be better than others in this regard.

The even distribution of body weight on a water mattress can help alleviate pain and discomfort, especially for those with back issues.

In a study involving 160 individuals with low back pain, the participants were separated into three groups. The first group slept on a water mattress, the second group on a foam mattress, and the third group on a hard mattress. After a month, the participants’ back pain levels were assessed. It was found that the water mattress and foam mattress had a more positive impact on back symptoms compared to the hard mattress. However, the differences were small.

Can a water mattress improve your sleep?

The evidence supporting the idea that sleeping on a water mattress can lead to improved sleep quality is limited. In the same study mentioned earlier, the researchers also examined the participants' sleep duration. They found that the participants slept more hours on the water mattress and the foam mattress compared to the firm mattress.

Although they’re not trendy anymore, water mattresses might still offer some benefits for some people. If you’re considering buying one, take a moment to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before deciding if a water mattress is the best choice for you.

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