To The Worn Out Shopper: Adjustable Air Vs. Memory Foam Mattress

It’s quite possible you have the perfect mattress and love everything about it. But what are the odds you’re in the middle of a month long internet review battle trying to decide which new mattress is right for you?

Luckily for you, we’ve already done the research. I’m here to give you the quick rundown of the difference between two of the most popular types of beds: the adjustable air mattress (aka the Sleep Number) vs. the memory foam mattress.

Contender 1 – The Memory Foam Mattress

Generally speaking, there are different types of memory foam and many more that fall into the family. We’ll be speaking about the overall concept of memory foam mattresses. For the sake of conversation, keep brands like Tempur-pedic in mind.

Pros and Cons


  • Can be extremely affordable
  • Pressure-point pain is alleviated and spinal alignment is maintained
  • Motion transference is negligible
  • High durability
  • Low maintenance, easy setup


  • Can be a higher investment
  • May sag overtime
  • Isn’t self adjusting
  • Runs warm
  • Not ideal for stomach sleepers or those with limited range of motion

How Does it Feel

Memory foam conforms for pressure relief and stiffer foams are typically used as a foundation under it for support and to keep the spine inline.
If you or your partner are likely to move a lot or get out of bed frequently during the night, motion transfer is of very little concern.

Lastly, with so many new companies popping up, several cutting out the middleman, it is easy to find affordable options within a range of products.

The Benefits

Memory foam is everywhere, originally associated with NASA, it can now be found anywhere from footwear to your car. Chances are you’ve come across it even if it doesn’t ring a bell.

This material isn’t going to spring back into shape after pressure is applied. It has a sinking quality that molds to the shape of your body. Body heat and weight allows you to sink into this bed.

The Setbacks

While the memory foam option does give you a variety of choices to choose from, what you take home is what you’ll be sleeping on for an average of seven years.

Think of it as providing you with an intense level of consistency. But you may want to read our memory foam buyers guide before you decide on which one to bring home for a long term commitment.

If you have trouble with mobility, the sinking effect of the mattress may make it more difficult to roll over or pop up out of bed easily.

Sagging overtime is one of the main complaints of this type of bed. It requires replacing every 7 to 10 years or when you’re just not sleeping well anymore.

Memory foam may not be for you if you tend to run high in body heat. We’ve come along way in thermal technology, so there are options to help this possible problem, but it isn’t a cure all and some just may not be be able to cool down and sleep comfortably.

Stomach sleepers may find foam mattresses less comfortable than other options, However, with pillows specifically designed for stomach sleepers, your desired sleep position does not have to be a deal breaker for the mattress you are otherwise sold on.

Contender 2 – The Adjustable Air Mattress

This mattress is made up of many moving parts and pieces, a mix of coils, material blends, and of course the air chambers. Atop of all those coils, air chambers and pumps, sits a mattress pad created of several types of material quilted together.

Keep in mind the main brand of The Sleep Number Bed when we refer to the adjustable air.

The Pros and Cons


  • Easily adjustable
  • Little sagging over time
  • With proper maintenance high durability
  • Low temperature
  • Ideal for all position sleepers


  • Higher investment
  • Setup is complex
  • Few purchase options
  • Maintenance required
  • Mold growth is highly possible

How Does it Feel

This mattress will allow you the option of either one or two air chambers, for just you or for each partner. You both have separate firmness settings with easy to use programmed remotes.

The Benefits

The biggest benefit the air mattress boasts is the ability to adjust individual settings according to your needs that night. Want the bed firmer, softer? You can change it every night, or even throughout the night.

Because the bed is adjustable, sagging is of little concern. Also, the air inside the air chambers dictates the temperature of the mattress, warm-sleepers don’t need to fret over being too hot.

This mattress style is adjustable to all position sleepers.

There is a sliding range of warranty options that assist you with the upkeep required. The more you pay the higher your warranty guarantee. The newer your bed, the less you pay out of pocket for service calls and repairs.

The Setbacks

Reviews conflict on how long these beds actually last for, because it’s made of so many moving parts wear and tear is bound to happen. Upkeep and maintenance are an important part of longevity.

The warranties do offer discounts on service calls and replacement parts, the warranties work on a sliding scale – the more you pay the higher your coverage and as your mattress ages, your warranty coverage decreases.

Aside from upkeep, another disturbing setback is mold growth is very possible within the air chambers that can affect sleeper’s health.

The assembly is done at home and is time consuming.

Customer feedback suggests the pumps are noisy and you may hear them in the middle of the night as the chambers adjust to keep your settings.

What if you and your partner have drastically different firmness settings? Or settings to one extreme or the other that would conflict with the bed structure? Some reviews suggest the bed can create the “trench effect” that can be very uncomfortable.

This mattress is a higher investment over other options. There aren’t many options or brands to choose from, the reigning champ is still Sleep Number.

Other issues have cropped up that may be a hassle: everything from setup, to wear and tear, repairs, and returns.

Adjustable Air Vs. Memory Foam Mattress Comparison Table

Air Adjustable Bed Memory Foam Mattress
Maintenance/Durability Requires ongoing servicing Replace every 7-10 years
Temperature Temperature of air inside Runs warm
Sleep Position All Not for stomach sleepers
Motion Transfer Little Little
Flexibility/Bed Settings Adjustable per partner Responds to body heat & weight
Sagging Little Over time
Assembly Time consuming None
Warranties Range of options Average 10 years
Noise Consistent None
Price Higher investment Many options
Pressure Points/Align Adjustable Pressure points alleviated; alignment maintained

So Which One?

No mattress is perfect, but some definitely outshine others. It really comes down to your priorities and what stands out most to you.

Memory foam is so simple and easy once you find the right one. The material blends are almost endless and technology has advanced so far it can overcome many of the setbacks it’s known for.

On the other hand, an adjustable air mattress is quite alluring with the flexibility in personalized settings each sleeper.