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The Waterbed Mattress Guide

For years, waterbeds were regarded as a luxury item. The unique sensation of sleeping on a waterbed is unlike anything else. However, they seem to have fallen out of favour a little in recent years, replaced by memory foam and hybrid mattresses. Waterbeds are now regarded as a bit of a novelty item – great for a couple of nights but the lack of support can result in back issues after prolonged use.

Waterbeds do, though, have their advantages, in particular the ability to be heated, which can help in some types of back or muscular pain management. If you’re curious about waterbeds and want to know more, our helpful guide will try to answer some of your questions.

What is a waterbed mattress made of?

The casing of a waterbed mattress is typically made of PVC, also known as vinyl. Instead of having springs or padded fillings. The middle of the mattress is filled with water. And lots of it. Back in the 1980s during the peak of its popularity, waterbeds were filled up using the garden hose. Which, as you can imagine, was pretty time consuming and difficult. In modern-day waterbeds, you only need to fill tubes inside the mattress, making it less hassle. But are they worth it? Let's find out.

Are waterbed mattresses bad for your back?

While some people still use and enjoy waterbeds. They have fallen in popularity massively in recent years. With most retailers choosing not to stock them in their range. This is for a few key reasons that you should consider before committing to purchasing one. Firstly, if support is what you're looking for, a waterbed isn't the right mattress for you. While they may feel comfortable for a night or two. Waterbeds can't provide the necessary support needed for your spine and joints. Because water moves, it forces your body to conform to the shape of the mattress. As opposed to a material like memory foam, that conforms to the shape of your body. Sleeping on moving water can cause you to end up in all kinds of uncomfortable positions, leading to back pain.

How much does a waterbed cost?

Generally, waterbeds cost more than the average mattress, but bear in mind that if you go for a hard frame option then you’re purchasing an entire bed, and not just the mattress. Those little additional extras do make them more expensive in the long run, and more high-end waterbeds will include added lumbar support, reinforced corners and a protective covering to prevent tears or punctures. A hard-sided waterbed includes a wooden frame that supports the mattress and gives it its form once it’s been filled.

Alternatively, you can purchase soft-side waterbeds, which are basically a water-filled mattress. They come with a rigid foam cover with strong sides, and the water-filled vinyl case goes inside the foam layer, allowing you to use this in place of a normal mattress. If you choose the latter then it’s a much cheaper option than the hard-framed bed version.

You’ll also need to factor in heating costs. While they’re thermally efficient, they still need to be heated all year round, and if you live in a cooler region then that could push your electricity bills up.

What are good alternatives to a waterbed mattress?

If you're looking for a mattress with more flexibility but aren't willing to commit to the back pain that a waterbed brings. Then don't worry, there are some other more supportive materials to consider. Latex foam and gel foam mattresses are the perfect alternatives.

Gel foam mattresses typically consist of mostly memory foam with a gel topper. The gel topper will give a similar feeling of movement as water but with the added support from the memory foam. Because water gets so cold, waterbeds require a heating system. The gel in a gel foam mattress is designed to keep an ambient temperature all the time. Which means they'll definitely be no risk of jumping into a freezing cold bed. The maintenance with gel & latex foam mattresses is also pretty minimal. Waterbeds require filling up with water and occasionally repairing holes in the PVC. Whereas gel and latex mattresses will need the occasional sweep to prevent dust, use of a mattress protector and a rotation every six months or so.

If waterbeds seem appealing for an eco-friendly style of mattress. Then latex foam could be perfect for you. Since it's a naturally occurring material, it decomposes over time. Don't worry, it won't disappear in front of your eyes. Quite the opposite, actually. Latex foam is known to be one of the longer-lasting mattresses. With a life-span between eight and fifteen years depending on the quality, usage and care taken of the mattress. Plus, once it's time to replace, you can be confident that your old mattress will have a minimal environmental impact.

If you're unsure about what style of mattress is best for you, feel free to contact one of our friendly sleep experts or find more helpful guides on our advice hub.

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