Adjustable beds are distinguished by their ability to bend at two points and support the body in a variety of positions. Originally developed for hospitals, adjustable beds have long since evolved to become a consumer product for those who want to be able to sleep or rest with the upper or lower body elevated. Adjustable beds are available with a wide variety of mattress types, and are becoming known by a variety of other names, including the 'adjustable base,' 'power foundation,' or the 'positional mattress.'
Historically, adjustable bases have been purchased by those with back problems or other conditions, such as leg or feet swelling. But they’re also used by those who spend a significant amount of awake time in their bedrooms, reading or watching TV. Many back pain sufferers 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. Side and stomach sleepers will generally prefer a conventional flat bed to an adjustable bed.
Adjustable beds, also called electric beds or hospital beds, are comprised of two key components: the frame (sometimes referred to as the base) and the mattress. Though not all mattresses are suitable for an adjustable base, the frame and mattress are often purchased separately, and thus can be thought of as two distinct purchase decisions.
The movement of an adjustable bed is controlled by its frame. When flat, an adjustable bed looks like any other bed. But when articulated, an adjustable bed can rest in 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 angled to achieve the desired position. And adjustable base with a split design, or dual adjustment, allows for the 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, though it is also possible to purchase a base that is manually adjustable. Most adjustable bed frames require some assembly in your home.
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. And some may work with your existing headboard and footboard.
Adjustable beds are generally made in standard sizes, however those featuring dual adjustment will require special sheets sized for a King Split or Queen Split design.
While the frame is what gives the adjustable bed its unique features, the mattress you put on it is still an important factor in the bed’s overall comfort, support and durability. Adjustable beds generally require special mattresses designed to handle their characteristic flexing motion. Fortunately, adjustable bed mattresses are available in a wide variety of types, including innerspring, memory foam, latex, and air. [Refer to our Guide to Mattress Types for tips on how to choose which type is the best match for you.]
In some cases (particularly with memory foam and latex mattresses), you may be able to use a standard mattress model on an adjustable bed. Check with the manufacturer to ensure that the use of an adjustable base will not void the warranty or adversely impact the long-term performance of the mattress you’re interested in. Or check the product’s model page on GoodBed.com and look for the note "Works with an adjustable base."
Adjustable bed frames and mattresses can be purchased independently, however they are often sold together as a set. In these cases, the brand often reflects the name of the mattress manufacturer. Although this practice results in adjustable beds being sold under numerous different brands, most higher quality adjustable frames are actually made by a small handful of manufacturers, such as Craftmatic, Electropedic, Ergomotion, Flex-A-Bed, Reverie, and Leggett & Platt. When these products are resold under different brands, they often feature unique designs that distinguish one brand's model from another.