Can sleeping on an air mattress hurt your back?

If you regularly suffer with back pain or back stiffness, you may be wondering whether sleeping on an air mattress will make your bad back worse, or whether it might give just the relief you are looking for.

In this blog post we’ll look at the pros and cons of sleeping on an air mattress when it comes to your back comfort, and what you can do to make it better for your back.

Can sleeping on an air mattress hurt your back?

Having a bad back can make life very difficult. Your back is the foundation for your body, and when it hurts, everything else suffers as well.

The main cause of a bad back resulting from an air mattress is poor sleeping posture. Back pain is much less likely if you invest in a good quality air bed with modern features such as multi-pocket support and automatic inflation. As long as your air mattress provides proper body support, you shouldn’t experience any back pain from sleeping on it.

Causes of back pain linked to air mattresses:

Spine misalignment – bed too soft

The most common cause of back pain in relation to an air mattress is spine misalignment during sleep.

If your mattress does not give sufficient support for your back and your body ‘sags’ into your mattress then your spine will not be sufficiently supported and be out of alignment during the night.

You may also find that your muscles in your back become stiff overnight or even go into spasm, due to having to support your body while you are sleeping. Muscle tension is one of the main causes of back pain, so it’s a very important factor when considering the type of bed to use.

This can happen with an air mattress if it doesn’t give you proper support, in the same way that a memory foam mattress may be too soft for your body.

See also: Does a memory foam mattress cause back pain?

You may also like: Are waterbeds good for your back?

Spine misalignment – mattress too firm

Alternatively, you may find that a mattress which is too firm pushes against your pressure points and prevents your spine from moving into its natural ‘neutral’ position. This can also contribute to back pain by not giving your muscles the chance to be flexible during sleep.

Read also: Can you over inflate an air mattress?

Deflation in the night

Gradual deflation of an air mattress in the night can lead to poor sleeping posture and strained muscles as well as back pain. A good air mattress will be much less likely to deflate over night, meaning that your spine will stay in a neutral and confortable position. If you choose one with a secondary pump that automatically adjusts the air inside during the night then you will avoid being woken up when the mattress deflates.

Bad back from air mattress – the wrong type of air bed!

Traditionally, air mattresses have been made with a single air chamber and with notoriously leaky seams and valves. This meant that the level of support they offered was poor, often leading to a bad back in the morning.

However, you are now able to purchase a variety of modern style air mattresses with differing levels of support and much better quality. You are now far less likely to wake up to find that your air bed has ‘sunk’ in the night after some of the air has leaked.

Is an air mattress too soft for your back?

It is unusual to find that an air mattress is too firm, but some people do find that an air mattress is too ‘soft’ for their preference and can be uncomfortable for their backs.

However, there is a difference between having an air mattress that is ‘firm’ and one which is ‘supportive’. You can definitely enjoy the feeling of a beautifully soft, cradling air mattress whilst still benefitting from sufficient support.

Getting the mattress pressure right is important. Make sure to fill the air mattress to the point that it is firm but still compresses slightly when you push down on it with your hand. You shouldn’t find yourself sinking down into the floor when you get on the bed, but you should find that your body is naturally ‘cradled’ by the mattress.

You may also be interested in our post on can you sleep on a mattress topper on the floor.

Is an air mattress good for your back?

In fact, air mattresses are often seen as the best air mattresses for bad backs because they give you great support all round, giving your spine a rest from excess strain while supporting your back in the perfect position.

Variable firmness

One of the main benefits of an air mattress when it comes to your back is that it can be adjusted in firmness quickly and easily simply by adding or removing air to suit your taste.

Read also: What are the benefits of sleeping on a firm mattress?

Good level of support

A good quality inflatable mattress will actually offer a good level of support. Use a medium firm mattress to provide the perfect sleeping surface to prevent back pain.


Many people find an air mattress to be much more comfortable than a regular bed, as it offers a slightly sinking, plush and ‘cloud-like’ surface for sleeping. Add a mattress topper to an air bed and the comfort levels are increased even more.

Tips for sleeping on an air mattress to make it better for your back

As with anything involving your back and your mattress, air or otherwise, make sure you check with your doctor before making any changes to the way you sleep .

Once you have consulted your doctor it is worth looking out for air mattresses that are made of high grade material.

To ensure you get the best air mattress to suit your back it can be advisable to go for air mattress brands that have been specially designed with bad backs in mind.

There are air mattresses available with separate coils which adapt to your body weight, providing superiour support for your back.

If it is not possible for you to purchase one of these then air mattresses with automatic air pumps can help take some pressure off your back while you sleep by automatically keeping the bed at the optimal inflation level.

If you are going to use your air mattress regularly, invest in a decent mattress topper to make the bed more comfortable. Combining an air bed with a memory foam mattress topper is a popular choice for people who suffer with back pain.

You may also be interested in our post on Tips For Sleeping On An Air Mattress.

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

If you get a good night’s sleep on an air mattress then there is absolutely nothing wrong with sleeping on it every night. If you are going to use an air bed regularly, invest in a good one with extra durability and separate air chambers. A comfortable air bed, filled with a firm but not ‘tight’ air pressure, can be suitable for sleeping on every night.

However, using an air mattress long term is not usually recommended, even if your mattress gives you adequate support. This is simply because air mattresses are not designed to be as durable as other mattresses over time. If you know you like the feel of an air mattress and find it extremely comfortable, try to find a similar firmness in a foam mattress, or even try a water bed!

Are air mattresses good for bad backs?

If you suffer from back pain then an air mattresses can be good for your back. The level of firmness is adjustable to suit your preference, and there is no doubt that a good quality air bed can provide a very relaxing sleeping surface.

The right air mattress can relieve pressure on your back by allowing your spine to adopt a natural position during sleep. With the mattress inflated to medium firm this will provide better support than some traditional beds.

Air mattresses can also be great for side sleepers as they allow for the hip bone to dip into the mattress and prevent too much pressure on the joints.

When air mattresses are combined with mattress toppers, air beds can feel even more luxurious and comfortable while still supporting your back.

An air mattress is good for bad backs if it provides enough support while being adjustable. Look out for an air mattress with separate coils and air chambers, and a self-inflating automatic pump system.

Conclusion: Can sleeping on an air mattress hurt your back?

Sleeping on air mattresses can be a great way to alleviate back pain for those who suffer from it. However, air beds with separate air chambers and self-inflating automatic pumps are the best type of air mattress for bad backs because they give you firm support while still being comfortable enough to sleep in each night. If your doctor approves of air mattresses as an option, investing in one is worth considering!

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