What does an air mattress do?

Air mattresses can range in their capabilities. You can find standard models that will provide a basic level of comfort, but you can also find yourself a really high-spec air mattress that offers different air pressures and movements throughout the mattress.

Air mattresses vary a lot in what they offer, but what exactly is it that they do?

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The Problem

Air mattresses are primarily used to prevent pressure injuries from occurring.

Pressure is a big concern in all areas of healthcare, but particularly with elderly people who spend a lot of time sat or laid down. These kinds of pressure injuries are called decubitus ulcers.

Pressure ulcers and sores are caused when the skin and underlying tissues are starved of oxygen. Especially with boney parts of our body (elbows, the posterior, heels, and even the back of the head), it’s easier for blood flow to decrease to those areas when we’re in the same position for several hours every day.

When the blood flow decreases, less oxygen reaches our skin cells. This means that the skin cells begin to die and pressure sores form in their place.

How do air mattresses help?

Air mattresses help to prevent this from ever occurring in the first place. They are often referred to as anti-decubitus mattresses.

By using different motions and patterns, the air actually stops pressure build-ups from happening. Consequently, this slows down any pressure injuries taking hold and promotes better circulation in vulnerable areas of the body.

Air mattresses can provide pressure relief or pressure redistribution.

Who is most at risk of a pressure ulcer?

People who are bedbound, or spend a lot of time sat down and are unable to adjust their positioning are most at risk of developing pressure injuries. Additionally, elderly people are at risk because their skin is more fragile, and can break down faster.

Pressure Relief

Pressure relief in air mattresses specifically targets high-pressure parts of the body and reduces the amount of pressure in those sections. For example, you may find that someone feels a lot of pressure on their shoulder blades, calves, and elbows when laid in bed; the air mattress can be configured to have less air (and therefore less pressure) in sections where the shoulder blades, calves, and elbows lay.

Anti-decubitus mattresses that deliver excellent pressure relief often contain foam as well. This gives the user more flexibility and comfort when using the mattress for a long time.

The Somlent Serene is a great example of this, offering both comfort and pressure relief.

Pressure Redistribution

This is a slightly different method used in some air mattresses, by which the user’s body weight is redistributed over a wider surface area. This helps to decrease the chance of pressure ulcers forming on boney, rigid parts of the body.

Air mattresses mould to the person’s body shape and the air cells in areas with more pressure are deflated to reduce the chance of injury over a prolonged time. One of the best methods of pressure redistribution is low-pressure therapy.

This means that the mattress has constantly low air pressure circulating throughout, which spreads the person’s body weight. The Somlent Genius mattress utilises low-pressure therapy and is incredibly comfy.


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Graeme Wilson

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