Though waterbeds have declined in popularity since
their peak in the 1970's, they retain a core following. Devotees generally praise waterbeds for their lack of
controllable temperature, and all-around "groovy"-ness. Critics have
traditionally derided their lack of firm support, disturbance
caused by your partner's movements, and fear of leaks. In recent years
though, improvements to the waterbed
core have served to
reduce unwanted motion, add lumbar support,
and greatly decrease the incidence of leakage. In addition, many of today's waterbeds have come to look much like traditional
innerspring mattresses, offering layers of upholstery on top of a core that contains water rather than
coils. Together, these upgrades have addressed many
of the comfort, support, and durability issues encountered by previous generations of waterbeds.
Types of Waterbeds
Generally speaking, there are two types of waterbeds
available on the market today — "soft-sided" and "hard-sided."
the newer and more popular type,
feature a water-filled chamber (sometimes referred to as a
encased in sturdy
making their external appearance closely resemble that of a
mattress. The bladder is held in place by stiff
foam rails on each side, sometimes referred to as
also provide edge support for the mattress. Foam encasing rails that are
somewhat thinner near the top surface of the mattress but wider at the
bottom tend to maximize sleeping area while preserving
A soft-sided waterbed can generally sit on a traditional mattress foundation,
such as a
though their hefty weight necessitates the use of a heavy-duty
frame with a center support.
Soft-sided waterbeds, sometimes referred to as
feature several layers of upholstery on top of the bladder as well. These
can be evaluated in the same way as the upholstery in
an innerspring mattress.
the classic model, feature a relatively unstructured
bladder placed inside a special wood "frame,"
which holds the mattress in its proper shape. The
frame sits on top of a
"deck," a specially designed
platform for waterbeds that evenly distributes the weight of the mattress, so as to minimize strain on both the
bladder seams above and the floor below. Hard-sided waterbed foundations often feature a padded rail along their
perimeter that helps to ease entry and exit, however getting in and out of a hard-sided waterbed can still take
some getting used to. Hard-sided waterbeds typically offer much less
upholstery on top of the bladder
than soft-sided waterbeds (and in many cases none at all), making temperature control and
motion separation important issues to consider.
One of the most popular aspects of waterbeds is the
ability to control their temperature. Waterbed enthusiasts frequently cite
the therapeutic benefits of sleeping on a heated mattress, and anyone can
appreciate the appeal of a warm bed on a cold evening. Heating is provided
by a specially designed pad that sits beneath the mattress. Precise temperature
is a matter of personal preference that can typically be controlled by
a thermostat on the heater. Experts suggest that a temperature between
81 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit (27 to 30 degrees Celsius) is best for most
people. Due to their significant
cushioning, heating is considered optional
for soft-sided waterbeds. However, it is strongly recommended for hard-sided
waterbeds, where there is less separation between your skin and the water.
waterbeds have long been known for the "waves" that travel freely across their surface upon the
slightest movement. Though this sensation is often cherished by traditional waterbed fans, for many others,
waves are considered a source of disturbance from peaceful sleep and a sign of insufficient spinal
In recent years, the waterbed industry has made great strides in developing techniques to counteract these
concerns, while still preserving the original benefits of a water-based
One way that manufacturers have addressed this point
is by placing motion dampening materials, such as layers of fiber
(a felt-like material), into the bladder. This solution, known as
"fiber filling" or
"baffling," is used in both soft-sided and hard-sided waterbeds. Fiber filling serves the dual
purpose of reducing motion in the water as well as increasing the
firmness of the bed.
In general, more fiber filling results in greater motion separation and firmer support. Options range from
semi-waveless (50% motion reduction) to
ultra-waveless (95%+ motion reduction).
Fiber can also be used to bolster support in
specific areas of the mattress, such as for increased lumbar support. Many people even find that the reduced motion
and increased firmness makes fiber-filled waterbeds easier to get into and out of. Conversely, fiber filling can
complicate draining of the bladder due to its retention of water, and on rare occasions can cause discomfort in the
event it becomes un-tethered and begins to move around within the bladder.
The second approach to achieving enhanced
in waterbeds entails compartmentalizing the water. With
a dual mattress system, also known as "dual bladders," water is divided
between two separate chambers, providing motion separation and allowing
for different levels of
(for support) and temperature (for comfort) on each side of the bed. With a
mattress, the bladder
is divided into numerous small compartments, but the water is allowed to
travel between the compartments in a controlled manner
via small holes. This form of compartmentalization results in a more
gradual responsiveness to movements and a firmer level of
overall support. In some hydraulic mattress designs the compartments
are cylindrically shaped, causing some to refer to them as
"coils" even though they lack any true spring action.
Waterbeds are carefully constructed to avoid leaks,
punctures and bursting; and technological advances have significantly reduced
the occurrence of such problems.
Bladders are generally made of heavy duty
vinyl that contains materials similar to those found in PVC piping. In
addition to its superior water containment, vinyl's non-porous nature makes it less likely to harbor mold, dust mites,
or other allergens. The thickness of vinyl used for waterbed bladders is usually between 20 and 30 millimeters,
with thicker vinyl providing better protection against punctures. Bladders are sealed tightly using a variety of methods.
Reinforced corner panel seams typically provide the most reliable seals, although radial lap seams can work fine as well.
Butt seams are generally considered the weakest and least durable. Most waterbeds also feature a
safety liner around the bladder,
which offers additional protection in the event of a problem. It is worth noting that since new waterbeds are sold
empty, both soft-sided and hard-sided waterbeds will require some assembly once you get them into your home.
Waterbed bladders feature varying levels of depth, or
"fill levels," ranging from
shallow (3 to 5 inches) to mid-fill (5 to 6 inches) to deep fill (7 to 8 inches). Shallow fill levels are generally only
used in soft-sided waterbeds, where the bladder is surrounded by
foam and typically covered with several layers of
upholstery. All else being equal, the
deeper the fill, the more potential there is for movement, which is largely a matter of personal preference.
Some leading brands of waterbeds include American
Land and Sky.
To find other waterbed lines, please browse our
extensive list of waterbed manufacturers and product lines below.
Posted by Linda W
from Trenton, IL
on November 4, 2013
it was hard to get used to, but after several months was able to get at least half of nights rest, our biggest problem now [its 6 years old], is trying to find valve parts, the mattress goes completely flat through out the night. we wake up several times through ...
We ordered this bed on 6/5/13. There appears to only be 1 customer support person and she is AWFUL. She does not return calls, emails or txts. She will not let you talk to her manager. The bed finally came 30 DAYS LATERr after being back-ordered (un-be-knowst to us). It ...
Posted by Brandi C
from Denver, CO
on February 1, 2013
After much research & reading multiple mattress reviews, I decided an air bed would be the best option, for my back pain - as well as my husbands & my differing opinions on bed firmness. We purchased the Air-Cell mattress and have been using it for around 4 months... I'm ...
Posted by Lynda C
from Loveland, CO
on January 23, 2012
Bed Leaked within months of purchase. We've taken it back only to have them charge us because the valves (which have broken several times and they admitted have KNOWN problems) continue to break. Of course this was never covered by their fake warranty. I say fake because it is worthless.
great in the beginning. even talked two friends into buying one. best sleep i ever had. three years later it begain sagging. seven years later the company barely acknowledges my e-mail or phone calls. I am yest to see a refund or replacement. not worth the $3,000 i paid for ...
Posted by roger h
from Astoria, NY
on December 21, 2010
This soft sided mattress is made extremely poorly and is not durable. The manufacturer won't uphold their own warranty. They are unwilling to do anything about the poor workmanship or quality of their product and stand by their retailer. Don't buy garbage from these thieves unless you want to replace ...
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