Everything you need to know about Waterbeds
Waterbeds were a popular fad among sleepers of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, and this type of mattress has enjoyed a minor resurgence of late as the technology has evolved. Waterbeds were originally made from vinyl, and most modern incarnations are manufactured using PVC. Waterbeds are usually classified as hard-sided or soft-sided. Hard-sided waterbeds are set inside a sturdy frame (usually made of wood) and placed on top of a platform; soft-sided waterbeds, on the other hand, are set in a foam frame and encased in fabric. The key difference is that hard-sided models comprise a full bed, whereas soft-sided waterbeds are meant to be used with existing bedframes and other furniture. Soft-sided models also use less water.
Waterbeds may also be distinguished by their internal structure. Like airbeds, waterbeds utilize a bladder containment system. Free flow waterbeds feature a single chamber for unobstructed motion; this results in a moving, often wavy sleep surface. Waveless waterbeds control water flow through interior walls or baffles for a more stationary surface. There is no proven therapeutic benefit for free flow or waveless waterbeds, and satisfaction will entirely surface preference; the thickness of the comfort layer will also affect how wavy or still the surface feels. The majority of waterbeds are heated, and the temperature for most can be manually adjusted.
In terms of pressure relief, waterbeds are considered superior to airbeds because the water forms a cradle for your body, as opposed to air, which simply sinks. This is especially true in soft-sided mattresses, as well as waterbed models with flexible bladders and/or soft comfort layers. Sleeping on water that is heated and temperature-regulated can also have therapeutic effects, as well. Another perk: waterbeds are exceptionally easy to clean.
The biggest downside to sleeping on a waterbed is spinal alignment, although this issue has been the subject of an ongoing debate. Some authorities claim that waterbeds offer superior alignment, while others believe waterbeds are the worst option for alignment. The general consensus: every sleeper is different, but the two most important factors are your individual weight (as well as the weight of anyone sharing the bed with you) and the bladder construction.
Cost and maintenance are two other issues linked to waterbeds. Most mattress retailers won’t sell waterbeds, which means you’ll most likely have to buy your waterbed wholesale and pay more than you would for a standard innerspring or latex model. The most common waterbed maintenance problems include leakage, water contamination and overheating. Waterbeds are also susceptible to punctures, which are costly to repair. Waterbeds are especially heavy compared to other mattress types, as well, and should be completely drained before they are moved in order to avoid a big mess.
The cost of a new waterbed will depend on several factors. Hard-sided waterbeds tend to be on the cheaper side, usually no more than $500 for unused models, while the cost of a soft-sided waterbed can range anywhere from $600 to more than $2,000. As with airbeds, beware of tempting warranties, since the nonprorated coverage will typically last for, at most, only three to five years. Trial periods for waterbeds usually fall between 30 and 90 days, but you will most likely be required to keep the waterbed for at least three weeks before it can be returned.
Does a waterbed sound like an interesting mattress option? Be sure to check into these details while you’re shopping around:
- Is the waterbed hard-sided or soft-sided? Soft-sided models are considered to be of higher quality than hard-sided ones, and the price of a new waterbed should reflect this.
- How is the bladder constructed? Motion is usually the most important factor for waterbed users: is the surface wavy, or does it remain relatively still? Be sure to test out free flow and waveless waterbeds to decide which type best suits you