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How Do Adjustable Beds Work?

How Do Adjustable Beds Work?

Mattress Accessories
Read Time: 6 minutes
  • The basic mechanics of an adjustable bed involve understanding its main components, including the sleep surface and joints, which are powered by electric motors to adjust the bed into various positions.
  • Adjustable beds offer various health benefits, such as aiding in conditions like acid reflux, sleep apnea, poor circulation, swollen feet, and lower back pain. Elevating specific sections of the bed can help alleviate these issues and improve overall sleep quality.
  • Additional features available in some adjustable beds, such as full-body massage settings, USB ports, and zero-gravity presets, offer added convenience and comfort for users. Selecting a compatible mattress, such as memory foam, latex, or hybrid mattresses, is essential to ensure optimal functionality and longevity of the adjustable bed.

Adjustable beds give you the ability to adjust the head and foot of your bed—this is especially helpful for sleepers with injuries or certain health issues. These beds can elevate and recline thanks to their design and mechanical components. Knowing how an adjustable bed works helps you make full use of it, so let’s take a closer look at the technical side.

The Basic Mechanics of an Adjustable Bed

Adjustable beds have two main parts: the sleep surface and the joints. The sleep surface is the level top where you put your mattress. The joints are what adjusts the bed.

The sleep surface is divided into three sections: the head, the middle, and the foot. These sections each have joints that move the head and foot of the bed. Elevating or lowering these sections help you find the best sleeping position.

The joints rotate a certain amount to adjust the bed into the position you want. The joints are powered by electric motors located under the bed. These motors are what make the soft hum you hear as your bed moves.

How to Control an Adjustable Bed

The remote control makes moving your adjustable bed easy. The remote is often wireless, but many older models have a cord attaching it to the bed. The face of the controller usually has pictures telling you which button elevates or lowers each section of the bed. When not adjusted, the frame lays flat like every other bed. Some remotes have preset buttons which automatically adjust the bed to a specific position.

Why Choose an Adjustable Bed?

Adjustable beds help sleepers with limited mobility get in and out of bed. They can also help with acid reflux, sleep apnea, poor circulation, swollen feet, and lower back pain. Let’s take a closer look at why adjustable beds help with these conditions:

  • Acid reflux happens when stomach acid enters your esophagus. There’s a door of muscle between the esophagus and stomach; when the muscles tighten, the door closes. These muscles often relax when you are asleep, opening the door and letting stomach acid into your esophagus. An adjustable bed elevates your head, keeping the stomach acid down and out of your throat.
  • Sleep apnea is a condition where your breathing starts and stops while you sleep. This happens when the throat and tongue muscles relax and block the airways. Elevating your head with your adjustable bed pulls the relaxed tissue away from the opening of your windpipe, clearing the airways.
  • Slightly elevating your legs improves circulation. Also, if your feet tend to swell, elevating the foot of your bed helps reduce this swelling. Adjustable beds make elevating your feet at night easy and comfortable.
  • Back pain is often the result of poor sleep posture. While you sleep, your body should be in a neutral position, which means your neck, spine, and hips are all aligned and free of pressure points. Adjustable beds make it much easier to elevate the legs during sleep and find a comfortable neutral position so you can have deep, pain-free sleep. You can also safely sleep on your side on an adjustable bed to reduce back pain and spinal misalignment.

Special Adjustable Bed Features

Many adjustable beds do more than elevate and recline. Now you can buy adjustable beds with convenient features like massage settings, USB ports, and zero-gravity presets. If any of these sound like a good fit for you, be sure to read the product description of the adjustable bed you’re considering and see what features it has.


Full Body Massage

Adjustable beds with the massage feature use vibrations to relax your muscles. You can choose what part of your body to massage and how intense of a massage you’d like. This is a great way to soothe your body and calm your mind before bed.

Some sleepers may do fine without massagers, but people with chronic pain may benefit from it along with the reduced pressure an adjustable bed offers. Older individuals may also want to seek an adjustable bed for seniors with a massage feature.

USB Ports

Many adjustable beds have USB ports built into the side of the head of the bed. This makes charging your phone and other electronics at night much easier. Gone are the days of trying to charge all your devices on one outlet!

Zero-gravity Preset

The zero-gravity position is a healthy way to sleep that relieves pressure points. It’s called zero-gravity because you feel weightless in this position. Many adjustable bed remotes have a zero-gravity preset, so all you need to do is press a button and the bed automatically puts your body in this healthy position.

Best Mattresses for Adjustable Beds

An adjustable bed frame requires a mattress flexible enough to lay evenly on the bed frame both when it’s flat and elevated. Many innerspring mattresses aren’t flexible enough and the coils may break with the constant bending of the adjustable frame. While innerspring mattresses are not a good choice for adjustable beds, here are three types of mattresses that are:

Memory Foam Mattress

Memory foam mattresses are very flexible and conform both to the shape of the bed and your body, giving you great support while you sleep. They also relieve pressure points and help your body achieve a neutral sleeping position. Memory foam mattresses regain their shape easily and don’t bend or crease after holding the same position for extended periods of time.

Latex Mattresses

Latex mattresses are quite flexible and bend with the adjustable frame while molding to the shape of the sleeper’s body. These mattresses are also good at relieving pressure points. They are not as flexible as memory foam mattresses, so we’d recommend buying a thin latex mattress for adjustable bed frames.

Hybrid Mattresses

Soft layers of foam and flexible metal coils individually wrapped in fabric make hybrid mattresses a good fit for adjustable bases. Their coils are very flexible and adjust to the position of the bed frame without risk of bending or breaking, while the foam provides a comfort layer that contributes to the overall support of the mattress.

Hybrids should not be confused with innerspring mattresses. Hybrids have layers of coils and foam and each coal is individually wrapped. The majority of innerspring mattresses are mostly coils with a layer of foam on the top for comfort. They are usually much stiffer than hybrid mattresses.


Do you need special sheets for adjustable beds?

Standard top sheets work fine, but you need special fitted sheets for adjustable beds. The corner pockets on most fitted sheets aren’t deep enough to stay on the mattress as the base goes up and down. Extra deep corner pockets secure the sheet to the adjustable bed.

Adjustable bed sheet fasteners are another option. These are two elastic strips with locking mechanisms on both ends. To use, fasten one end to a corner of the fitted sheet and run it diagonally to the mattress’ opposite corner. Do the same with the second elastic strip on the other two corners.

What is a split adjustable base?

A split adjustable bed base is two smaller adjustable bases set side by side. This kind of base allows two sleepers to adjust their own side of the bed any way they want. Two twin XL mattresses are a perfect fit for a split king adjustable base. For smaller bedrooms, a split queen adjustable bed is an excellent space-saving option.

Do adjustable beds ruin mattresses?

Not if you have the right kind of mattress. Memory foam, thin latex, and hybrid mattresses are flexible and durable enough to bend for long periods of time. And they conform to the sleeper’s body, offering both comfort and support. An innerspring mattress is too stiff and won’t last long on an adjustable bed frame. Therefore, be sure to use a matress compatible with an adjustable bed.

How do adjustable beds work with bed frames?

A queen adjustable bed fits inside a queen bed frame, and so on and so forth. You can use your existing bed frame for your adjustable bed if you can remove the supportive slats or board. Once you remove these, place your adjustable bed inside the frame and you’re ready to go! You can also attach a headboard directly to an adjustable bed frame.

How long do adjustable beds last?

How long adjustable beds last depends on their quality. On average, the mattress lasts 7-10 years, the frame 10-15, and the motorized parts 5-10. It’s important to have the right kind of mattress for an adjustable frame. Memory foam, thin latex, and hybrid mattresses are all compatible options.

Increase Your Comfort with an Adjustable Bed

Adjustable bed frames improve sleep quality by giving the sleeper more control over their position—this makes getting comfortable and relaxing at night much easier! They are also great for sleepers who need extra help getting in and out of bed. Remote controls make the whole experience even more convenient by giving you the power to relax in bed while adjusting the frame. While these beds cost more than an average frame, the convenience and health benefits make them a worthwhile investment.

Dorothy Chambers is our in-house sleep expert and a firm believer in the benefits of a daytime nap. With a background in psychology, Dorothy is fully aware of the impact sleep has on our brain, mood, and overall well-being. In an effort to help readers lead happier, more productive, and healthier lives, Dorothy spends her time researching the best sleep habits to help you fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up feeling rested.

Dorothy Chambers spent years studying clinical psychology before joining us to promote a deeper understanding of sleep, along with some cursory research into biology and physiology. She’s particularly interested in the effects that different sleep positions have on the body. Later on in her career, she plans on pursuing a doctorate degree in behavioral sleep medicine.

Dorothy wakes up at 7 a.m. every day after a full night’s rest to better tackle a full day of work. After a session of morning exercise, she catches up on the latest sleep news and research before writing. She’s a fan of watching academic lectures, listening to scientific podcasts, and testing new sleep theories firsthand. Dorothy Chambers has written dozens of articles in her tenure with Sleep Junkie.

Her work has been featured on Home & Gardens, House Beautiful, Real Simple, Apartment Therapy, CNBC, Bustle, Yahoo! Finance, Fox 17, and even AARP.org.

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