With the holidays on the horizon, it's time to get guest-ready. That means testing out that old air mattress — and maybe finding a new one.
Although you might wish that you had a real bed set up for guests, David K. Randall, author of the book "Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep," says studies show that any bed that's not our primary bed will impair our sleep. "A harder mattress or a pillow that's either too fluffy or not fluffy enough can be just enough of a difference that the body and brain can't fully relax and go into deep sleep," he explains. That said, there's got to be a way to provide guests with a good night's sleep — even without a cushy guest suite.
We asked experts to pick the best air mattresses and to share tips on how to make the best inflatable beds even better. No matter the situation, there's good news: "Entertaining someone in your home is a labor of love," says Bailey McCarthy, founder of the Houston-based bedding line Biscuit Home, "and when executed correctly, can be one of the most selfless ways to give to others."
"I stand by the double-height pillow-top AeroBed," says D.C. interior designer Annie Elliott ($249.99 for queen, bedbathandbeyond.com). "It's easier for adult guests to get in and out of." No matter which air mattress you choose, though, Elliott recommends keeping a roll of duct tape on hand — "just in case!"
When Cameron Martindell, an avid camper and test director and editor for the Gear Institute, wants to make more room for visitors, he puts up tents in his back yard. "We have enough yard and tents and other sleeping pads to put people out in a little glamping setup in the yard," he says. But for colder weather, the Colorado-based freelance adventure writer turns to the Double High Raised Twin Air Mattress by Embark ($35.99 for twin, $45.99 for queen, target.com) for indoor guests. He makes sure to layer a blanket between the mattress and bedding for added warmth.
Biscuit Home, a Houston bedding retailer, has a team of people who obsess over what makes a comfortable bed. Production assistant Molly McConn raves about the SoundAsleep Dream Series Air Mattress ($119.95 for queen, amazon.com). She says it has hosted countless guests over several years. To make this and any other air mattress comfy, McCarthy, who was featured as a "Next Wave" designer by House Beautiful, suggests adding a mattress cover, plus a fluffy, ironed duvet and Euro shams "to emit the real-bed feel that many hosts hope to provide."
Joe Auer, founder of mattress-review site Mattress Clarity, says that "air mattresses aren't known for being comfortable, but a few mattresses are designed to make them as comfortable as possible." He likes some of the new mattresses that have a memory foam layer, naming the Memory Aire 18-inch air bed ($169 for queen, walmart.com). It is "something I've slept on with good success," he says.
California-based Frank Apodaca, senior editor for the Sleep Judge website, has tested 15 to 20 of the more popular air mattresses and says that the Insta-bed brand ranks among the best. Their beds have "a very quiet secondary pump that will kick in if the air mattress starts to deflate from its set point throughout the night," he says. For house guests, he'd use the EZ Bed Queen with NeverFlat Pump ($399.95, instabed.com).