Air Mattress or Sleeper Sofa? Two Experts Weigh In

We’re breaking down the great sleep debate.

In a perfect world, your home would have enough space to allow for a separate room for guests to sleep. But, in reality? Sometimes it's not exactly practical to spend precious square footage on a proper bed—especially if you don't host visitors regularly.

Many small space dwellers reach their hosting dreams and get the best of both worlds with an air mattress or sleeper sofa. And, lo, herein lies the problem: Which one is the better buy?

Couch Sitting in Front of Built-In Bookshelves

With so many factors to consider—price, style, and comfort being just a few—it turns out that the answer isn't as straightforward as you'd think. We interviewed two experts to break down the pros and cons of each. With any luck, you'll have all the information you need to create the downsized guest bedroom of your dreams.

Pros of Sleeper Sofas

Think of a sleeper sofa as the perfect mix of form and function. At first glance, this multi-purpose pick looks like a couch you can kick back and relax on after a long day.

"The sleeper sofa is the best option, especially for smaller places," explains Nora Mitchell, editor in chief of Household Advice. "You can keep it in your living room and use it as your couch. It is also a lot sturdier than an air mattress and can easily be vacuumed to clean it up."

And, when nighttime does roll around, transforming it into a bed is a breeze—especially if you're blessed with a newer model.

"Oftentimes with sleeper sofas, you simply pull out the extended part of the couch, and it instantly turns into a bed," Mitchell adds. "They are also a lot sleeker, and you would never know it was also a bed unless you had it pulled out."

Cons of Sleeper Sofas

But buyer be warned: An older sleeper sofa can be a pain in the neck for your guests—literally.

"Sleep sofas, which are cheaper than other options, often provide too much sinkage or cushiness because of their low-quality material," says Robert Pagano, co-founder of Sleepline. "The only real benefit they have over air mattresses is being able to be folded up when not in use."

Plus, since most models start at a few hundred dollars, a sleeper sofa might hurt your budget.

However, before you swear off sleeper sofas, it's worth noting that this option has received a serious upgrade over the past few years. So, if you want to bring your guest setup to modern times, look for a sleeper sofa designed with your snoozer in mind. (That means no awkward metal bar in the middle of the mattress.)

Pros of Air Mattresses

If you're looking for a space-efficient way for guests to get their snooze on, Pagano is a big proponent of air mattresses.

"As guest rooms are usually for an overnight stay, it is best to have a mattress that can offer both firmness and cushiness," he explains. "Air mattresses are able to easily provide this."

All you have to do is blow up your mattress when needed. (Don't worry—many air mattresses often come with pumps, so you won't have to huff and puff all night long.) And, come morning, you can deflate, roll up, and store your mattress in the closet.

Another thing to love about air mattresses? They're available at a range of prices. So, whether you want to buy a wallet-conscious option or splurge for a top-of-the-line model, you're bound to find one that fits comfortably in your budget.

Cons of Air Mattresses

We hate to burst your bubble, but even the smallest puncture can wreak havoc on your air mattress. "They also slowly leak throughout the night and you end up in the middle of the mattress, almost touching the floor," Mitchell explains.

And, despite the leakage risk, air mattresses aren't universally loved for their comfort.

"Although the air mattress is easy to blow up and deflate, and can be rolled up small and stored, they are never comfortable," Mitchell adds.

Leaks and discomfort aren't ideal, but they don't have to be deal-breakers. You can eliminate the risk by storing your air mattress away from sharp edges. And, if you want some extra cushioning, you can layer it with a mattress pad.

In other words? Instead of writing off an air mattress or a sleeper sofa because of its drawbacks, think about which option best fits your and your home's needs. More times than not, those deal-breakers can be more negotiable than you think.

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