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How does an adjustable bed work?

Contemporary 3 adjustable bed in a bedroom

You might know the basics about what an adjustable bed is (it moves the head and foot of your bed up and down to create a custom sleeping position), but you might not know how it works. What’s the technology behind the base, and why does it matter?

Motors under the mattress

Adjustable beds are put in motion by one or more under-bed motors that are often called lift motors (because they lift things). The motors are attached to the underside of the base and move using directions from a remote. Power comes through a normal cord, although you should make sure that your outlet is grounded, and probably use a power strip as well.

The motor attaches to the support structure to raise or lower different parts of the bed. Some beds use plastic rollers to push the sections along. Others, like Rize beds, use a steel support structure. The type of deck and frame structure on your bed could determine how long it will last. A cheaper deck is usually less well-built.

Depending on the size and model of the bed, there can be multiple lift motors that power different aspects of the adjustable base. Motors in different spots on the base can improve flexibility so that you can pick more positions than you could with a single-motor model. Motors can be added to power additional features, like massage. The number and quality of the motors on the base you’re looking at determine how much weight it can support. Our Rize models are engineered to have a lift capacity of up to 850 lb. per single unit. Most brands will list their lift capacity so you’ll know ahead of time if it suits your needs.

Adjusting your position

Adjustable bases go under your mattress and are made to raise (or lower) the head and foot portions. There are bases that can do more than that, such as give extra lumbar support or massage, depending on how fancy you get. The top of the base controls the head, which provides neck and back support. The bottom section controls the feet, which can improve blood flow and alleviate lower back pressure.

Some models only lift the head, while higher-end versions can feature multiple, flexible sections that better contour to your body and add more support. The more sections to the base, the more personalized you can make your position. Here are just a few popular positions:

  • Head up – You can raise your head up as high as a 70° angle to help open airways, or provide support while reading & watching things in bed.
  • Foot up – Raise the foot section of your mattress to give your legs a rest. Some foot-up positions help with back pain too.
  • Anti-snore – Lifts head slightly, about 10 degrees, to reduce snoring and soothe acid reflux.
  • Zero gravity – Raises head and puts legs in a bent-knee position to improve blood flow and reduce pressure on the back and legs.
  • Lounge – Raises head and lowers the foot section to take pressure off the lower back, like reclining in your favorite chair. Most models don’t allow the leg section to go down as well as up.

How to control the bed

The adjustable beds you’re most likely to find these days have the convenience of being controlled by a remote. More and more beds are also allowing control through an app that you can access on your mobile device, but no matter which method you use, you should never need to adjust your bed manually.The controls let you choose how high or low the different sections of the bed go.

You can also choose from pre-programmed settings, if your bed has them. Some remotes include a one touch-flat button that will automatically return the bed to flat. There are also popular power bed models that allow you to save your own positions.

For bases that include a message feature, the remote controls whether it rumbles at the head or foot, and how intense the vibration is.

Now that you know a little more about how adjustable beds work, visit one of our retailers to try one out for yourself.