If you’re thinking about buying an adjustable bed for yourself or an older Australian, it’s worth taking the time to research thoroughly.
In this article, we’ll give you all the information you need to decide whether an adjustable bed is the right sleep solution for you.
Here’s what we cover:
- What Is an Adjustable Bed?
- Basic Adjustable Beds vs. Enhanced Adjustable Beds
- How Accessible are Adjustable Beds for Seniors?
- Are Adjustable Beds Good for Arthritis?
- How Do Adjustable Beds Minimise Snoring?
- Does an Adjustable Bed Work for Side Sleepers?
- Is the Zero Gravity Position Good for Side Sleepers?
- What Are the Disadvantages of an Adjustable Bed?
What Is an Adjustable Bed?
An adjustable bed is a multi-segmented bed that uses either manual or electric mechanisms to raise or lower certain parts of the bed. Most adjustable beds are articulated so you can change the position of your back and legs, but some beds also move up and down in height.
Adjustable beds were originally made for use in hospitals and aged care. They were a way for patients and residents to easily sit up to eat, drink, and watch television, and allowed people to elevate their legs without getting up, reducing the risk of pressure sores.
Over time, adjustable beds found their way into homes and luxury living spaces. People realised that being able to align your spine through certain positions helped promote better sleep. They were also convenient – by pushing a button, you could transform your sleeping surface into a place to comfortably work, watch TV, or even eat meals.
Basic Adjustable Beds vs. Enhanced Adjustable Beds
As the adjustable bed market grew, manufacturers began pioneering a new type of bed: enhanced adjustable beds (EABs). EABs have the same horizontal and vertical lift functions as basic adjustable beds, but include features designed to enhance sleep and general health.
Many EABs come with whole-body vibration therapy (WBVT), a type of therapeutic massage with a range of proven health benefits. Others use scientifically tested mattress materials that increase heat dispersion and blood flow, like CELLIANT®.
How Accessible are Adjustable Beds for Seniors?
Enhanced adjustable beds are made to be as comfortable and easy to use as possible. Unlike regular adjustable beds, they come with a range of features specifically for older Australians. Let’s explore how each of those features works.
Battery Wireless Remote
When you’re in pain or ready to change sleeping positions, you need to be able to easily adjust your bed. Unlike mechanically adjusted beds, EABs generally use battery wireless remotes, which can be left on your dresser for quick access.
Worried about a complicated remote with a jumble of numbers and letters? Don’t be.
Each LED-lit remote comes with clearly labelled buttons for bed adjustment and vibration massage. Individually adjust your head, foot and back height, choose from a range of pre-set sleeping positions like Zero G and semi-Fowler’s, or create and save your own custom positions.
Getting in and out of bed with arthritis isn’t easy. Regular beds often sag when you try to get up, putting more strain on your knees, forearms, and lower back.
To counter that problem, many EABs feature mattresses with built-in side support. Instead of being the same density throughout, as regular mattresses are, they have denser, firmer side sections that help stabilise you as you get up and sit down. Side support can also help keep you towards the centre of the bed as you sleep, lowering the risk of accidentally rolling off.
Falls are the leading cause of hospitalised injuries in Australia – and over half of hospitalised falls occur due to slipping or bumping into things. As such, getting up to go to the bathroom at night can be dangerous for older Australians.
EABs feature under-bed lighting to make getting up at night safer and less stressful. Instead of wondering where exactly objects are (or having to turn a bright light on that wakes you up and disturbs your partner), soft golden LED lights help you see where you’re going without affecting your sleep.
Side support and under-bed lighting are helpful features, but the best EABs also come with vertical lift functions. By holding down a button on your remote, you can raise your EAB to standing height as you stand up, and lower it back down. This helps alleviate pressure on your knees, arms, and lower back, making it easier for you to move in and out of bed.
Are Adjustable Beds Good for Arthritis?
Arthritis affects around 15% of Australians – 39.9% of men and 60.4% of women over 75 live with the condition. Both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can make performing basic tasks like walking, sitting down, and cooking difficult, compromising quality of life.
Getting up out of bed can be especially hard. When you’ve been lying down for hours at night, your joints may be more inflamed (especially during winter). To reduce the impact of arthritis on your sleep, many EABs have arthritis-supportive features such as side support, vertical lift functionality, CELLIANT, and whole-body vibration therapy (WBVT).
We’ve already talked about how side support and a vertical lift function can help people with arthritis, so let’s look at CELLIANT and WBVT.
CELLIANT is a patented textile that converts body heat into infrared energy. It’s been proven to enhance sleep and improve blood flow, as well as deliver benefits like increased energy. Arthritis and its effects can be worsened by joint hypoxia (a lack of oxygen delivered to your joints) – and joint hypoxia can be caused by poor blood flow.
Although there are no peer-reviewed studies proving that CELLIANT can directly improve arthritis, the technology has been proven to increase circulation, and the links between circulation and arthritis are clear. In Australia, only Seniors Plus adjustable beds use CELLIANT, which is classified as a Class I medical device thanks to its therapeutic benefits.
Whole-body vibration therapy has also been proven to stimulate blood flow. For example, a 2001 study found that nine-minute vibrations of 26 Hz significantly increased peripheral circulation; a 2019 study showed similar results. Interestingly, WBVT also has potential for specifically reducing inflammation – a 2020 study found that vibration therapy increased stem/progenitor cell circulation levels and reduced inflammation.
Those findings have been corroborated by a number of studies that examined the impact of WBVT on both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A 2022 study, a second 2022 study, and a 2017 study all found that WBVT had positive impacts on pain, muscle strength, and physical function for people with knee osteoarthritis. A 2016 study indicated that WBVT could lead to improvements in function, loss of bone mass, and fatigue in people with knee rheumatoid arthritis.
While basic adjustable beds with vertical lift functions can make life easier for people with arthritis, research indicates that enhancements like side support, CELLIANT, and WBVT can also help ease arthritis symptoms.
How Do Adjustable Beds Minimise Snoring?
There are many health conditions that can cause people to snore: obesity, congestion, medication, smoking, alcoholism, and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). Some people even snore naturally. Regardless of the cause, snoring can disturb your partner, so finding a solution is often the best way to make sure you both get a good sleep.
Snoring happens when air can’t pass freely through your airway. When your windpipe is compressed, the upper parts of your airway vibrate, creating a snoring sound. Because snoring often indicates an underlying health issue, you should consult your GP or a sleep specialist to find the root cause.
If your snoring is caused by your natural anatomy or by a condition like OSA, changing your sleep position may help. Sleeping on your back causes gravity to narrow your airway, which can make snoring worse. A 2003 study indicated that side-sleeping could ease snoring in people without OSA, although the researchers did note that changing position had little effect on people with sleep apnoea.
Natural back sleepers may find it difficult to sleep on their sides. If that’s you, an adjustable bed can be a good way to ease your snoring. Sleeping in an elevated position may also ease snoring – with an adjustable bed, you can choose positions like Zero G or semi-Fowler’s to raise your head and open up your airway.
Does an Adjustable Bed Work for Side Sleepers?
Everyone has different sleeping positions, so finding a bed that matches your unique style of sleep is important. If you like to sleep on your side (instead of your back or stomach), you need to choose a bed that supports spinal alignment while still having enough softness to cushion your hips.
A good mattress for side sleepers is normally medium-firm, with enough support that your spine doesn’t curve or sag downwards. Look for a mattress that uses high-quality memory foam and a segregated coil design – memory foam contours to your body’s unique shape, while designs like pocket coils and micro-coils provide independent support, eliminating mattress sag.
Choosing the right pillow is also important. As a side sleeper, you’ll typically need a higher, firmer pillow than someone who sleeps on their back.
Enhanced adjustable beds normally work well for side sleepers because EAB mattresses tend to be made with better materials, and often include enhancements like WBVT and CELLIANT®.
Is the Zero Gravity Position Good for Side Sleepers?
The Zero Gravity or Zero G position is a specific position that aligns your knees, hips and head at certain angles (typically 133°, 128°, and 90°). It’s modelled after the neutral body posture documented by NASA – in space, without the influence of gravity, the human body reverts to a ‘default’ position that optimises blood flow and reduces stress.
Because of the neutral body posture’s health benefits, most modern EABs come with a pre-set Zero G sleeping position. When you’re stressed, tired and sore after a long day, Zero G relieves pressure on every part of your body, including your lower back, and its promotion of better circulation helps muscular recovery.
Of course, the Zero G position is designed for back sleepers. The whole concept centres around the specific angles assumed in microgravity, which doesn’t work if you’re lying on your side. As such, it’s worth asking the question: is Zero G suitable for side sleepers?
The short answer is no. An EAB correctly set to the Zero G position would be very uncomfortable if you tried to lie on your side. Rather than adjusting the position of your bed, you can optimise your side sleeping position by choosing the right pillow and mattress.
What Are the Disadvantages of an Adjustable Bed?
Every bed has disadvantages, and EABs are no different.
The biggest consideration for seniors looking to purchase an adjustable bed is cost. Basic adjustable beds start at around $1,500, and EABs are typically priced at $4,000–$8,000. While an upfront investment of several thousand dollars might seem intimidating, most EAB retailers offer customer-friendly financing options that let you pay off your bed over time without high interest rates.
If you have an NDIS plan, you may also be able to use it to purchase certain EABs. For example, most Seniors Plus EABs are registered as Class I medical devices because they include CELLIANT® and whole-body vibration therapy functions, and, as such, are accessible through the NDIS.
Adjustable beds are one of the best ways for older Australians to improve their sleep. Enhanced adjustable beds (EABs) have a range of benefits, including the potential to improve arthritis symptoms, ease snoring, and make getting in and out of bed easier.
In addition to horizontal adjustments, the best EABs also include features like:
- Battery wireless remotes
- Side support
- Underbed lighting
- Vertical lift functionality
- Whole-body vibration therapy
The only real disadvantage of EABs is price. Although most retailers offer customer-friendly financing plans, EABs can be an expensive investment. Australians on NDIS plans may be able to purchase certain EABs, like Seniors Plus beds, with their funding.
Ultimately, though, an enhanced adjustable bed pays for itself. With proven benefits ranging from better circulation to higher energy levels, an EAB gives you the one thing that every Australian deserves: the ability to live life to the fullest.