5 Things to Know About Adjustable Beds

Americans seem to be chronically sleep-deprived, with more than 20 percent reporting getting less than six hours of shut-eye a night. But there is hope: an adjustable bed might be just the ticket to your best night’s sleep!
Donna Boyle Schwartz Avatar

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Experts agree that a good night’s sleep is essential for overall health and wellbeing, as well as contributing to a better attention span, assisting focus and concentration, benefiting heart-health and even helping you maintain a healthy weight. Yet multiple studies show that most Americans are falling short of the seven to nine hours of nightly sleep medical professionals recommend. The solution may be in changing your sleep environment, and one of the biggest and most significant changes you can make is purchasing a new adjustable bed.

Consumer versions of adjustable beds are adapted from the models hospitals and healthcare facilities have used for decades to provide support, comfort and healing sleep to patients and older people. Now commercially available, adjustable beds are becoming increasingly popular. Adjustable beds can help promote better circulation, reduce lower back pain, improve breathing and may promote better digestion and reduce acid reflux. But there are some specific considerations that you should take into account before purchasing an adjustable bed. Here are five things to know about adjustable beds:

1. They work with just about any modern mattress.

Adjustable beds are similar to conventional beds in that they consist of two main components: an adjustable base, which takes the place of a fixed foundation, and a mattress. Adjustable beds do not require a separate box spring. Most of today’s popular mattress choices can be used on an adjustable base; however, certain types of mattresses lend themselves better to adjustability.

The extremely popular memory foam mattresses work very well with adjustable bed frames, as do latex foam mattresses. Foam mattresses offer a combination of support and comfort, and are more bendable than conventional innerspring mattresses, which make them very well-suited to use with an adjustable base. Most innerspring mattresses are too stiff to be used with adjustable bases, although some hybrid mattresses, which combine an innerspring layer with a foam layer, work well as adjustable beds.

An important consideration in purchasing an adjustable bed is whether you want your bed to have a split-top construction, which allows each side to be adjusted independently to accommodate partners’ different sleeping preferences and positions. A split top adjustable bed will require two separate mattresses, which also will require separate fitted sheets.

Another point to consider when purchasing a mattress for an adjustable bed is that thicker is not always better: adjustable bases typically work best with mattresses that are 10 to 12 inches thick, which provides optimal comfort and support while still enabling the mattress to bend properly, Aside from the thickness, mattresses used for adjustable beds are the same dimensions as standard mattresses.

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2. They can help reduce chronic back pain.

One of the biggest reasons to consider an adjustable bed is to reduce back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, up to 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some time in their lives, and one-half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year, accounting for more than 264 million lost work days annually.

Because adjustable beds allow users to customize their sleeping positions, they can help alleviate pressure and pain throughout the body. Sleeping with the back elevated and the knees supported—also known as the “zero gravity position”—can minimize the compression on the joints and spine, reducing back pain and allowing users to get a better night’s sleep. Most adjustable beds allow users to raise and lower the head and foot sections of the bed separately; some adjustable beds also have a separate adjustment for the lumbar region. Adjustable beds also can help alleviate pain in the neck and shoulders.


3. They help to reduce snoring and sleep apnea.

Snoring is one of the most common sleep disorders affecting adults, with an estimated 30 to 40 percent of adults reporting problems with snoring. Snoring also can be a symptom of a much more serious sleep disorder, sleep apnea, a condition where the sleeper may actually repeatedly stop breathing temporarily throughout the night. Sleep apnea affects an estimated 20 to 40 percent of people who snore, and has been related to a higher risk of hypertension, strokes, and heart attacks.

An adjustable bed can help reduce snoring and sleep apnea by positioning the head, neck, and back to allow more air to flow through the nasal passages and throat. Elevating your head a few inches reduces pressure on the throat, and helps alleviate blockages in the airways, which in turn, reduces snoring and sleep apnea. Adjustable beds also can make it easier to use corrective medical devices that are often prescribed to treat sleep apnea and excessive snoring. Known as continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines, these devices work best when the head is slightly elevated.

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4. They help to improve digestion.

Many people tend to eat a late dinner and go right to bed, which is not exactly a recipe for a good night’s sleep. Health experts say that lying flat can actually hinder digestion and the body’s ability to process food properly. Lying flat also can exacerbate heartburn, acid reflux and other symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, a digestive disorder caused by the weakening of the muscle between your esophagus and your stomach that allows food and stomach acid to flow back up into your esophagus. According to some estimates, more than 60 million American adults have heartburn at least once a month, and an estimated 15 million adults report suffering from heartburn every day; heartburn is an especially common complaint among pregnant women.

Many health professionals recommend elevating the head six inches to alleviate the symptoms of GERD, acid reflux, and heartburn. Elevating the head with an adjustable bed takes pressure off the digestive tract and can help prevent the contents of the stomach from “backing up” into the esophagus.


5. They can help to reduce swelling.

Many people suffer from poor circulation and experience fluid retention in the legs, ankles, and feet. The problem is especially acute for people who work on their feet for long periods of time, as well as in many pregnant women and in people who suffer from the degenerative disease ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.) Lying flat can allow fluids and blood to pool and concentrate in the lower body, leading to swelling, inflammation, varicose veins, and pain. Elevating the legs to at or above the level of your heart with an adjustable bed can help alleviate this swelling and promote better circulation in the extremities by taking the pressure off of your legs and promoting better blood flow.

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