Let me just say that I have had a waterbed for more than 25 years and I dread travelling because I know my chances of having one to sleep on are slim to none. I personally have problems with both my knees and my back, so strange beds are no fun. (There have been occasions where I woke up after sleeping in a hotel bed in worse pain than when I went to bed - sometimes I can't even get to sleep - some vacation!)
Don't get me wrong, there are both benefits and risks to having a waterbed, but for me the benefits far outweigh the risks.
• If you have dust or dust mite allergies - a water bed is perfect. The surface is easy to keep clean and is inpenetrable to dust and dust mites. (This can benefit asthma sufferers also.)
• Waterbeds provide gentle, all over support letting a person relax resulting in less movement during the night, fewer awakenings and longer periods of undisturbed rest which add up to a more restful nights sleep. The even distribution of body weight helps prevent bedsores and puts less stress on the body - perfect for some one who is recovering from surgery, burns or an illness.
• Waterbeds come with heaters which can be set to any temperature you want for complete comfort. In hot weather you can set the temperature a couple of degrees cooler and in the winter turn up the heat, it is better and less expensive than an electric blanket.
• Because a water bed does not sag or distort, you NEVER have to turn the mattress.
The combination of heat and even support make waterbeds excellent choices for people who have arthritis, backaches, insomnia, any type of joint problem, pregnant women and premature infants (many hospitals put them on a heated water-filled pad).
• Motion sickness - only if you are already prone to motion sickness and get a "full motion" bed. If you do have problems with motion sickness, get a bed that is 75% or 95% motion-free or wave-free.
• Leaks - possible but not likely with normal use. The mattresses are a very heavy gauge vinyl with heavy seam welds. The actual mattress lays inside a waterproof liner, so if it does leak the water isn't going far. Plus, normally your bedding is on top of the mattress providing an extra layer of protection for the mattress.
(I have had both cats and dogs that slept on my bed without any problems. The ONLY time they made a leak was ONE time when I was changing the sheets. The mattress was uncovered and one of our cats came in and jumped on the bed. Since there was no bedding, the cat SLIPPED on the vinyl surface and extended his claws to "save" himself. Out of 4 paws full of claws, we only got 3 small pin holes which were quickly fixed with the repair kit that came with the bed. )
• Never place an infant face down to sleep on ANY bed - not even a waterbed. Babies die on both types of beds when this occurs.
- Fire hazard - water beds do have heaters. The heater goes on the bottom and the mattress goes on top. The ONLY reported fires have been when someone places a sheet between the mattress and the heater.
As you can see, the risks are very few and easily controlable. The benefits are extensive and well documented. The earliest known waterbed was 3,000 years ago in Persia where sun-warmed goat skin waterbags were used.