Foam Mattress vs Waterbed

Waterbed & Slow-Recovery Foam Beds: Consumer Report Comparison

Water Beds vs Foam Mattresses

Customer opinions are divided between the two-bed types. Understandably, both waterbeds and memory beds have pros and cons to consider before settling for one or the other. We’ve compiled the most notable pros and cons in an easy-to-read table.

Mattress Prices Comparison

A high quality slow-recovery Tempur-Pedic bed can cost up to $3,000, while a top of the line waterbed can go as high as $1,500 (the 5 foam layer model, with special 4 drawer wooden frame plus accessories: electrical pump, maintenance kit, patch kit and heater).

The cheapest slow-rise foam mattress is around $800 and the least inexpensive water mattress can cost as little as $100. But don’t forget about accessories: the pump costs another $100, maintenance conditioner another $30, patch kit another $7, heater another $30-120, depending on quality.

Which Is Most Popular With Consumers

Waterbeds have been on the market for almost 40 years. They are not as popular as they used to be, but there was a time when sleeping on a water mattress was the coolest thing in the world.

Nowadays, waterbeds maintain their good reputation among allergy sufferers, seniors who are reluctant to try anything else, and hyperactive teenagers.

Most mattress and bed shoppers today, however, seem to prefer slow-rise memory foam, especially thanks to its heat-responsive ability.

Bottom line, waterbeds rocked the sleeping world when they first appeared on the market. They are comfortable, not very expensive, easy to clean and last for many years. They’ve kept their pole position for almost half a century.

Over the last few years, however, slow-recovery foam beds proved they have similar benefits and a few extra pros: heat responsiveness, better back support and no danger of leaking.

Slow-Rise Foam Beds Waterbeds
Major Pro Can be very comfortable Can be very comfortable
Other Pros
  • Very supportive
  • No sagging
  • Your moves don’t affect your sleeping partner
  • No need to be flipped
  • No arm/leg falling asleep
  • Improves circulation
  • Conforms to your body’s shape
  • No pressure points, no resistance
  • Minimal maintenance
  • Perfect for allergy sufferers
  • The waves relax muscles and joints
  • Adjustable heating system
  • Fun for love-making
  • It is ‘kinda cool’ to own one
Major Con Gets hot during sleep Not enough support
Other Cons
  • Cost
  • Heavy
  • Difficult to set up and move
  • Takes time to adjust to it
  • Can’t sit up on it
  • Weird smell in the first few weeks
  • Too heavy for the regular box spring
  • A feeling of being gripped by the foam, not being able to turn easily
  • Back pain and numbness in the morning
  • Fear of flooding
  • Motion sickness
  • Subject to punctures
  • Foam rails on the side break in time
  • The mattress needs to be ‘burped’ from time to time to prevent air bubbles from forming

Customer Opinions

I’ve had a waterbed since 1976 and wouldn’t consider anything else. I have arthritis besides FM and the warmth really helps both. When I sleep on a regular bed I notice more stiffness that I normally have.

I had a waterbed in the early to mid-80’s, after hearing that they might be good for my back and legs (pain and spasticity). As it turns out, a waterbed was the worst thing for me. I have a pronounced curve (scoliosis), which is related to cerebral palsy and abnormal posturing. That space in my back essentially had no place to rest, and I always woke up stiff and sore.

With the waterbed mattress, I had almost constant back pain and arm / hand numbness that would wake me many times a night.

Sometimes, I just lie in bed and feel so comfortable, because I can actually feel that the memory foam is “hugging” a pressure point. This is mostly when I’m lying on my abdomen and I can feel it on my knees and ankles.

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