Choosing between a full size air mattress or memory foam mattress?

Will your full size air mattress do this?Full size air mattress vs. memory foam mattress comparisons makes your choice easy. Compare mattress prices, durability, comfort, support, and special features for each bed.

Air beds are among the cheapest sleeping alternatives and also the most expensive. They've come a long way from your parents' camping mattress. The most expensive ones are multi-chambered, fully padded, guaranteed for 20 years and are rated near the top in the October 2009 Consumer Reports mattress survey.

Compare Mattress Prices

First, check the mattress size charts to make sure you're comparing similar dimensioned beds.

Air Beds
The only thing cheaper than sleeping on an inexpensive inflatable bed is cozying up to the barn cats in a hayloft. That's why they're so popular with starving students and newlyweds.

The price range for these sleep systems varies more than almost any other type. You can get a full size air bed made by Coleman for under $30. At the highest end is the Select Comfort Adjustable Bed, a full size i8 version could cost you up to $2,600+.

Full size memory foam mattress
Priced from $485 at up past $2,000. You can get a cheap mattress under $485 for a full mattress, but you may not be happy with it.

How Long Will It Last?

Your air mattress might be made of material that will last well into the next millennium. But if it no longer holds air enough to support you, it'll go in the trashcan tomorrow.

Longevity depends on quality, number and weight of sleepers and keeping it away from sharp objects. The good news is that if you buy one of the luxury models, they could last 20 years and more.

Memory Foam
Expect your quality memory foam mattress to last 15 to 20 years.


Air Mattresses
There's a HUGE number of different support designs in air beds. They range from a single huge chamber in the lowest priced ones to multi-chambered engineering marvels that offer numerous adjustment options depending on you or your bed partner's mood.

Memory Foam
Millions of open polyurethane microcells that soften with your body heat provide the support in visco foam mattresses. The memory foam layer is usually about 3" to 4" thick. The further away from your body heat, the harder the foam gets. And an inner core of harder foam supplies more support


A full size air mattress is 54"W x 74"L (W137cm x L191cm) and can vary in height from 6 inches to almost 2 feet tall.

Don't try to sleep two on a full size bed. On a per person basis it gives you barely more room to sleep on than a child's crib. So sleep alone, unless you can't bear not to.

Full Size Air Mattress
All air beds have pumps that allow you to set bed firmness. The more air inside, the harder the mattress is. Putting the bed on a softer setting can lead to you sinking into the center of the mattress.

Sleeping on an air bed feels odd to many people. That's because air mattresses typically have fewer adjustment points to contour to your body. This leads to the 'hammock effect' and pressure point discomfort.

As an extreme example, an inflatable camping mattress will only touch your sleeping body at a few points (head, shoulders, hips and knees) and be straight between those points, just like a hammock.

The hammock effect is almost absent in the most expensive full size air mattresses.

Full Size Memory Foam Mattress
The hammock effect doesn't happen in memory foam mattresses. The tiny microcells adjust to ever curve of your body, almost eliminating pressure points. However, some less expensive memory foam beds get hot. Newer models with moisture wicking fabric covers and 'breathable' top foam layers eliminate this problem.

Special Features and Considerations

Full Size Air Mattress
People with sleep problems should stay away from most air beds. But the higher priced ones (Select Comfort) rate almost as well as Tempurpedic beds in a recent Consumer Reports survey.

Memory Foam
Even microcellular support prevents pressure points that can lead to interrupted sleep. They're better than most full size air mattresses for people with muscle, bone and other health problems requiring maximum relaxation and uninterrupted sleep.


If your cash is limited, your best choice is a full size air mattress. It's better than sleeping right on the floor. In the mid-priced ranges, from $485 to $1,500 the Maniac would definitely choose the memory foam option.

Once you get to the luxury models ($2,000+), the choice is a lot less clear. It may hinge on whether you can smell a slight odor in the memory foam mattress, or if you're worried that your adjustable full size air mattress will let you down if the electricity goes out. Or just flip a coin, either way you'll sleep well.

Full Size Air Mattresses

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