Adjustable Bed Guide: Combining Luxury and Versatility

Adjustable Bed Overview

Adjustable beds are distinguished by their ability to bend and elevate into a variety of positions. Originally developed for hospitals, adjustable beds have long since evolved to bring their lavish benefits into the private home. Today, adjustable beds are available with a wide variety of mattress types, making them a potential enhancement to nearly any style of bed with few, if any, drawbacks.

Historically, adjustable beds have been most prevalent among those with back problems or other ailments, such as leg or feet swelling. However, they are now becoming increasingly popular with anyone that enjoys spending “awake time” in their bedrooms (e.g., reading or watching TV). For those with back pain, the choice of an adjustable bed is typically one of personal preference, rather than medical necessity. Many back pain sufferers simply find it more comfortable to sleep in a more upright position (e.g., semi-Fowler position) with their knees slightly elevated, which tends to reduce stress on the lower back. As a general rule, if you are having trouble sleeping on a conventional flat bed, and find it more comfortable to sleep in a reclining chair or other more upright position, then you may want to consider an adjustable bed. On the “flip” side, side and stomach sleepers will generally prefer a conventional flat bed to an adjustable bed.

Adjustable Bed Construction

Adjustable beds, also known as “electric beds” or sometimes “hospital beds,” are comprised of two key components: the frame (sometimes referred to as the “base”) and the mattress. With adjustable beds, the frame and mattress are often purchased separately, and thus can be thought of as two distinct purchase decisions.

Adjustable Bed Frames

The movement of an adjustable bed is controlled entirely by its frame. When flat, an adjustable bed generally looks like any other bed. But when “articulated” (i.e., bent), an adjustable bed can take on many different positions. An adjustable bed with “two-point articulation” is one that folds in two separate places, dividing the bed into 3 sections — head, foot and middle — each of which can be elevated and/or angled to achieve the desired position. One with a “split” design, also known as “dual adjustment,” allows for independent adjustment of each side of the bed. Some beds are only split on the top half, providing a blend of individual comfort and intimacy. Higher-quality adjustable beds are typically electric, operated through a handheld remote control unit, however it is also possible to purchase a base that is manually adjustable. Be aware that most adjustable bed frames will require some assembly once you get them into your home.

Today’s adjustable frames offer a variety of additional options for those seeking a more luxurious experience. Higher-end models often tout “whisper quiet” motors (most pertinent with split beds, so as not to awaken your partner with your late-night adjustments), and may even come with a back-up power supply or other fail-safe way to get the bed back to a flat position in the event of a power failure. Likewise, fancier remote controls tend to be cordless, and often feature lighted keypads and programmable settings. “Wall-hugger” models are designed to keep you conveniently aligned with your bedside tables even as you change positions, by shifting the bed backward toward the wall as the head is elevated. Some adjustable beds are even available with massage and/or heating capabilities. Still others offer storage areas underneath the bed. Aesthetically, adjustable bed frames are increasingly being made to look like conventional beds, and in many cases can be attractive and stylish in their own right. That said, certain adjustable bed frames will also work with your existing headboard, footboard and/or side rails. Adjustable beds are generally made in standard sizes (e.g., King, Queen, Full, Twin, etc.), however those featuring dual adjustment will require special sheets sized for a King Split or Queen Split design.

Adjustable Bed Mattresses

While the frame provides an adjustable bed with its unique features, its mattress is typically still the larger determinant of overall comfort, support and durability. Adjustable beds generally require special mattresses built to handle their characteristic flexing motion. Fortunately, adjustable bed mattresses are commonly available in a wide variety of styles, including innerspring, memory foam, latex, and air, as well as various combinations thereof. Please refer to our respective mattress guides for tips on how to evaluate and choose between each of these various bed types.

It is worth adding that in some cases (particularly with memory foam and latex mattresses), you may be able to use a standard mattress model on an adjustable bed. We recommend you check with the manufacturer in advance, to ensure that the use of an adjustable base will not void the warranty or adversely impact the long-term performance of the mattress.