What is a zero gravity bed and how do they ease sleep apnea and back pain?

Image shows the Saatva Adjustable Bed Base placed in a zero gravity sleeping position
(Image credit: Saatva)

A zero gravity bed is an adjustable bed base that enables you to sleep in the zero gravity position. Similar to lying in a reclining chair, sleeping in zero gravity position means your head, torso and knees are elevated. Your torso and thighs are angled equally from the hip, your head is above your heart, and your legs are slightly bent. 

It’s called a zero gravity position because it makes you feel weightless, and that's precisely why these beds are popular with people who have back pain, heartburn, sleep apnea, painful joints and other issues that derail sleep. A lot of adjustable bases and smart beds come with a zero gravity preset, which moves the bed into that position at the touch of a button – they are very simple to use.

Here, we're looking in detail at zero gravity beds, how they work, if they're worth the money, and who should (and shouldn’t) buy one. Many of this year's best mattresses offer superb pressure relief for aching joints and plenty of them are compatible with zero gravity beds too. Here's what you need to know...

What is the zero gravity position for sleep?

In the zero gravity position, your body is placed at a 120-degree angle, with head and feet raised slightly above your heart and stomach. Experts refer to this as a neutral position, within which your body achieves a state of weightlessness. NASA first developed this position to reduce the impact on astronauts' bodies during take-off. 

It works by eliminating the impact of gravity on your body, all while ensuring you are fully supported from head to toe. It's an immensely relaxing position for sleeping and resting, and is very beneficial for many people whether they have specific health conditions or not. 

Woman looks at her sleeping partner in bed

(Image credit: Getty/Maskot)

Benefits of sleeping in a zero gravity position

Zero gravity beds are found in hospitals and health centers across the country, and in recent years they've become commonplace in the home too. The benefits of using one to sleep in zero gravity positions are numerous, including reducing excess pressure on your back to relieve pain and boost circulation. 

Sleeping in zero gravity position can also help with high blood pressure (a condition that can lead to stroke, heart attack and more). Adjustable beds also help reduce snoring, as they keep you in a position where your throat is naturally more open (and not compressed on your chest) and your head is tilted back at an angle. This is an excellent sleeping position for snorers who otherwise find it uncomfortable to sleep on their side in bed.

Of course, one of the major benefits of sleeping in zero gravity position is to reduce joint and back pain, whether that pain is chronic or temporary, such as during the third trimester of pregnancy. Zero gravity is very beneficial for your spine, and even 20 minutes spent relaxing in this position each day can help your back heal faster.

To summarize, sleeping in a zero gravity position on an adjustable bed can help with the following conditions:

  • Reflux, heart burn and digestive issues
  • Back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Pregnancy discomfort
  • Sleep apnea
  • Snoring
  • Sleep anxiety
  • High blood pressure

Do zero gravity beds reduce joint and back pain? 

In addition to stimulating weightlessness, zero gravity beds are known for providing superb pressure relief — a big draw for sleepers suffering from hip, joint and back pain. According to Mather Hospital, the reclining position alleviates back and joint pain by placing less pressure on the body, especially in the back and shoulders. 

In addition to reducing pressure on painful joints, a study by the Sleep Research Society has also shown that sleeping in a zero gravity position can improve both your sleep quality and mental health.  

A woman wears a cpap machine while sleeping on her side to stop snoring

(Image credit: Getty)

Do zero gravity beds help with sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder closely associated with snoring, so you rarely have one without the other. However not everyone who snores has sleep apnea, which is a far more serious disorder where the throat relaxes during sleep, blocking the airways and reducing or stopping air from flowing into the lungs.

When you sleep in the zero gravity position, your airways remain open to a greater extent than if you were lying in any other position to sleep. This is why people who snore and who have sleep apnea see a reduction in both conditions when sleeping in the zero gravity position on an adjustable bed.

A 2017 study that looked into 'the influence of head-of-bed elevation in patients with obstructive sleep apnea' found that participants had a significant reduction in sleep apnea when sleeping in the zero gravity position on an adjustable bed.

Are zero gravity beds easy to use? 

As with most adjustable bed bases, zero gravity beds are easy to use thanks to their smart design. Most zero gravity beds come with wireless remote controls,  so there’s no need to manually set them into the zero gravity position. 

These remotes enable you to immediately adjust the bed into a zero gravity or anti-snoring position by simply pushing a preset button. Some adjustable bed bases can be programmed (via app or remote) so that you can save your favourite positions and inclines, then access them at the touch of a button.

Are zero gravity beds expensive? 

The price of a good zero gravity bed usually starts from around $1,000, with prices increasing to several thousand for a Cal king or split king luxury adjustable bed with zero gravity presets. The best adjustable beds are made by the likes of Tempur-Pedic, Saatva, Nectar, Casper and Purple, and these range wildly in price.

DreamCloud Zero Gravity Bed in a stylish white bedroom with wooden floors

(Image credit: DreamCloud)

The Nectar Adjustable Frame, for example, offers anti-snoring and zero gravity positions for just $749 for a queen size (was $1,499) with the latest Nectar mattress deals. By comparison, a queen size Tempur-Pedic Ergo Smart PowerBase costs $2,299 (was $2,499), but it is app-controlled and packed with sleep technology.

You can usually get good discounts on zero gravity beds in the monthly mattress sales, especially during the holidays. Plenty of brands offer free adjustable bed installation too, so everything is taken care of for you.

Who should buy a zero gravity bed? 

Zero gravity beds are popular with sleepers who suffer from hip, joint and back pain thanks to the weightless, reclining position reducing pressure on back, shoulders, and joints. If you suffer from back ache or painful joints, a zero gravity bed could be a great investment for you. 

However, excellent pressure relief isn’t the only big draw. According to a 2017 study, zero gravity beds can also help those who snore or have sleep apnea as it raises the head. Another medical study also found that sleeping in the anti gravity position also aids digestion, benefiting those who have acid reflux.  

Who shouldn’t buy a zero gravity bed? 

While zero gravity beds have their benefits, there are some drawbacks. One of the biggest sticking points is price. Zero gravity beds are expensive and way out of budget for many shoppers. People who suffer with joint pain or sleep apnea may overlook the premium price tag and consider it an investment, but if you don’t suffer with such issues, a zero gravity bed may seem unnecessary.  

In addition to the price tier, another con is the beds’ restrictive nature. Zero gravity beds typically keep sleepers in one position, so combination sleepers (i.e. people who frequently change positions while sleeping) may find it difficult to sleep.

The top 3 zero gravity beds to buy 

There are many places to buy adjustable bed bases with a zero gravity position, with zero gravity beds being available to buy from some of the most top-rated mattress brands in America. 

1.DreamCloud Adjustable Bed Frame: $1,398 $699 at DreamCloud Sleep

1.DreamCloud Adjustable Bed Frame: from $1,398 $699 at DreamCloud Sleep 

With a one-touch button for a zero gravity position, the DreamCloud Adjustable bed frame comes with soothing massage settings for luxurious comfort. The bed can be controlled through the wireless remote or via app, and Nectar promises that the zero gravity position will improve circulation as well as relieve pressure. This bed frame comes with a 50-night home trial, 3-year warranty, and free shipping and returns. You can buy a queen for $749 (MSRP:$1,498), thanks to Nectar’s winter flash sale, saving you 505 for a limited time only.    

2. Saatva Adjustable Bed Base:$1,045$845 at Saatva

2. Saatva Adjustable Bed Base: from $1,045 $845 at Saatva
Saatva's adjustable bed offers a zero gravity position by elevating the head and the legs, all via a simple and wireless remote control. This is quite a basic adjustable bed, which is perfect for those who don't want or need a lot of tech. If you do want extra functionality though, check out the Tempur-Pedic adjustable bed below. Saatva's zero gravity bed is slim and designed with a built-in remote flashlight to help you get in and out of bed safely at night. It's up to $300 off in the current Saatva mattress sale, with free installation. 

3. Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Ergo Smart Base :$1,899 $1,699 at Tempur-Pedic

3. Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Ergo Smart Base : from $1,899 $1,699 at Tempur-Pedic

In addition to the pre-set zero gravity position, Tempur-Ergo Smart Base is bursting with state-of-the-art smart features, including anti-snore technology. It can track your breathing and heart rate while you sleep, and is ideal for those suffering with sleep apnea and acid reflux. Currently you can save $200 on this smart bed thanks to Tempur-Pedic's flash sale, plus you get free white glove delivery and a 25-year warranty. However, it should be noted that this bed base is marked as final sale, meaning you can’t return it. 

Frances Daniels
Sleep Staff Writer

Frances Daniels recently joined the Tom's Guide team as Sleep Staff Writer, and her role includes covering all sleep and mattress news, in addition to mattress reviews and buyer's guides. Frances is a PPA-accredited journalist and is hugely interested in the relationship between good sleep and overall health. When not writing about sleep and mattresses for Tom's Guide, Frances enjoys writing about women's issues, health and wellbeing, the environment, and her native Wales. 

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