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Bed Basics
Bed Basics

How to Achieve Zero-Gravity Sleep Like Astronauts: Try an Adjustable Bed

Astronaut floating in space
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On the list of things we can’t live without, sleep earns one of the top spots, perhaps just behind oxygen. It’s essential, of course, but good sleep is essential for feeling our best. Sleep is a main component in how energized (or lethargic) we feel. It plays a role in our decision-making, our mood and our overall cognitive abilities. Regardless of whether you’re an engineer, a landscaper, a CEO or a student, sleep is part of a larger equation of how well we can perform our daily tasks.

We all experience sleep challenges, but for a select few, sleep becomes basically otherworldly. Astronauts set off into outer space on missions to explore the vast cosmos. Just like us on terra firma, astronauts strive to get great sleep each night to perform their missions to the best of their abilities. But sleeping in space comes with a unique twist: They sleep in a zero-gravity environment. Sleeping in weightlessness proves to have its challenges, but one place where it’s helpful is in taking pressure off the joints and muscles. But for those of us who sleep in normal beds and feel the effects of gravity, there are ways to experience a bit of zero-gravity. To discover why sleeping without gravity is so comfortable and how we can achieve that without a spaceship, we checked in with a few Mattress Firm Sleep Experts®.

An Astronaut’s Guide to Sleep

On Earth, we deal with the force of gravity every second, and it’s the reason we need a comfortable, supportive mattress in the first place. A mattress and a pillow provide cushion and ergonomic support to counter gravity pulling us down, says Mattress Firm Sleep Expert® Raul Davila.

Astronauts on the International Space Station, for example, sleep with hardly any pull from gravity, near weightlessness, with almost no pressure in areas like the neck, lower back or hips like we deal with in our own beds. Thanks to this lack of gravity, they don’t require a mattress to keep themselves in ergonomic alignment or even a pillow to support the head and neck. In space, it would be impossible to wake up with a numb and tingling arm caused by sleeping on it wrong.

Davila mentions there’s insight to gain from NASA and astronauts when it comes to sleep. He explains that while leaving our atmosphere and propelling into space, astronauts are in a zero-gravity position. NASA studied a body-neutral position with the goal of minimizing the g-force an astronaut experienced while heading into outer space. Reducing the pressure of g-force lowers the gravitational pull on the body, and, as it turns out, this position can be pretty great for a restful night’s sleep.

How to Sleep Like an Astronaut While Staying on Earth

Astronauts sleep with the sensation of floating, and Davila says we can get fairly close to that feeling here on Earth when we sleep on an adjustable bed. While it may seem complicated, the only thing that makes the sleep surface adjustable is the adjustable bed. This base takes the place of a traditional box spring or other support foundation that sits under your mattress. Many adjustable beds come with the ability to raise both the head and feet section of your mattress, which we call the zero-gravity position.

Davila explains there are countless benefits to sleeping in the zero-gravity position, all thanks to the reduction of gravity’s pull on our joints and muscles. An adjustable base can help alleviate snoring since elevating the upper body opens the airways. In this same way, research shows that people who deal with sleep apnea are likely to benefit from sleeping with the head elevated.

Mattress Firm Sleep Expert® Christopher Becnel says he likes to remember the phrase “toes above your nose.” Elevating the feet higher than the heart helps with blood flow, which can be great for athletes or anyone who works on their feet all day. “Toes above the nose increases the blood flow to your legs and increases blood flow to your heart,” Becnel says. “Better blood circulation actually reduces swelling in people’s legs.”

Pregnant people tend to be no stranger to swollen legs and restless nights. Both Becnel and Davila say an adjustable base could be a game-changer for getting restful and comfortable sleep while pregnant.

Older people or anyone who has a harder time sitting up to get out of bed could also find benefit from an adjustable base. The zero-gravity position elevates the head to sit above the heart, but an adjustable base can also raise up to a seated position to make getting out of bed much easier. The seated position is also great for binging shows or enjoying coffee in bed with less likelihood it’ll end up all over your sheets.

How to Shop for an Adjustable Bed

The market is packed with options if you’re shopping for an adjustable base. Davila offers some advice about how to find the best one for your sleeping preferences and budget.

First, it’s important to consider what features you’re looking for in an adjustable mattress base. A few models elevate just the upper body like the Mattress Firm 50 Series, which can be great for those who wind down while watching TV or reading a book in bed at night.

Other models allow you to raise both the head and the feet to sleep in the coveted zero-gravity position. Some, like the Mattress Firm 900 Adjustable Base, come with a massage feature that Davila says can be a huge help when it comes to relaxing before falling asleep. Conveniently, the massage feature creates a white noise effect that can also help lull you to sleep. The Mattress Firm 900 also comes with a voice-controlled app, so if the remote goes missing, you can still have the base adjusted into the zero-g position.

Davila’s favorite base is the Tempur-Pedic Ergo Extend Smart Adjustable Base. The top-of-the-line model comes with ambient under-bed lighting, so you don’t trip over the dog on the way back to bed from a midnight snack. It also has a massage function and voice control, but it adds in some extra features that make it Davila’s number-one pick. The base syncs with the Sleeptracker app to give you a personalized sleep report each night so you can better understand how well you’re sleeping. Another benefit is the integrated monitoring system that detects and then adjusts when it senses snoring.

How to Sleep in Zero Gravity on an Adjustable Bed

Adjustable bases are typically motorized, so they need to be plugged into the bedroom wall. Your base will likely come with a remote control that’ll allow you to adjust the base, including a button that will immediately adjust to the zero-gravity position. But like mattress and pillow preferences, not everyone finds the pre-set zero-gravity position to be the most comfortable. If you are not a back sleeper, it may not be right for you. You might prefer the leg area to be slightly higher and the head area a bit lower, or vice versa. Some models, like the Tempur-Pedic Extend and the Mattress Firm 900 Adjustable Base as well as the Mattress Firm 600 Adjustable Base, let you set your own ideal position and save it for later to quickly adjust into your favorite position.

These models also come with one extra feature that Davila mentions truly “elevates” the sleeping game. They both come in split king sizes. With a split king mattress on top, these bases adjust independently of the other side so you can sleep in your favorite position regardless of what position a partner chooses.

How to Choose the Best Mattress for an Adjustable Bed

You might be wondering how a mattress is able to become a contortionist and bend into a zero-gravity position. Davila says not to worry. Aside from the old-school innerspring mattress (which, believe it or not, are rare these days) your current mattress is likely compatible with an adjustable base. If you’re not sure, go ahead and check with the Mattress Firm Sleep Experts® either in store or online.

Davila does have a few favorites that excel when it comes to sleeping in the zero-g position. His number-one recommendation is anything from the Tempur-Pedic lineup. He mentions the materials Tempur-Pedic uses are great at conforming to the shape of the base. His other favorite brand to use with an adjustable base is Intellibed, which places a mattress that focuses on pressure relief on a base that can allow you to feel as light as possible while still on Earth. Davila also loves Purple mattresses on an adjustable base thanks to the unique Purple GelFlex Grid.

Most of us aren’t likely to be taking a vacation to outer space anytime soon to experience zero gravity. But we can get close to that weightless feeling without even leaving home thanks to an adjustable base paired with a great mattress. From those dealing with back pain to anyone with aching feet after a long day, negating gravity’s pull can be the ticket to a great night’s sleep.

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