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How to Intelligently Buy a Waterbed Mattress

First confirm the type or style of your waterbed-

There are two different styles of water beds each with their own special size characteristics, namely the classic wood frame waterbeds and softside waterbeds.  Softside waterbeds look like a conventional mattress and share the outside dimensions of conventional mattresses.  Some folks could legitimately argue that there is a more rare third style called a "drop in" softside.  Drop in mattresses are softsides or conventional mattresses, for that matter, that are designed and made to be used inside a wood frame waterbed.  Each style of waterbed has it's own size characteristics so it is very important to determine what you have and what you need before purchasing.

Waterbed sizes-

  1. Wood frame waterbeds-

    California King- 72" x 84"
    Queen- 60" x 84"
    Super Single- 48" x 84"

  2. Softside waterbeds-

    California King- 72" x 84"
    Eastern King- 76" x 80"
    Queen- 60" x 80"
    Full- 54" x 75"
    Twin- 39" x 75"

  3. Drop In softside waterbeds-
    Drop ins are specifically designed to fit inside a wooden frame waterbed instead of a regular vinyl waterbed mattress with an inch of empty space between all sides of the mattress and the wooden frame to easily be able to tuck in bedding and not be "pinched" by padded rails.

    King- 70" x 82"
    Queen- 58" x 82"
    Super Single- 46" x 82"

Types of vinyl waterbed mattresses-

Typically, waterbed mattresses are described and priced by the amount of motion; full wave, semi wave, waveless, no wave, etc.  In my humble opinion based upon over 30 years of industry experience, this is actually a very poor way to describe "quality" and has led to a lot of "cheating" in both description and advertising but, never the less, it has become an industry standard for flotation sleep.  The most important attribute of a comfortable mattress of any kind is comfortable, "cradling," equal, all over body support without pressure points.

After making such a bold statement, I owe you an honest explanation that I feel will make a lot of common sense.  Many folks can comfortably sleep on any of these mattresses, and have or do, but it really has nothing to do with the amount of "wave" or motion.  The cruise industry would go broke if this was really the case and we wouldn't have a Navy.  One must simply think about the dynamics of floating in a pool and how this applies to flotation sleep.  A comfortable waterbed mattress for you depends upon many personal factors.

Are you typically sleeping alone?  If so, you only have to concern yourself with your own personal habits of sleep and comfort.  I have never heard a customer say that their own movement has awaken them.  We all do some tossing and turning while sleeping although in a waterbed there is minimal movement due to the absence of pressure points on our bodies.  Most tossing and turning is due to a cut off in circulation due to  one or more pressure points causing temporary discomfort.   Our brain sends the message to our body, "get me out of this uncomfortable position" and one's body "obeys" the brain command by changing position.  When sleeping alone it is quite easy to optimally adjust the amount of water in your mattress to just the way you like it to feel.

If you have a sleeping partner the comfort dynamics usually change considerably.  First it is common for couples to each have their own definition of comfort.  This makes a lot of sense since most couples do not have the same body mass, shape, sometimes age or often temperature preference.  Think middle aged couples going through change of life.  Or when the second person pops into bed their weight equivalent of water has just been added to the mattress.  As we age our bodies need more support to be comfortable.  Please don't be turned off by this, I assure you that there are simple solutions to these problems uniquely solved by choosing the proper waterbed sleep system that I'll cover later on! 

Let's go back for a second to the "wave argument". The importance of "wave" has to do with the number of layers of and thickness of the fiber raft or in older style baffled waterbed mattresses, the number and size of the boxed baffles.  Scientifically, the importance is the ratio of the thickness of the raft to the "open" water space or the depth of the mattress, i.e. the thicker the raft the less wave and most importantly the increase in support.  Let me state this again-the increase in support is the most important quality of a motion reduced or waveless water mattress.  Less motion is an accidental occurrence that might also be considered a valid benefit by some who prefer no or little movement.  Here is where the deception often comes into play in the pricing game.  Commonly either time of wave estimated in seconds and / or percentage of motion reduction, both highly non-scientific and arbitrary measurements become the definition of quality.  But who is holding the stop watch?  How is this wave being created; someone gently rolling over or someone leaping into bed?  How is it being measured? What is the size / width of the mattress being described? Since there is no real standard of measurement it is easy for anyone to define amount of wavelessness to their personal advantage and price it accordingly.  The "best top of the line" waveless mattress of 15 or 20 years ago (yes, they can last that long!) would be considered a low end semi-wave by today's standards as measured by the number of layers of fiber. The best measurement criteria of support in a fiber mattress is the total thickness of the fiber raft as determined by the number of layers /  thickness and the number of layers of lumbar support, if any.  And, most importantly, this cannot be fudged!  So beware of mattresses that are only described in seconds of motion or degrees of wavelessness.  They could be an excellent mattress but not worth the quoted price.

Why are fiber rafts important?  Let's go back to flotation as it pertains to people.  When we naturally float in a swimming pool of water, it is rare for most folks to be level with the water surface without a little bit of paddling.  This is because body density changes as one measures and compares from head to toes.  Most of us are thicker in the mid-body region, some more than others and the extra lumbar support layers are designed to mitigate that problem by increasing the lumbar support to our heavier bottoms and filling in the natural lower back curve.  The purpose of the fiber raft is designed to even out the support for our "uneven" bodies without creating the pressure points that are common to most non-water mattress sleep systems.  This is what allows optimum support for unlimited circulation and restful, rejuvenating sleep with less tossing and turning.

Potential couple issues and their solutions-

Let's return to the unique problems for couples and their simple solutions by addressing each potential issue individually.

Weight differences-  Fact:  to increase support in full wave mattresses, add water; to increase support in a waveless mattress, subtract water.  What's going on?  Adding water to a full wave mattress increases the buoyancy and keeps you off the bottom of the bed.  Water is the only thing in the mattress to create support.  The heavier person ends up on the bottom of the bed and the lighter person is on a mountain.  When either person gets in or out of bed, effectively water is added or subtracted from the mattress.  Solution-the baffle rafts due to its increase in support in a waveless mattress allow for less water to be in the mattress to sleep most comfortably.  The fiber raft very effectively increases the support for both individuals.  Yes, the water level still goes up and down when one enters or departs the mattress but it is hardly noticeable because of the extra fiber raft buoyancy.  A really gross weight difference is easily solved by using dual mattresses.  Dual mattresses, two half mattresses side by side, allow each person to sleep on their own mattress in the same bed.  It's like two beds in one.

Age differences-The need for more body support and comfortable cradling increases with age.  Our bones and body tissues become more tender especially in the restful state.  In our youth almost any mattress softer than the floor was comfortable and we could fairly easily "get used" to it.  This obviously changes as we age for the reasons mentioned above.  Rarely does this become an issue because both folks are chronologically aging at the same rate and the compromise is simple that one person is more comfortable than necessary; not to tough to take!  However, unfortunately sometimes illness or injury will cause a person's body to effectively "age" faster than their partner.  Again, fortunately a dual mattress system can easily solve this issue.

Temperature preference issues-  Usually simply doubling or tripling the thickness of the mattress pad under the partner requiring less heat will solve the issue.  This separates or insulates the person from the more direct warmth of the mattress.  If this doesn't do the trick, then again the dual mattresses with dual heaters will easily solve the problem.

So what's the bottom line?

My advise would be to clearly think about your personal situation and your personal needs for comfort before deciding which mattress is right for you.  If you are a couple frankly discuss your personal needs and potential differences / disagreements to discover whether compromises are acceptable to both parties or is the dual mattress the most comfortable solution.  We more or less spend a third of our life in bed and this is where our greatest quality of life determinations are made; arguably more important or at least as important as exercise programs.  More and more recent studies are coming out on the increased importance of a good night's sleep. When the body is comfortable more time is allowed for the brain to do it's other important rejuvenating functions.  The investment in an excellent sleeping system far outlasts and outperforms the investment in $150 running shoes or $40,000 car!  Think in the long term investment cycle.  An extra $100 now is only an extra $10 a year over ten years.  So the bottom line is, invest now in the best mattress support system that you can afford using the criteria mentioned above and it will pay you back with a great future lifestyle that you will never regret for less than the cost of a cup of coffee per day!

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor; simply an acute, objective observer of over thirty years of thousands upon thousands of customer's personal behavior and discussions related to their individual sleep issues.  In quite a few cases being able to follow many individual's personal issues for the thirty years or so.  I know of no reported scientific studies that have dealt with the statistics that have been accidentally presented to me.  Hopefully, the above discussion and recommendations have been helpful in your decision making process.  I welcome your comments, personal experiences, suggestions, criticisms and questions.  Please do not hesitate to email me at Awesome Waterbeds or call 1-888-288-4523, ask for Henry.

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