The history of waterbeds

Published 2018-11-25
People fell hard for waterbeds when the aqua-filled bedding was introduced half a century ago, but waterbed sales have tanked since their high-point in the 1980s, when about one in every five beds sold in America was a waterbed. Luke Burbank interviews Charlie Hall, the original's inventor, who has introduced a "new and improved" version of the water-filled mattress, the Afloat.

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All Comments (21)
  • Karla Orosco
    I had a waterbed in the 1980’s with the mattress exterior. I loved it as a teenager. We had a few big earthquakes and I would wake up riding a big wave.
  • Sarah S
    I had an 80s water bed. I noticed it was getting cold at night and my mom said we needed a new heating pad/element so we drained it and discovered a black burn mark in the wood and the waterbed plastic had also melted a bit. My mom completely freaked out and that was the end of that! But it was nice as I recall other than the heating element failure at the end.
  • Noa Arianna
    Every 2000s kid dreamed of having a water bed
  • Thurnis Haley
    I've tried Afloat and it's definitely a massive improvement for those who don't like the sensation of the waves. I personally like that sensation and have gotten used to it long, long ago.
  • ky sputnik
    When I was young I use to go to bed on a normal bed and wake up on a water bed
  • gage4g
    I will never forget my first waterbed. I eventually moved up to one with a mirrored canopy. With drawers under it.
  • Jael Jade
    My family joined the craze in the 80's. All six of us had our own. I still miss it. It was super comfy and warm. I'd say the only drawback to a water bed is the weight. If you rent you can probably forget it.
  • Blank41
    Growing up in the 90's EVERYONE had water beds, it's been so long now I forget about how it even felt to have one but I also cant count how many disasters we had with popped water beds.
  • Rex Hargrove
    I had a waterbed in my guest bedroom back in the early 90’s. It was Full flotation and my kids LOVED jumping on it and rolling around. It was hilarious. I never slept on it (it was a gift) but our guests got a real kick out of it (holy crap I sound old).
  • Chris Cornelius
    I had a water bed. It was comfortable and very warm, due to the heater. Mine moved alot, while my parents had a non moving one. Both were extremely comfortable.
  • David Bartosic
    I still have a California king (I'm 65) and absolutely love it. When we moved 21 years ago I bought a new bed frame and a waveless water mattress that I've had ever since. The heater died twice early on so I just bought a big piece of 1-inch thick carpet padding that goes under the mattress pad and sheets. Problem solved; bed not too hot, not too cold. Like others here, I'd never give it up.
  • Joshua
    I slept on a waterbed for a few years back in 2005 when I moved into my uncle's house when I was still in school. I wasn't a big fan. Everyone has different sleeping preferences and the waterbed just didn't do it for me. It felt cold and uncomfortable. I now use a sleep number and am perfectly happy with it.
  • Bruce Rosenblum
    I had one in Florida and it was the most fun and the best night sleep I ever had. The bed wore out the baffles and I couldn’t find another water bed anywhere in the North East, so that’s it for my water bed. I would love to have one again.
  • 765respect
    Back in the 70's I bought my waterbed for $19.99. It came with a frame and yellow sheets from India. The frame was pine so it bowed out after about 6 months. I painted little panel scenes on the frame. I had purple fake fur bedspread, mirrored contact paper on the walls, black lights and 30+ LPs. My brothers and sister loved to jump on the bed and sleep with me. Life of a teenage girl.
  • Terry Rodbourn
    I had one just after college. working my first job! Loved it in snowy country that gets cold during winter! That old house had wooden floors and was made to last! I was 21 and having fun an loved it especially in winter cold times When I joined the Army I was punished when I put a foam mattress cover onto the barracks bed!
  • Mair
    We had a waterbed for years .loved it especially in the winter with the heater.
  • SteveS us
    I’ve had four waterbeds – and nothing else since 1976. I did buy a memory foam mattress, but – I hated it. My body can’t really sleep on a conventional mattress because I no longer know to toss and turn at night to relieve pressure points. As a consequence, I would awake with pains or numbness because I didn’t move at night. So, I can’t sleep on anything else except a waterbed. I usually sleep in the same position all through the night. Note. In 42 years, people go through more than 4 beds in life. Waterbeds last a lot longer than spring/foam mattresses. Also, there’s the benefits of heated water.
  • TubeDupe
    The thing with water beds in environments colder than Florida or Southern California in the summer is: you have to heat up the water, or else you'll freeze all night because it's you warming up all that water in your sleep. And this means that prior to sleeping, a lot of water needs to be heated up. And this means that you're spending a whole lot of electricity because you're warming up a giant bladder of water all day.
  • Working Towards
    I had a king size waterbed all through high school in the early 90s. Dont ever let the heat element go out on them. You wake up frozen cold in the morning. Not cool. My mom hated the thing. She couldn't wait for me to go off to college so she could get rid of it.