Is It Bad to Sleep on an Air Mattress?

Sleeping on an air mattress can have short-term uses for camping, guest rooms, or while awaiting a new mattress. However, long-term use may lack the support and contouring of a traditional mattress, potentially causing discomfort and back pain. Chiropractors caution against extended use.

We’ve all been there. Whether we’re shoved into the corner of a former bedroom turned workout room during the holidays or just visiting our friend in their tiny studio apartment, sleeping on an air mattress is sometimes inevitable.

In fact, when I first moved to New York City in 2013, I slept on an air mattress for a full month and a half until I could afford an actual bed (ahhh, to be young). I even dated a guy in Brooklyn who permanently slept on a queen-size blowup bed in his bedroom (ahhh, to be young AND stupid).

But have you ever wondered if you’re causing short-term or even permanent damage by sleeping on an inflatable cocoon?

To find out the truth about this nomadic yet sometimes necessary sleeping arrangement, we tapped Kevin Lees, doctor of chiropractic and director of chiropractic operations at The Joint Chiropractic for more info.

Ideal scenarios to use an air mattress

Of course, there’s no one official reason or way to use an air mattress, but the most common reasons include:

Camping trips

Adding an air mattress to your camping trip essentials can help you love the outdoors even more. Instead of sleeping on the hard ground in a sleeping bag, an air mattress can extend the amount of time you’re willing to spend camping.

Guest bedrooms

If you don’t want to keep your spare bedroom as a guest room, then adding and removing an air mattress is a great way to keep the space flexible.

Waiting for your new mattress to arrive

When I moved to NYC 10 years ago, I used an air mattress for a mix of reasons: First, I was waiting to be able to afford a mattress, then once I purchased one, I was waiting for it to arrive.

Is it bad to sleep on an air mattress long-term?

As with most medical questions, the answer as to whether or not sleeping on an air mattress long-term is harmful will vary on several factors.

Younger, healthy individuals with no previous back injuries may find it fine to sleep on an air mattress for a longer period, while older individuals may experience discomfort after only one or two nights.

Air mattresses “do not offer the quality and support a typical mattress does,” explains Lees. “A typical mattress is usually better at giving support and contouring to the person sleeping.”

With less uniform support, a person can wake with back pain, or cause them to toss and turn throughout the night, adds Lees. “Some air mattresses do not have an auto-fill function, allowing them to lose support throughout the night,” he notes.

Plus, it’s important to remember that “the material of an air mattress is usually not breathable, which may cause the user to sweat due to trapped heat,” says Lees.

How to make an air mattress more comfortable

“Options like a raised mattress and a self-inflating mattress are a good start for an improved experience,” explains Lees. “Some mattresses even offer air chambers for better full-body support.”

Adding a

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or breathable

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Mattress Pad

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can help with airflow, but even with the added options, an air mattress should be a short-term solution, says Lees.

Find the best mattress for you at Saatva

Saatva Classic Innerspring Mattress

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Latex Hybrid Mattress

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Memory Foam Hybrid Mattress

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Saatva HD Mattress

This luxury hybrid innerspring mattress is specifically engineered to support people weighing between 300 and 500 pounds. Plush upper layers made of foam and latex deliver comfort, while a high-durability coil base offers support.

Saatva Rx Mattress

Specially designed to give maximum support and pressure relief that can help alleviate discomfort associated with serious and chronic back and joint conditions like sciatica, arthritis, herniated disc, and scoliosis.


Is it safe to sleep on an air mattress every night?

In general, chiropractors won’t recommend sleeping on an air mattress long-term or every night. “The amount of time one could sleep on an air mattress depends on both the quality of the air mattress and the size and health of the person sleeping,” says Lees.

Is it better to sleep on an air mattress or on the floor?

“While sleeping on the floor has been shown to improve back pain in some people, it may also be very uncomfortable for those who are usually side sleepers,” says Lees.

But it’s important to also consider body temperature when considering sleeping on the floor or an air mattress.

“The floor also can be very cold and draw a lot of heat from the person sleeping and usually requires some sort of padding to act as insulation,” explains Lees. “A quality air mattress is usually a better option than the floor.”

What’s the best mattress to choose if you have back pain? We have a guide to selecting the right mattress for your back.

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