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Updated: 10 Jun 2021

What is an adjustable bed?

All you need to know about adjustable beds, also known as electric beds – range of features, how they work plus who might benefit from one.
Which?Editorial team
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Adjustable beds move and bend to offer a choice of sitting or lying positions. There is a huge range of electric beds available, but they tend to fall into two main categories: lifestyle beds and profiling beds.

Lifestyle beds

‘Lifestyle’ electric beds usually offer a ‘sit up’ function to make it more comfortable to read or watch TV in bed. They are unlikely to offer different sleeping positions or adjustable height options.

Lifestyle beds tend to be aimed at people who want an adjustable bed for comfort and luxury, rather than for health reasons.

Profiling beds

Profiling beds, also known as variable posture beds, offer more flexibility, with a variety of positions and features. They are more suitable for those with specific medical or health needs.

Profiling beds can be adjusted manually or electrically while the person is on the bed. Most domestic adjustable beds are electric. They are controlled by a handset, which means the person in bed can make adjustments themselves.

Looking for other ways to make life easier? Check out our mobility scooter reviews and riser recliner chair reviews. Which? Later Life Care can help if you need information on financing care at home.

Types of profiling beds

Profiling beds have sectioned mattresses that allow them to bend into different positions. When buying a profiling bed, you can choose between:

  • Two-part adjustable beds – The upper section can be raised, making it possible to sit up to read or watch TV, and making it easier to get in and out of bed. These are sometimes referred to as ‘sit up’ beds.
  • Three-part adjustable beds – In addition to the back raise, there is a break at the knee, which helps to prevent you slipping down the bed.
  • Four-part adjustable beds – These are like three-part beds, but with an additional flat section for you to sit on.

Other adjustable bed types and features

Electric beds offer a variety of features. People with complex health conditions are likely to want or need more features, but these do add to the cost.

  • Height-adjustable beds – These move up and down, making them easier to get in and out of. Beds that can be lowered closer to the floor can help reduce the risk of injury caused by someone falling out of bed. It’s easier to provide nursing care on a higher bed.
  • Handrails – These can be fitted on to some beds to make it easier to move around and stand up. If you’re likely to need them, check that the bed is compatible.
  • Drop-down or bed rails – These can be built-in, or fitted to some beds, to prevent the user falling out. Rails can make it difficult to get out of bed without assistance, so you should consider this only if you or your relative has care support.
  • Massage function – Some luxury beds have a built-in massage unit. While this might temporarily relieve the symptoms of a condition such as arthritis, there’s no evidence of any medical benefit. If you have a medical condition and are considering this feature, speak to your healthcare professional first.
  • Drawers – Some adjustable beds have under-bed drawers. This might appeal to people who need extra storage, particularly if the new bed is going to take up more space than your old one.

Who are adjustable beds for?

Adjustable beds can promote a better night’s sleep by allowing the user to move to find a more comfortable sleeping position. They can also help people to stay independent for longer by enabling them to get in and out of bed more easily.

Adjustable beds can help those with:

  • back pain, sciatica, arthritis – by helping to find a more comfortable sleeping position
  • mobility problems/muscle weakness – by making it easier to get in and out of bed
  • health conditions that mean longer periods of time in bed – by reducing pressure and enabling a change of position
  • respiratory/circulatory problems – where a person might benefit from resting with their upper body or legs raised.

Pros and cons


  • Electric beds can help relieve the symptoms of some medical conditions.
  • They can make it easier for the user to get in and out of bed on their own.
  • Adjustable beds give a choice of sleeping/resting positions.
  • Electric handsets mean the user can operate the bed on their own, while they're in it.


  • Adjustable beds are expensive compared with standard beds – so you need to think carefully before buying.
  • They can be heavier and take up more space than a standard bed.
  • Electric beds won’t work in a power cut unless you have battery back-up.