The Definitive Guide to Adjustable Bases
When it comes to sleep comfort, adjustable bases have changed the game, letting you raise and lower your head and feet until you find the perfect angle. And they're not just good for sleeping—reading, watching TV, and working on your laptop all get easier (even if we don't encourage using screens in the bedroom!).
Also known as power beds or power bases, these products derived from the equipment used in hospitals, but they have evolved far beyond their medical origins. Adjustable bases are now one of the hottest bedroom products for people of all ages. Sales jumped 200% from 2011 to 2015, according to the International Sleep Products Association, and have only picked up since.
“They provide comfort and variability that can enhance both your sleep and awake activities in bed," says Terry Cralle, RN, certified clinical sleep educator and Saatva sleep consultant. If you're thinking about investing in an adjustable base, here's what you need to know.
What is an adjustable base?
An adjustable base is a foundation for your mattress that allows you to raise your head and/or feet in order to create different resting positions. The head generally rises to a maximum of 58 to 80 degrees, and the feet (for units that adjust both) 30 to 45 degrees, depending on the model. A remote control allows you to change settings with the touch of a button.
For an adjustable base to work, you'll need a compatible mattress—that is, one that flexes. That includes virtually all foam mattresses, says Keith Cushner, of the sleep website tuck.com. Many of today's innerspring mattresses are also designed to accommodate adjustable bases. Always check both the mattress and adjustable base specs to make sure they are compatible—or simplify matters by buying both from the same company.
Adjustable bases are generally designed to fit inside an open bed frame or can function as a freestanding platform bed with the attachment of a headboard and/or footboard. They are available in any standard bed size from twin to king, though kings are generally configured with two twin XL bases and mattresses, which gives each partner the ability to control their own bed position independently (the units can be set up to move separately or in sync).
What features should you look for in an adjustable base?
Adjustable bases come with an impressive array of features. Here are some of the top ones to look for:
- Memory presets: Return to your favorite positions with one touch of the remote.
- Wall-hugging operation: As the head rises, the bed slides toward the wall behind you, so you stay in easy reach of your nightstand and lamps.
- Under-bed lighting: LED night lights illuminate your walk to the bathroom from an angle that won't affect your sleeping spouse.
- Snore button: If your partner is snoring, press this button and raise his head a tiny bit to silence the din without waking him up.
- Massage: Most adjustable bases offer massage, which in this case is really more like a gentle vibration of your upper body, your lower body, or both, generally at your choice of three speeds.
- One-touch return-to-flat: Press one button and your bed goes totally flat and shuts off the massage.
- Timer: If you like to fall asleep in front of the television, you probably set its timer to shut off after you're dozing. This does the same for your adjustable bed, automatically returning to flat (or to another preset sleep position) after a set amount of time.
- App/voice control: In addition to the bed's remote control, some adjustable bases are operable from a smart-screen app, or even by a voice-activated device, such as the Amazon Echo.
- Silent alarm: Rather than an audible wake-up alarm that the whole family will hear, the bed gently shakes you awake.
- Lock button: Turn off the bed when not in use if you have young children.
See What Saatva's Adjustable Base Can Do for You
The benefits of sleeping on an adjustable base
There are lots of reasons why you'd want to choose an adjustable base over another type of support for your mattress. Here are some of the biggest benefits of sleeping on an adjustable base:
- Adjustable bases offer back pain relief. Lying flat on your back increases low-back stress and can lead to back pain. Raising your upper and lower body can help you find a neutral sleep position that eases the tension and minimizes pain. (Learn how to protect your back while you sleep.)
- Adjustable bases help prevent acid reflux and snoring. Two big sleep disruptors for many people are snoring and acid reflux. Raising your head can help mitigate both of these conditions while you sleep.
- Adjustable bases soothe sore muscles. The massage setting on an adjustable base is just the thing to relax your muscles, a feature that can be especially useful after an intense workout when muscle recovery is key. (Here's what to look for in a mattress if you lead an active lifestyle.)
- Adjustable bases allow you to do more than just sleep on your bed. Whether you want to watch TV, read, or work, using an adjustable base gives you the flexibility to find your ideal position for various activities. (A bookcase bed frame also makes it easy to read from bed. Check out our bookcase bed guide to see if this type of bed frame is right for you.)
The drawbacks of sleeping on an adjustable base
For all of its advantages, an adjustable may not be right for you if:
- You're on a tight budget. Adjustable bases are expensive—they typically range in price from $1,000 to $3,500.
- You don't want to deal with a heavy piece of furniture. Adjustable bases are heavy (usually in the range of 150-200 pounds), so you'll want to have yours delivered and set up professionally, says Michael Magnuson of GoodBed.com, an independent mattress shopping guide. or have a crew of handy, able-bodied helpers on scene to do the job.
- You're easily disturbed by noise. “The motors can be a bit noisy, especially in massage mode," says Magnuson. “It's a good idea to put an adjustable bed on a carpet so you don't disturb the kids in the next room or the neighbors in the apartment downstairs."
Who an adjustable base is ideal for
Any activity that currently requires propping yourself up on a stack of pillows or a wedge will become easier and more comfortable with an adjustable base. This includes reading a book, surfing on a tablet, emailing on a laptop, breastfeeding, and watching television.
Adjustable bases also get “two thumbs up" from Cralle for improving sleep. “Lying flat isn't always comfortable," she says. “And it's amazing to have options. You can put your feet up after a day when you did a long run or your head up if you're feeling congested."
Back sleepers often enjoy the almost zero gravity feeling of putting both the head and feet up slightly, she says. Inclining the head can relieve acid reflux and even quiet snoring.
The fine print
If you've made it this far, we know you're serious about your adjustable base purchase. In addition to the features it offers, there's one more set of important criteria to review: policies around delivery, returns, and warranties. Before you hand over your credit card number, check out our Guide to Fine Print.