Are Adjustable Beds More Comfortable?

Today’s sleek remote-controlled adjustable bases are more stylish than the ones you may remember from late-night infomercials. Here's how they could lift you to a great night’s sleep.

Couple in adjustable bed reading together
Mattress Firm

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You may have experienced restless nights — tossing and turning for hours — when no sleep position feels comfortable enough. Waking up in the middle of the night with pins and needles in your arms and legs is a common complaint. If you’re searching for that elusive comfort that allows you to fall asleep easier and stay asleep, an adjustable bed might be the perfect solution.

No longer just for grandparents or the injured, adjustable beds and adjustable bases are earning their rightful place in the homes of anyone seeking style and extra comfort.

“Sleeping on a flat mattress is like using a flip phone — finding a whole new way to sleep with an adjustable base is life-changing,” says Stephen Ferguson, Sleep Expert at Mattress Firm. “The ability to take pressure off our lower back provides the ultimate support by lifting your legs up to relieve tension off your spine.”

Below is everything you need to know about adjustable beds, how they work, and how they can make it easier to get a restful night’s sleep.

The Basics of Adjustable Bases and Mattresses

Let’s get a few facts straight before we dive into the details of adjustable beds.

An adjustable bed is simple: It’s a motorized base that changes the position of the head and/or foot area of a bed to customize your sleeping position for ergonomic support.

Adjustable beds are referred to by several terms that all mean the same thing. Adjustable base, adjustable frame, adjustable mattress, and adjustable bed are all names for the motorized base that allows your mattress head and foot area to raise and lower for blissful sleep.

Most are operated with a remote control, however some companies make bases that can be adjusted via a mobile app.

Some adjustable bases come with extra features like USB charging ports, massage functions, and even sleep tracking.

Whether the bed is controlled via remote or mobile app, most come with a single-push lay-flat button and options to program your favorite position.

For couples who don’t agree on which sleeping position is the most comfortable, some adjustable bases come in a split version. This allows each person to customize a position separately from the other side. A split adjustable bed is excellent for nights when one partner is awake reading, while the other is fast asleep.

Can Any Mattress Go on an Adjustable Base?

Most any mattress can be used on an adjustable base! Some companies sell an adjustable base and mattress coupled together for convenience, however if you already have a mattress you like, you can purchase an adjustable frame that will work with it to get all the benefits of sleeping on an adjustable bed. The notable exceptions are verticoil or Bonnell coil systems, which won’t bend and flex to be compatible with an adjustable base.

Adjustable bed base with wooden frame
Paul McGeiver

Do Doctors Recommend Adjustable Beds?

“It really depends on the individual and their specific needs,” says Dr. W. Chris Winter, author of “The Sleep Solution: Why Your Sleep is Broken and How to Fix It” and renowned sleep specialist. “When we talk about beds, I always bring the idea up.”

Winter points out that adjustable bases don’t seem to have any drawbacks or contraindications. He reports that adjustable beds make it “totally decadent to read a page-turner and drink a latte in bed, while cradled in a Zero-G bedframe.”

9 Benefits of Adjustable Bases

According to Winter, there are numerous benefits of sleeping in an adjustable bed:

  1. For individuals who snore or who have sleep apnea, a more inclined position can be beneficial and in some cases curative. Some higher-end adjustable bases can even monitor breathing and adjust to alleviate snoring. 
  2. For individuals with heartburn, a bed that inclines can prevent reflux at night and improve sleep quality.  
  3. A reclined posture can be orthopedically more favorable to people with a variety of conditions. Shoulder injuries (e.g. rotator cuff, frozen shoulder, etc.) and those recovering from related surgeries tend to be much more comfortable in a reclined position.  
  4. For people who work in bed (“I'll refrain from passing judgment,” he interjects), an adjustable base can create less back pain and neck strain.  
  5. The elevation of the legs is equally beneficial.  
  6. Elevating the legs is a great way to reduce swelling, in general. It's a great way to recover after a long run. For individuals with edema or venous insufficiency, it can be very important to elevate the legs.  
  7. Elevating the legs can also be helpful for some people with Restless Legs Syndrome.  
  8. Elevating your legs also takes pressure off the lumbar spine and can improve back pain/sciatica in some cases.  
  9. Adjustable bases can help some individuals get out of bed easier. 

Is It Worth It to Buy an Adjustable Base?

“I can’t recall a patient investing in an adjustable bed who later reported that it didn't help in some way, says Winter. “I’ve also never heard of anyone ever returning one because they weren’t satisfied.”

Let’s face it: We spend a lot of time in bed. Getting quality, restorative sleep is one of the best things we can do to care for our bodies and minds. Investing in an adjustable bed is a simple way to make sure you’re giving yourself the best sleep environment possible.

An adjustable bed lets you customize sleep positions, and, as Winter mentioned, it’s great for lounging in bed with a good book or a binge-worthy show while relaxing in a comfortable position instead of stacking up a tower of pillows.

More good news is that adjustable beds come in a wide range of budgets with tons of options to fit exactly what you’re looking for. A universal base will work with any brand of mattress, and most include a range of features. If you have a favorite sleep position, look for a base with a programmable memory option to save that position. From there, you can upgrade to models equipped with options like additional memory settings, massage functions and under-bed LED lighting. Some even come with sleep-tracking.

What's the Best Position to Sleep in an Adjustable Base Bed?

The best sleep position in an adjustable bed depends on what you find the most comfortable! Those with sleep apnea may benefit from raising the head area of bed. This allows the airway to remain open and puts less pressure on the throat and lungs. Snorers benefit in the same way. An elevated head is likely to optimize airflow and reduce snoring.

Another popular position with an adjustable bed is the zero-gravity position. With the head and feet sections of the bed slightly raised, sleepers get the feeling of being weightless.

Are Adjustable Bases Bad/Good for your Mattress?

Most every quality mattress is compatible with an adjustable frame, and the movement of the base should not have an impact on the lifespan of your mattress. Encased coil mattresses, which have individually wrapped coils or pocket coils, are designed to work well with adjustable beds. Most memory foam, latex, hybrid mattresses, and some innerspring mattresses will easily conform to the customized shape you choose with your adjustable bed. If you are not sure about the compatibility of your mattress, check your warranty or ask at the store!

Man and woman in an adjustable bed with a remote
Paul McGeiver

Are Adjustable Beds More Comfortable?

For many sleepers, an adjustable bed could be the missing component that leads to getting a great night’s sleep. Those who suffer from back pain or sleep apnea, or who wake up feeling sore from sleeping in the wrong position are likely to benefit from an adjustable bed.

We’ve all read the studies that say we should be reserving our bed for sleeping only, but in reality, tons of us perfectly arrange a stack of pillows for a TV binge session or to disappear into that great novel.

An adjustable bed is also great for pregnancy. Finding a comfortable position to sleep in while pregnant can be very difficult. With an elevated head position, an adjustable bed is great for managing nighttime issues with allergies, and acid reflux or heartburn. Elevating the foot area assists in resting swollen legs and feet and promotes restorative circulation. The zero-gravity position also lessens pressure on the spine, which can be a welcomed relief during pregnancy.

Breakfast in bed is also taken to a whole new level of luxury with an adjustable frame. An elevated head area means you’re much less likely to wind up with coffee-stained sheets!

The Best Sheets for Adjustable Beds

“When your bed can move up and down, you really want to make sure your sheets can move freely and won’t come off,” says Ferguson. “The absolute best sheets in the industry for any adjustable bed are made by SHEEX — they have the most advanced stretching, moisture-wicking, and cooling material that feels like luxurious athleisure wear.“

According to Ferguson, because they stretch so much and have a thick and strong elastic band under neath the fitted sheet, the SHEEX sheets never come off.

“For a traditional and natural luxurious sheet set that is sure to stay on and work on any adjustable sleep set, I also recommend 100% natural Tencel sheets with precession fit corners from Purecare,” Ferguson says. “These sheets naturally temperature regulate and are cooler than your finest cotton or bamboo sheets for hot sleepers looking to avoid night sweats.”

Can Adjustable Beds Hurt Your Back?

Unlikely. While it may take some trial and error to find the perfect position of your customizable adjustable bed, one of the benefits of sleeping on an adjustable bed is taking pressure off the spine. It can also improve blood circulation which benefits the whole circulatory system while asleep, including the back. Say goodbye to waking up with a numb arm or leg!

The best adjustable bed position for back pain will depend on your personal preferences but try out the zero-gravity position, which elevates the head and feet for optimal pressure relief. Most adjustable-bed remote controls or apps have a button dedicated to the zero-g position.

Are Adjustable Bases Good for Side Sleepers?

Absolutely! Side sleepers are in the category of those who are most likely to benefit from sleeping on an adjustable base. While side sleeping is often noted as one of the healthiest sleep positions, it does add a pressure point on the shoulder area and hips. Side sleepers can raise the leg portion of an adjustable bed to relieve some of this pressure.

How Long Do Adjustable Beds Last?

Common warranties on adjustable beds range from one to five years, though it's worth investing in extended and umbrella warranty coverage, which can last a decade or longer. Regardless, it’s likely you'll need to replace your mattress before you’d need to get a new adjustable bed frame. Bases can often be repaired whether in or out of warranty, meaning you'll be enjoying your favorite, perfectly suited sleep position for years to come.

Find out more about Adjustable Beds and Bases.

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