Are Air Mattresses Bad for Your Back? [The Truth Unveiled!]

Air mattresses are becoming increasingly popular due to their ease of use, portability, and affordability. They are perfect for camping, hosting guests, or temporarily settling into a new home. However, they often raise a question of concern – are air mattresses bad for your back?

The answer is not a simple yes or no. It depends on various factors such as the quality of the air mattress, its firmness level, and how it is used. While some air mattresses can be good for your back, most lack the necessary support and can cause discomfort and back pain.

Let’s take a closer look at the possible effects of air mattresses on your back and what you can do to minimize any potential risks.

Understanding Air Mattresses

Air mattresses are essentially inflatable beds that can be inflated or deflated as per your needs. These are made of PVC or vinyl material and come in different sizes, ranging from twin to king-size.

Air mattresses are usually filled with air through an electric pump or manually by mouth. They can be easily stored in a compact bag and inflated whenever required.

Besides, air mattresses are often softer than regular spring or memory foam mattresses, which is one of the reasons why people want to switch to them.

How Air Mattresses Impact Your Back?

When it comes to air mattresses, there are pros and cons. While they are convenient, they may not be the best option for your back.

Most air mattresses don’t provide the necessary support that your back needs to maintain a healthy posture while sleeping. Unlike traditional mattresses that have a coil or foam-based support system, air mattresses use air as their primary support.

How Air Mattresses Impact Your Back

And lack of support can cause your back to sink into the mattress, leading to an unnatural curvature of your spine, which can result in pain and discomfort.

air mattress for back

Besides, the air inside the mattress tends to shift around, causing uneven pressure on the body. It can cause discomfort and affect the quality of your sleep. However, with the latest advancements, some options feature multiple air chambers that can help distribute the weight evenly.

Why Are Air Mattresses Bad for Your Back?

Air mattresses are bad for your back when they lack proper support. This is usually the case with cheap options, which can lead to discomfort and pain, especially if used for an extended period. And studies back this up as well. Here’s why.

Horizontal Chambers

Many cheap air beds still have horizontal chambers for sleeping. However, these beds may not provide enough support for individuals who are slightly heavier or experiencing lower back pain.

Horizontal Chambers

Moreover, they can cause you to lose your grip on the bed and potentially fall off due to inadequate edge support.

Inconsistent Back Support

Air mattresses are designed to be adjustable, which means you can add or remove air to achieve the desired level of firmness.

However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they provide the proper support that your back needs. Even if you adjust the air pressure, an air mattress won’t always conform to your body shape the way it should, which can lead to pressure points and pain.

Pressure Points

When you sleep on an air mattress, your body weight is distributed unevenly. The areas where your body comes into contact with the mattress will experience more pressure than others, which can cause pain and discomfort.

Pressure Points

The lack of proper support and cushioning can also result in pressure points that can lead to joint and muscle pain.


Proper alignment of your spine while sleeping is crucial for maintaining back health. A deficiency of support and soft cushioning caused by sleeping on an air mattress can constrict the spine into an unnatural curvature, leading to aches and discomforts.

This is because air mattresses don’t contour your body shape and provide the necessary support for proper spinal alignment.

How to Make Air Mattresses Better For Your Back?

Fortunately, it is possible to make air mattresses better for your back, if you can’t afford a more traditional mattress. In fact, if you adhere to the correct protocol, air mattresses can even improve your back pain. Here are some tips to help you out:

Choose the Right Air Mattress

The first step to ensuring your back’s comfort on an air mattress is choosing the right one. Look for air mattresses that are specifically designed for back support. Ideally, you’ll want one with multiple vertical air chambers and edge support.

Choose the Right Air Mattress

Also, if you’re okay with spending a little more, try getting one that keeps the air pressure constant automatically throughout the night.

Get the Right Level of Firmness

Adjust the firmness level until you find the right balance between comfort and support. It’s essential that your back maintains its alignment during sleep and the mattress should be neither too firm nor too soft.

Get the Right Level of Firmness

Inflate the Mattress Properly

Inflating the mattress correctly is crucial for ensuring comfort. Over-inflating or under-inflating can cause discomfort and back pain. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for inflating the mattress correctly.

Place the Mattress on a Firm Surface

Placing the air mattress on a firm surface can improve its support and stability. Avoid placing the mattress on a soft surface, such as a carpeted floor, as it can cause it to sink and lose its shape.

Add a Topper

If you’re using an air mattress on a regular basis, consider investing in a mattress topper. It’s basically a thin foam layer that can offer extra padding and cushioning for your back. A memory foam topper can provide excellent support for your back and improve your sleep quality.

Add a Topper

Use Proper Pillows

The pillows you use are just as important as the mattress itself. Invest in a few pillows that will help relieve pressure points, and maintain the alignment of your neck and spine. Like toppers, Memory foam pillows are great options, as they contour to the shape of your head and neck.

Use Proper Bedding

Using proper bedding can make a significant difference in your sleep quality. Use high-quality sheets, blankets, and comforters to make your air mattress feel more like a real bed.

Stretch Before Sleeping

Stretching before sleeping can help loosen up your muscles and improve your sleep quality. Focus on stretching your back, neck, and legs to alleviate any tension and improve blood flow.

Stretch Before Sleeping

Sleep with a Partner

Sleeping with a partner can help improve your sleep quality and reduce the pressure on your back. Sleeping on an air mattress with someone also helps to distribute your body weight more evenly, preventing any discomfort.

Frequently Asked Questions

If you have further queries regarding air mattresses and back support, here are the answers to some of the most common questions.

Can Air Mattresses Cause Back Pain?

Yes, they can. However, air mattresses won’t hurt your back as long as they have proper support and cushioning. If you choose one with multiple vertical air chambers and edge support and adjust the firmness level to ensure the right balance between comfort and support.

Are Air Mattresses Good For Lower Back Pain?

New research suggests that using an adjustable airbed instead of a traditional innerspring mattress can help alleviate pain in patients with chronic nonspecific back pain.  If you experience lower back pain, you can also try adding a mattress topper for extra cushioning and support.

Are Air Mattresses Bad For The Back Of Side Sleepers?

No, air mattresses aren’t always bad for side sleepers. However, if the mattress is too firm and does not offer enough cushioning, it can cause discomfort. If you’re a side sleeper, look for an air mattress specifically designed for back support.

How Do I Know Which Air Mattress Has The Right Air Pressure For My Back?

It’s important to try different air pressure levels until you find the one that offers the proper support for your back. Besides test-trying some mattresses out, you can also consult with a doctor to help you determine what type of mattress is best for your needs.

Final Thoughts

Air mattresses can cause back pain when they don’t provide proper support and cushioning. But let’s not forget that they can also be good for your back if you take the proper steps.

More so, a high-quality air mattress can be an extremely useful addition to your home. It allows your guests to enjoy a comfortable night’s sleep, and it provides you with a convenient extra bed for when you have overnight guests, or you’re simply feeling nostalgic about camping.

Yet, there’s no ruling out the risk of developing back problems. So, when looking for a more permanent solution for extra sleeping space, you may as well look into a queen or king-size sleeper sofa instead.

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