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Adjustable beds explained

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Adjustable beds, also known as electric beds allow you to find the perfect sleeping position through the touch of a button.

An adjustable bed allows you to find a comfortable sleeping position by adjusting the head and foot sections of the bed independently or together. This means you can sit up in bed or elevate your legs to improve circulation.

Adjustable beds were traditionally used in medical settings such as hospitals and care homes to improve patient comfort. However, there is a misconception that adjustable beds are only for older adults or those with mobility issues, which is not the case. Nowadays, adjustable beds come in various styles and designs with features like built-in Bluetooth and massage units to suit any lifestyle. So, whether you enjoy reading, watching TV, or having breakfast in bed, an adjustable bed is an appealing option.

Young couple testing out an adjustable bed in a showroom

Adjustable bed features

Adjustable beds come with various features to enhance the sleeping experience. Some of these features may be optional extras at an additional cost.

Motor

Adjustable beds are fitted with a single or dual motor which affects how much control and flexibility you have over the bed’s positioning.

A single motor powers both the head and foot sections at the same time. This means that as you raise the headrest, the footrest will move simultaneously. While a single motor provides limited functionality, it is generally a more affordable option.

In contrast, a dual motor has two separate motors that control the head and foot sections independently. For example, you can raise the head end while keeping the foot end flat, or vice versa. Dual motors are typically more expensive but give users greater control and flexibility.

The majority of motors for adjustable beds come with a standard one-year guarantee. However, some motors have longer guarantees. These are typically more powerful and designed to lift heavier weights.

Battery backup

Adjustable beds are mains powered. However, during a power outage, most adjustable beds have a battery backup system that provides several hours of functionality.

Massage unit

Certain adjustable beds feature a massage function that uses gentle vibrations to promote relaxation, relieve muscle tension, improve circulation, and alleviate discomfort.

Wall-hugging

A wall hugger feature enables the bed to stay close to the wall when it is raised, providing easier access to bedside tables or other items within reach. This eliminates the need to strain or stretch.

Handrails

Some adjustable beds are equipped with handrails, which offer support and stability. Handrails are particularly beneficial for individuals with mobility issues or those requiring assistance getting in and out of bed.

Memory presets

Adjustable beds often include memory presets, enabling you to save your preferred positions and easily return to them with a simple button press.

USB ports

Some adjustable beds include one or more charging ports allowing you to charge your electronic device while you sleep.

Can you use any mattress with an adjustable bed?

Not all mattresses are suitable for use with adjustable bases. Regular mattresses are not designed to be bent or folded, and doing so can cause permanent damage to their components and void any warranties or guarantees.

To use an adjustable bed properly, you need a flexible mattress that can easily conform to the shape of the base without getting damaged. Memory foam, latex, and pocket springs mattresses are often recommended for use with adjustable beds because they provide comfort, support and flexibility.

However, it’s vital to check with the supplier which models are compatible with an adjustable base. Also, be mindful that most adjustable beds require a mattress that is 200 cm long.

Memory foam

Memory foam was initially created for NASA to cushion astronauts during lift-off. The material was later utilised in healthcare to improve patient comfort. This unique material responds to body shape, weight, and temperature, offering effective pressure relief and comfort. It is important to place a memory foam mattress on slats or a well-ventilated bed base that allows for proper air circulation beneath the mattress.

Latex

Latex is similar to memory foam but quickly responds when pressure is removed, making it easier to turn over and change sleeping positions. The material conforms well to body shape and can help relieve painful pressure points. Natural latex has a pinhole structure, which allows for excellent air circulation, promoting a cooler and more comfortable sleep experience.

Pocket springs

Pocket springs offer a good alternative for those who prefer a traditional sprung mattress over foam. These mattresses consist of smaller, softer springs that conform to body shape, ensuring even distribution of body weight while providing comfort and support.

Adjustable bed styles and designs

Adjustable beds come in two styles; bed frames and divans.

Divan

Divans are a traditional type of bed base that usually come with different storage options to accommodate your bedding and belongings. They are often available in various materials, and you can sometimes combine them with a matching headboard to coordinate the look.

Bed frames

Bed frames come in various styles to suit traditional and modern room settings. They often occupy more space than a divan because the mattress typically sits inside the frame. So keep this in mind when choosing the bed base.

Mattress support

Most adjustable mattresses use sprung slats as the support system. These slats, made from laminated wood, provide a slightly springy feel to the bed. In certain adjustable beds, the tension of the slats can be adjusted in the lumbar region to achieve the desired level of mattress firmness.

What are the pros and cons of adjustable beds?

When considering an adjustable bed, it helps to weigh up the pros and cons to determine whether it’s right for you.

Pros

Better sleep

One of the main benefits of an adjustable bed is that you can adjust the bed to a position that you find comfortable. Finding the ideal position can help alleviate aches, pains and pressure points, resulting in a better night’s sleep.

Unlike a flat sleeping position, an adjustable bed allows you to sleep with your head elevated, promoting improved breathing and increased oxygen flow. This position is especially helpful for addressing concerns like snoring, sleep apnea, shortness of breath, and head stuffiness.

Health benefits

An adjustable bed allows you to elevate your legs, which can improve circulation and reduce swelling. Furthermore, an adjustable bed can also alleviate back pain, improve digestion, and prevent and relieve arthritis. 

Convenience

Adjustable beds are convenient, especially for individuals who spend significant time in bed. These beds can be adjusted to various positions, allowing users to easily find a comfortable position for activities such as watching TV, working on a laptop, or reading. Raising the bed to a comfortable position can help prevent strain on the neck and back.

Independence

Adjustable beds are ideal for individuals with mobility issues. They can be easily operated using a remote control, giving users independence in managing their bed position without relying on others. This promotes a better quality of life by giving individuals more control over their sleep.

Versatility

King-size models and above usually consist of two separate single adjustable beds that are connected. This setup enables each bed to be operated independently, allowing each partner to adjust their side of the bed to their desired position. Furthermore, certain adjustable mattresses are available in different tensions, so that each partner can choose their preferred mattress firmness level on their respective side of the bed.

Cons

Cost

Adjustable beds are generally more expensive than regular beds due to their mechanism and advanced features. You should also factor in the cost of special-size bedding, as standard bedding may not fit properly or stay in place when the bed is adjusted. However, the higher cost should be balanced against the long-term benefits an adjustable bed offers, including better sleep quality, improved circulation, and added convenience.

Maintenance

Regular cleaning and maintenance are crucial for keeping an adjustable bed in proper working order. This is because adjustable beds have multiple moving parts that should function smoothly and quietly. Common issues that may arise include the bed not moving smoothly, a noisy motor, a faulty remote control, or, in more severe cases, a mechanism failure. Therefore, occasional repairs may be required to ensure the bed remains in top working condition.

Limited options

Adjustable beds offer fewer design and material options compared to regular beds, limiting options for shoppers. Another consideration is mattress compatibility, as most adjustable beds require a mattress that is 200 cm long and specifically designed to bend or fold. This means your current mattress is unlikely to be suitable, and you may also need to compromise on your preferred mattress type.

Weight

Adjustable beds are generally large and heavy, making them difficult to move or set up. While certain models may have castors to aid mobility, manoeuvring an adjustable bed still requires physical effort. It is recommended to seek assistance when moving the bed to reduce the risk of injury.

Can you get VAT relief on an electric bed?

Individuals who are chronically sick or disabled may qualify for VAT relief when purchasing an adjustable bed. The individual claiming VAT relief will usually be asked to complete a declaration form to confirm their eligibility.

It is advisable to speak to the supplier regarding their process for VAT relief and how it will be applied. Some suppliers may deduct the VAT amount at the time of order, while others may issue a refund for the VAT after the delivery has been made.

Bed sheets for an adjustable bed

Adjustable beds typically require special bed sheets designed to securely wrap around the mattress and stay in place when the bed is adjusted. As most adjustable mattresses are 200 cm long, regular bed sheets are usually unsuitable as they may shift or become loose when the bed is in operation.

Do adjustable mattresses slide?

Adjustable beds usually have a retainer bar at the end of the bed that prevents the mattress from sliding or shifting when adjusting the bed’s positions. Furthermore, they often have an anti-slip surface to ensure the mattress stays in place.

What type of headboard is suitable for an adjustable bed?

Most headboards are suitable for use with an adjustable bed, provided their design does not interfere with the operation of the bed. Adjustable beds typically come with headboard bolts or brackets to attach the headboard to the base easily.

Final thoughts

If you have a medical condition, it’s advisable to speak to a medical professional to determine the right bed and setup. It also helps to try out adjustable beds in a showroom to understand their functionality.

Make sure to check the warranty or guarantee on the motor. Finally, if the bed offers a trial period, familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions if you decide to return it.

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About the author

About the author

Tony Brown is the founder and creator of The Bed Consultant. His career in the bed industry began in 2002. After graduating from university with a degree in Business Administration, Tony joined one of the largest independent furniture retailers in the UK as a bed consultant. Tony has helped thousands of customers find the perfect mattress.

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