An air mattress, also known as an airbed, is an inflatable mattress, the majority of which are usually made of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), although recently developed textile-reinforced urethane plastic or rubber versions exist. The deflated mattress can be rolled up or folded and carried or stored relatively easily, making them a popular choice for camping trips and for temporary bedding at home for guests. They are inflated either orally by blowing into a valve, or with a manual foot-powered or more commonly inflated via an electric pump. Some are even automatically inflating (up to a certain pressure—some additional inflation is also needed) just by opening the valve.
The three main categories for use of air mattresses are camping, temporary home use (guests) and full-time permanent use (in the bedroom). Some air mattresses are specifically designed to perform both functions (camping and guest use) while others are specifically designed for one purpose alone (permanent use in the home or RV). Other air mattresses are designed in shapes with wheel well cutouts specifically intended for use in vehicles such as pickup trucks or SUVs.
Lightweight, reduced-size and reduced-thickness air mattresses specifically intended for camping and backpacking are sometimes called sleeping pads, especially when a layer of foam insulation is added under the air chambers. Better quality air chambers, that are designed for permanent use in the home, are constructed of vulcanized rubber, covered in canvas or of polyurethane. These chamber(s) are then installed into a cloth shell or tick(ing). Permanent air beds will look almost like conventional beds with the exception of having a hose (one air chamber) or hoses (two air chambers) coming out of the head of the bed. These hoses will be connected to an air inflation device, with two outlet valves, that will have a remote control(s) so that each person can adjust the firmness of his or her side to his/her own exact needs. The firmness can be adjusted up or down, with the simple push of a button, on the remote(s).
A USA government safety agency has warned against letting infants sleep on air mattresses, because they can be too soft and suffocate smaller children (especially those below the age of 8 months) within folds or while entrapped between the mattress and the bed base. Additionally there have been several recent[when?][where?] governmental studies and regulations enacted due to the poisonous nature of the phthalate plasticizers contained within most PVC vinyl air beds and other soft vinyl products. The European Union has made similar efforts to prevent the use of vinyl materials in toys and bedding.
Larger, more elaborate air mattresses ("air beds" in the US, all air mattresses are known as this elsewhere) have come on the market in recent years that are intended for guest use or as permanent beds in the bedroom. Bed sizes for temporary air beds range from twin to king size, but few guest bed manufacturers offer king size as most guest air beds are sold outside the United States where king-size mattresses are not standard. Most permanent air beds use easy-to-find conventional sheets and bedding. California King (or Western King) sheets and bedding may be more difficult to find as this size was originally conceived for the waterbed industry.
Raised guest or temporary beds are typically raised off the ground to keep users away from the floor and offer a more traditional mattress experience. Though 'raised' air beds are off the ground, they are not designed for full-time use, as the base of the bed is an air chamber and not a solid foundation.
Air mattresses can also improve the quality of life (and potentially provide some measure of relief) for people who suffer with back pain. Having the ability to adjust the firmness of a mattress to accommodate different body shapes, sizes, and weights, can be a factor in the healing process. Air mattresses are sometimes used to protect bedridden people from pressure sores, which can create life-threatening ulcers. Additionally, air mattresses manufactured without the use of materials that may release VOCs or other toxic compounds from the manufacturing process (which can exacerbate allergies in children or other sensitive individuals) are available.
As a water toy
The term air mattress may also refer to a certain inflatable swimming pool or beach toy, which has an air-sac "pillow" and several (usually four or five) tubes running its length. Also called a "lilo" (UK, AUS), "pool air mat", "air mat", "pool lounge", or "float(ing) mat(tress)", it is used to recline on the water surface. The lilo was invented by Frank Masterson in 1961. Although it bears some resemblance to an air mattress, it is typically not built as strongly and may not reliably stay inflated all night long, making it impractical for use as a bed.
Permanent use adjustable-firmness "airbeds" became popular particularly after market leader Select Comfort began a major marketing campaign around 2001. The original airbed was manufactured by Comfortaire in 1981, which was later purchased by Select Comfort. Other manufacturers include Boyd Specialty, InnoMax, and American National.
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