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Sleep Number is the best known, but Comfortaire gets stronger ratings

The most well known such mattress is the Sleep Number bed from Select Comfort. Its major selling point is the customizable firmness that can be set between 0 and 100 using an automated pump. Firmness can also be adjusted for each side of the bed, making it popular with couples that prefer different levels of comfort and body support. According to the website SleepLikeTheDead.com, owners find this bed "better than average" for reducing pain and improving restful sleep. Pregnant women especially appreciate the adjustable firmness, which makes the bed easier to move on and get out of.

However, the Sleep Number bed is one of the most polarizing mattresses reviewed on the site; editors say most owners either "highly approve" or "highly disapprove" of it. Those who dislike the mattress complain that the bed slopes either up or down in the middle between the two air chambers, making it uncomfortable and unsuitable for sex. Another common problem is air leaks, which can make the mattress less supportive and actually increase pain during sleep. Users find that the supposedly "whisper quiet" pump is so loud that they can't use it without waking their partners. And at $1,000 to $3,900 for a queen set, many consider it a poor value.

We found better ratings overall for air mattresses from Comfortaire, a brand that's less widely available than Sleep Number and isn't covered in most customer-satisfaction surveys. However, it's the highest-rated brand among air mattresses and one of the top-rated brands among all mattresses at SleepLikeTheDead.com.

Comfortaire beds have only 65 firmness settings, but owners are just as satisfied with their comfort level and ability to ease pain. In addition, they say Comfortaire doesn't have as big a problem with sloping in the middle. The brand gets better marks for customer service than Select Comfort, with a longer trial period and a better warranty. The weakest point of the Comfortaire mattress is the air pump, which is also noisy and subject to mechanical problems. Mattresses are also a bigger investment, with prices ranging from $1,100 up to $9,000 for a queen set. Even so, owners are more likely to rate them a good value than Sleep Number mattresses.

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