If you’re suffering from back pain, sleep apnea, or any other sleep-related ailment, odds are, you’re in the market for a new mattress.

But what if I told you that a mattress might not be the right solution?

Sometimes, these health problems can’t be solved by a mattress alone, no matter how fancy.

That’s where the adjustable bedframe comes in.

I’ll talk more about the benefits of an adjustable bed in just a moment, but first, one quick disclaimer: a new mattress is, quite often, the best solution to your sleep troubles.

If you decide to go the route of a new bedframe, you should know up-front that they’re pretty expensive, and you might wind up investing in a new mattress to go with it anyway.

I’ll talk more about cost later in this article, but it’s only fair to mention this factor right from the get-go.

What Exactly Is an Adjustable Base?

An adjustable base is, essentially, a fancier version of your standard bedframe.

a modern room with a bed

It’s something you set your mattress on top of, to keep it elevated at a comfortable bed height.

What distinguishes the adjustable base is right there in the name: it can be adjusted to prop up different parts of the bed. Most commonly, this’ll be your head and/or feet.

They’re powered by motors, and usually operated by remote control to spare you the trouble of adjusting the bed manually.

Like many innovations in sleep technology, adjustable bases originated in the medical field.

But what possible medical applications could an adjustable bed frame offer?

Well, it’s funny you should ask!

What’s the Benefit of an Adjustable Base?

Adjustable bases were first used in hospitals, to help patients sit upright when they were unconscious, in pain, or too weak to do so on their own.

an hospital adjustable bed

Now that they’ve entered the consumer market, these snazzy contraptions are used mainly to address chronic back pain.

After all, for some people, a better mattress alone won’t cut it.

But put them in a bed that can elevate their upper body, and it works like magic.

Back pain is the most common complaint that sends folks searching for an adjustable base, but there’s a close contender in second place: acid reflux.

I don’t want to get too graphic, but let’s cover the basics.

Acid reflux happens when some of your internal valves aren’t working properly, and stomach acid isn’t properly sealed off from your esophagus.

This can be a problem when your neck and stomach are lying flat at the same height.

By keeping your head elevated, you let gravity solve the problem for you, keeping all that stomach acid right where it should be.

Finally, if you love to watch TV in bed, an adjustable base will let you recline while watching the ‘tube.

Then, you can use your bed’s remote to lower down into your preferred sleeping angle.

Sounds pretty great, right?

Are There Any Drawbacks?

Naturally, the answer is yes.

Nothing in life is perfect; we’re all just going to have to live with some pros and cons with every choice we make.

In this case, the biggest drawback is price.

I don’t know if you’ve done any research yet, but let me tell you—these suckers are expensive!

For a quality product from a reliable manufacturer and reputable dealer, you’re looking at $800 at the absolute cheapest. More realistically, we’re talking in the $2,000s.

So, that’s not ideal. Are there any other concerns?

Well, if you sleep with a partner, things get a bit trickier—especially if that partner doesn’t want to sleep at the same angle as you.

You can easily find an adjustable base that has two different sides, but if you want to take advantage of that feature, you’ll need a split mattress.

Your old mattress could fit in this new bed frame, no problem—but it won’t be able to lie comfortably at two different angles at once.

Which is why a split mattress is a necessity in this situation.

They were invented expressly for this purpose, so this isn’t some ramshackle DIY solution. This is the real deal.

In case you aren’t familiar with the term—and there’s no reason you should be if you’ve never used an adjustable base before—a split mattress is actually two separate mattresses that, when put together, form the standard size of a larger mattress.

You can get split queens, kings, and California kings—whatever fits your bed and tickles your fancy!

Now, as you might expect, the addition of a brand-new split mattress makes this whole kit and caboodle even more expensive.

The bed frames themselves are also very heavy, rendering them near-impossible to move alone.

Even if you don’t suffer from back pain, you’ll definitely want some extra hands to help with the installation.

High Tech Bed Frames

lightbulbs swinging

So, yes, the drawbacks can be pretty severe.

But let’s talk about something else: the high tech features!

I have to be honest: these things are really dang cool.

Some adjustable bases have built-in massage features.

You can also find ones with multiple motors, aimed at getting you that perfect lumbar support.

And, my personal favorite, it’s more and more common to see beds with built-in USB ports, where you can charge all your devices overnight.

Of course, like any piece of technology, more cool features means more things that could potentially go haywire.

The motors, in particular, are at risk of wearing out over time.

If that worries you, let me share a little truism from the world of adjustable bed frames: an adjustable base is going to either fail in its first year—giving you all the protections of the full warranty—or it’ll last for years without any trouble.

Among the most modern adjustable beds we especially like the ones by Nectar Sleep and Casper (Pro version).

What Kind of Mattress Should I Use?

That’s an excellent question!

The key features to look for are durability and—something the mattress industry doesn’t talk about much—flexibility.

You need something that can stand the regular wear and tear of being bent and unbent on a daily basis.

With that in mind, latex or memory foam will be your best bet.

Innersprings aren’t the worst—that dubious honor goes to cheap air mattresses, which are too stiff to bend without deflating—but they still won’t be able to negotiate the elevated angle as well as a foam-type mattress will.

You’ll also want to pay attention to mattress thickness.

Most standard hefts should be fine, but if it’s more than 12” or so, you risk losing some critical flexibility.

Conclusions

All in all, an adjustable bed can be a great investment.

Just keep an eye on the price tag, and make sure you know whether your mattress will need to be replaced.

I have every confidence you’ll find the sleep solution that’s right for you!


Brock Foreman

Written by

Brock Foreman

Updated at September 6, 2021