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Air Mattress vs. Water Mattress: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Published on February 19, 2024
An air mattress is an inflatable mattress often used for camping or temporary bedding, while a water mattress, or waterbed, is a bed filled with water for unique support and comfort.

Key Differences

An air mattress is designed for portability and easy storage, inflated by air, suitable for camping or temporary use. A water mattress, however, is filled with water, offering a unique, contouring sleep surface, and is generally used as a permanent bed.
Air mattresses are known for their adjustability in firmness by adding or removing air. Water mattresses also offer adjustability but through water level, affecting firmness and wave motion.
The setup for an air mattress is relatively simple and quick, needing an air pump. Water mattresses require a more involved setup, including filling with water and sometimes installing heaters and liners.
Durability varies between the two; air mattresses can be prone to punctures but are easily replaced. Water mattresses are durable but require maintenance to prevent leaks and manage water levels.
In terms of comfort, air mattresses can vary widely, with some being very basic and others more sophisticated with multiple air chambers. Water mattresses are known for their therapeutic qualities, providing even support and reducing pressure points.

Comparison Chart


Inflatable with air
Filled with water

Primary Use

Temporary bedding, camping
Permanent bed, therapeutic use


Firmness adjustable by air volume
Firmness adjustable by water volume

Setup and Maintenance

Easy setup, vulnerable to punctures
Complex setup, requires maintenance


Varies, from basic to sophisticated
Even support, reduces pressure points

Air Mattress and Water Mattress Definitions

Air Mattress

An air mattress is a cost-effective alternative to traditional beds.
As a student, I chose an air mattress for its affordability and convenience.

Water Mattress

A water mattress is a bed filled with water, offering a unique sleeping experience.
The water mattress in our room contours perfectly to our bodies.

Air Mattress

An air mattress is suitable for outdoor and indoor use.
The air mattress proved perfect for both our backyard sleepover and indoor use.

Water Mattress

A water mattress requires maintenance but offers durability and comfort.
Regularly checking the water level in our mattress ensures consistent comfort.

Air Mattress

An air mattress is a portable, inflatable bed.
We brought an air mattress for our camping trip for comfortable sleeping.

Water Mattress

A water mattress is often used for its pressure-relieving qualities.
The water mattress has been a great relief for my arthritis.

Air Mattress

An air mattress is a flexible bed, adjustable in firmness.
I adjusted the firmness of the air mattress to suit my back.

Water Mattress

A water mattress, or waterbed, is known for its motion and temperature control.
We enjoy the gentle wave effect of our water mattress.

Air Mattress

An air mattress is an easily storable temporary bedding solution.
Guests slept comfortably on the air mattress in the living room.

Water Mattress

A water mattress provides therapeutic benefits through even support.
My back pain eased significantly after switching to a water mattress.


What is an air mattress?

An air mattress is a portable, inflatable bed used for temporary sleeping arrangements.

What is a water mattress?

A water mattress, or waterbed, is a bed filled with water, known for its supportive and therapeutic qualities.

How does a water mattress benefit sleep?

Water mattresses provide even support and can reduce pressure points, benefiting those with back pain or arthritis.

Can an air mattress be used regularly?

While possible, air mattresses are generally designed for temporary or occasional use.

Is an air mattress easy to store?

Yes, when deflated, air mattresses are compact and easy to store.

How do you inflate an air mattress?

Air mattresses are inflated using a manual pump, electric pump, or built-in pump.

Can you adjust the firmness of a water mattress?

Yes, by adding or removing water, you can adjust the firmness of a water mattress.

Can you repair an air mattress?

Yes, punctures in air mattresses can often be repaired with a patch kit.

How heavy is a water mattress?

Water mattresses are quite heavy, especially when filled, and require a sturdy support system.

Are air mattresses affordable?

Generally, air mattresses are an affordable bedding option.

Are air mattresses comfortable for all sleepers?

Comfort varies; some people find air mattresses very comfortable, while others do not.

Are air mattresses suitable for camping?

Yes, air mattresses are popular for camping due to their portability.

Do water mattresses require special sheets?

Yes, water mattresses often require special sheets due to their unique sizes and shapes.

Is a water mattress good for hot sleepers?

Water mattresses can be heated or cooled, making them suitable for different preferences.

Can water mattresses leak?

Yes, though it's rare with proper maintenance, water mattresses can leak.

Can both air and water mattresses be used with standard bed frames?

Air mattresses can fit standard frames, but water mattresses often require specially designed frames due to their weight.

Do water mattresses move a lot?

Yes, water mattresses have a wave-like motion, though some have stabilizers to reduce this.

Is setting up a water mattress complicated?

Setting up a water mattress is more involved than an air mattress, often requiring filling with water and adjusting temperature settings.

How do you maintain a water mattress?

Regularly check for leaks, maintain water levels, and use a conditioner to prevent algae growth.

How long does an air mattress last?

With proper care, an air mattress can last several years, but they are less durable than traditional beds.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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