By: Maya Lorimer

May 2, 2020

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What is an Adjustable Bed?

Back when I sold mattresses at a small mom-and-pop store, I’d get a lot of customers who were confused about adjustable beds.

The customers would come in for a mattress but almost never took two significant factors into consideration:

  1. What their mattress would sit on
  2. If they should invest in an adjustable bed

Some background: mattresses were originally placed on boxsprings which were sold by the manufacturer. So, if you bought a Sealy mattress, you bought matching Sealy boxsprings. As the industry grew, people wanted more variety. Boxsprings can be very thick, making your mattress too tall. Plus, they’re an unnecessary expense if you’re just putting the boxsprings down across your platform bed. Finally, boxsprings offer minimal support (we sell foundations now, and they’re much better).

Then there were adjustable beds. For the longest time, adjustable beds were really just meant as hospital beds. Tempur-Pedic was one of the first major companies to change the way customers thought of adjustable beds because they all-foam mattresses were a perfect fit for an adjustable base.

Now, adjustable beds are as much of a luxury item as a medical one. Some of the more premium models contain USB ports for charging your devices and blue-tooth speakers so you can sit upright and watch your bedroom TV like you’re in a movie theater.

In short, there’s a lot of variety and nuance in answering the question, “what is an adjustable bed, and should you get one?

In this article, we’ll answer those questions and more.

What is an Adjustable Bed?

Simply put: an adjustable is a mechanical foundation that sits beneath your mattress, which you can use (via a control) to move your mattress up and down.

Adjustable beds are heavy-duty (and just plain heavy) foundations with motors. Most mattress companies don’t make their own adjustable beds, instead, they buy them from larger furniture suppliers (such as Leggett & Platt) and brand the adjustable with their name.

Some quick facts about adjustable beds:

  • They are a final sale product. Because of their history with being a medical product, almost no company offers returns on an adjustable bed.
  • They come in a wide variety of options. You can get an adjustable bed that just lifts up your head, or a bed that lifts up your head and feet, or a bed that lifts up your head and feet while giving you a massage, or a bed that lifts up your head and feet while giving you a massage and playing music. You get the idea. Sky’s the limit.
  • They work with almost any mattress. Almost is the keyword (don’t come yelling at us if an adjustable bed doesn’t work with yours). But, I’ve seen adjustable beds work on firm mattresses, coil mattresses, memory foam mattresses, thick mattresses, and hybrids. The rule of thumb is this: the harder it is for you to grab of your mattress and bend it, the harder it’ll be for an adjustable to move it up and down.

What are the Benefits of an Adjustable Bed?

There are many benefits to using an Adjustable Bed beneath your mattress. Adjustable beds give you the ability to customize almost every aspect of your sleep experience. This includes everything from adjusting the angle of your head and the position of your feet to getting a massage before going to sleep.

The ability to raise your legs can take the pressure off your lower back. The ability to raise your head can help with snoring, reduce GERD, improve circulation issues, and more.

Along with adjusting the position of your mattress, these beds also provide other features. One high-tech feature is a zero-gravity position option. This moves your body into a weightless state, helping to reduce tension and fatigue while alleviating strain on your lower back and legs.

A high-end adjustable bed offers the following features:

  • Head and Foot Massage: A massage feature that is designed to increase blood circulation and help with muscle tension. It can even be used as an Alarm Clock to wake you up in the morning.
  • Wallhugger® engineering: Stay close to the wall even as your head tilts up and down. This ensures you always remain next to your bedside table at all times.
  • Under-bed lighting: A convenient feature you can turn on and off throughout the night. This way, if you need to wake up in the middle of the night and use the restroom, you can use the under-bed lighting to guide the way, rather than turning on the bedroom lights.

How to Choose the Right Adjustable Base

When choosing the right adjustable base, here are the questions you want to answer:

  • Is my sleeping situation my own or is it shared? Don’t forget an adjustable bed moves your mattress. If you’re sleeping on a queen, there’s really no great way to get around the fact that both sides are going to move when you raise the head or foot. If you sleep on a king mattress, you can buy a split king mattress with an adjustable bed. That means one side of the mattress will move, while the other stays put. But that is a big decision you’ll want to discuss with your partner.
  • What features do I need? Before walking into a salesroom (or going online and from a bed in a box mattress company), make a list of the features you know you want. Is massage important to you, yes or no? Do you want under-bed lighting, yes or not? Your answers may change with the more research you do but it’s good to know as much as you can going into it.
  • Are you purchasing the adjustable bed due to medical reasons? It’s never easy (in fact it’s usually big headache) but if you’re buying an adjustable bed at the request of your doctor, you can submit the purchase to your insurance and pick up your adjustable base at a medical supply store. Here’s a link on how this process works if you’re on Medicare.
  • Look for the warranty information. Like understanding a mattress warranty, knowing the adjustable bed warranty can save you a lot of future expenses. An adjustable bed warranty should at least be a full warranty for the first year, and cover parts (if not labor) for the first ten years. Adjustable beds are built to last and warranty issues aren’t usually a huge concern (what’s more common is the sick or elderly who are unable to troubleshoot an issue from home) but if you’re considering an adjustable bed with only a 5-year warranty,  be cautious.
  • Will the adjustable bed work with your current sleeping situation? Plenty of my customers chose not to buy an adjustable bed because it wouldn’t work with their custom built bed set. For an adjustable bed to work with your bed set, you need to be able to have the adjustable bed legs touch the ground and have the motor and arms underneath the adjustable base move freely. If your bed set has wooden railings or a wooden lip that can’t be removed, it’s likely an adjustable bed won’t work.

What is the Best Adjustable Bed on the Market?

The best adjustable bed on the market will be the one that does all the things you need, and nothing more.

Adjustable beds can get very, very expensive. You’ll find a high-quality mattress for a $1,000 but adding a premium adjustable bed to your cart can increase your ticket by up to $6,000 or more.

But there’s a huge variety in adjustable bed features. For example, if you don’t want or don’t plan on using the massage feature, you can save a thousand dollars or so.

If you only need to raise your head up, an adjustable bed can even be thrown in free during certain mattress sales.

Is an Adjustable Bed Worth It?

Yes. When all is said and done, if you need (for medical reasons) or want (for lifestyle reasons) an adjustable bed, it’s worth it.

It’s so much easier to work from home, to watch a movie, to eat in bed, with an adjustable bed.

It’s so much easier to take pressure off your lower back, to open your airways and reduce snoring and GERD, with an adjustable bed.

And, unlike mattresses, the best of which still have a shelf life of nearly ten years, adjustable beds can literally last a lifetime.

The question is: how much do you need from and an adjustable bed and how much are you willing to spend?

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