The Evolution and Anatomy of Waterbed Mattresses

April 3, 2019
In the Bedroom

Waterbed Mattresses Have Come a Long Way

The first waterbeds were all alike, with a water-filled bladder place inside of a wooden support frame and the beds were wavy gravy and free-flowing. It was just one big open chamber of water that swished and swayed every time you moved. The evolution of waterbed mattresses has changed the game so you now have several different mattresses to choose from and some are completely motionless.

The Evolution and Anatomy of Waterbed Mattresses

There are many choices today in waterbed mattresses. They contain different materials in them for different amounts of support and motion control. You can now choose a waterbed mattress in luxury materials for softness yet all of the support you need and desire for your all-around comfort.

Waterbed Mattress History

Waterbed mattresses hit the consumer market in the late 60’s and early 70’s after which they were at a peak popularity throughout the rest of the mid 1980’s. Waterbeds have always had their advantages over the traditional mattresses and box springs of pressure relief that is obtained from the liquid that is surrounded by a flexible vinyl bladder that is equal or better than most other materials that distribute pressure. Some misinformation and outdated information can prevent you from purchasing a waterbed mattress–unless you realize how very different they have become.

The original waterbeds are now called hard side waterbeds. It consists of a simple vinyl bladder that is filled with water and put inside a hard, wooden frame with a pedestal underneath it for support. Hard side waterbed mattresses could not be used with a traditional bed frame, because they needed a special enclosure and support the bladder and protect it from unnecessary stress. The bladder was free flowing and the motion of the waves were the standard back in the day making them become an icon of “cool” among a growing group of supporters.

Benefits of Sleeping on Water

Many people had the misconception that sleeping on the waves of water was beneficial for their sleep. The general benefits of sleeping on water includes great pressure relief, the ability to add or reduce the amount of water for your preference, the ability to warm the water to make the mattress therapeutic and the ease of cleaning a waterbed mattress and preventing unwanted visitors, such as dust mites from creating a home in your mattress. The disadvantages were the possibility of a leak and the full motion which can be disturbing to some as well as the heating source overheating or breaking down, the weight of the entire bed, the maintenance and water conditioning requirements, custom bedding and the difficulty and time in draining a waterbed to move it. These are the reasons why the peak of popularity eventually declined.

What Changes were Made to Overcome the Disadvantages?

Waterbed manufacturers soon realized that their products were declining in popularity and they made many changes to overcome the disadvantages of the traditional waterbed mattresses. The soft side waterbed mattress was the next major change in the traditional hard side mattresses. The soft side designs use less water than traditional types and they also fit inside a regular bed frame and use regular bed sheets and bedding. This enables you to just buy the mattress and not have to buy other specialty items to use it. The soft side mattress is lighter and uses different foam encasements with a mattress ticking so that it resembles a traditional mattress.

The addition of different types of internal fibers or baffle systems with different layering configurations and chambers which allowed mattresses to be made completely waveless, semi waveless or remain as a full wave motion for those who like it that way. This internal system also makes a person who is lighter have less motion from a sleeping partner that is heavier, as was the case with the traditional waterbed mattress. Some have thicker padded comfort layers that don’t require heaters and heaters were upgraded in others so that they performed better for added benefits. Further refinements were made in the flexibility of the bladder material and the development of more hinged and flexible encasements made of foam in combination with firmer materials to increase the overall flexibility of the top sleeping surface and to give it better contouring ability. Construction methods and seams also improved which make leakage and failure far less likely.

Waterbeds for Spinal Alignment

There has never been a debate in the area that a waterbed relieves pressure points, however, the other thing any mattress needs to do to be comfortable  is to have spinal alignment. With a waterbed, for every part of you that sinks in, another part of your body will raise a little until all the forces are equal and in balance. Larger sized waterbeds will lift the higher parts up less than a smaller waterbed with a smaller surface area. Therefore, size makes a difference here in the terms of the waterbed surface and the surface area of different parts of your body.

What is the Anatomy of Current Waterbed Mattresses?

When shopping for a waterbed mattress today, you will find that you have many choices from which to choose. The various types include materials to slow motion and increase full body support. These types of dual purpose materials may go by the following names: baffles, foam, coils or layers of fiber. The more of each material that is used inside of the vinyl bag, the quicker the motion subsequently stops. The materials are strategically placed within the bladder to offer additional support. Modern waterbed mattresses can be constructed of one of these materials or a combination of them. The materials range greatly from spun polyester fiber batting that is Thermal Bonded, Heat-Sealed or Glazine Finished. although these have a tendency to break down quickly when in contact with water. Resin bonded batting is a better performer with a longer life when exposed to water.

What are The Types of Internal Baffles?

Many names are used to describe the internal baffles of a waterbed mattress, such as Vinyl Baffles, Pod Baffles and Hydraulic Pod Baffles. They are all basically the same thing as chambers that are constructed in different shapes and all are to slow the mattress motion. Baffles are an older design that you will not likely see in a showroom today, as there have been upgrades in this area also.

Most often polyurethane foam is used for the most motion control, however it does tend to be the least durable when exposed to water. Plastic coils attached to a plastic sheet, which appear like a six-pack of soda, is another way to control motion. The coils are sandwiched between layers of fiber for additional comfort and better durability over other designs and is especially good in the instance than a couple co-sleeping together is heavier.

Some fiber layers can contain reinforcements that act like the rebar does in concrete. The difference is that this material is constructed of a plastic mesh that is similar to a potato or onion bag, but it is bigger and heavier. The mesh is woven into the fiber to offer additional strength and durability for a long-term product as it reduces the nesting affect. Now you are armed with all of the information on traditional waterbed mattresses and the newer versions so you can make an informed decision on which will be the best for you and your particular sleeping situation.