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Review: Casper Adjustable Base Max

This bed raises your head and feet, with added massage and under-bed lighting. I'll never sleep flat again.
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Left White oval remote to control a mechanical bedframe. Center Thick mattress bent at the top as it rests on an angled...
Photograph: Medea-Giordano; Getty Images

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Adjustable lounge and sleep positions. Massage. Zero gravity feature. Under-bed lighting. Built-in USB ports. Can add a Casper headboard or pair with existing bed frame.
Expensive. Heavy. Tedious to put together. Maintenance options aren't clear.

I love the feeling of getting into bed at night, but for a while, my sleep wasn't restful. I was tossing and turning, and waking up with back pain, so I replaced my old bed with the Casper Original Hybrid Mattress. That model was recently replaced with Casper's Dream Hybrid—the Original has been ghosted from Casper's site, but the remaining stock can still be found on Amazon until it runs out. My back hasn't ached since, but something was still missing.

I have long dreamed of the ability to adjust my mattress, angling myself to comfortably read or work on my laptop, or propping my head up on nights when a cold or allergy-induced runny nose would otherwise keep me awake. Because the Casper mattress was such a success, I turned to the brand for help here too. For the last few months, I've been sleeping on Casper's Adjustable Base Max. All it took was a minor foot raise to feel all the tension in my back melt away. This is how the other side lives.

Sleep on It

Casper has three adjustable frames, all controlled by a simple remote (we are good with a remote and hated the app-controlled Sleep Number adjustable bed). Most people would be fine with the base option, at about $1,100 for a queen-size bed, with head and foot adjustments and a zero-gravity mode, which adjusts your body to evenly spread pressure and eliminate neck or back pain—NASA found this sleeping position to be ideal for astronauts dealing with pressure in space. The $1,500 Pro adds two-zone massage, with one vibrating motor at the top and one at the bottom, and USB ports for phone charging. The Max that I tried is a whopping $2,500 when not on sale. I don't need the Max, but I do very much appreciate its extras.

Photograph: Medea-Giordano

The Max gets four-zone massage with three intensity levels. Instead of one motor vibrating the whole top section and another at the bottom, each side gets its own head and foot motor, four in total. If you share a bed with someone, both of you can experience it fully. It's more of a vibration than an actual massage—it doesn't have nodes that get into your muscles like a massage chair, of course—but it is genuinely relaxing despite it having to travel through the frame and thick mattress. Although it can be loud. The zero gravity feature brings your upper body to a 120-degree angle and your feet to a 45-degree angle with your knees bent. I felt my body release every ounce of tension here and made every person in my family try it too. Zero gravity is supposed to be good for sleeping, but because I'm a combination sleeper who rotates between my side and stomach, I prefer it for relaxing at the end of the day.

The Max has a head lift like the other two do, which adjusts your upper body from flat to about 20 inches from the frame, and it also offers pillow tilt. That means the top half of the head piece also adjusts, bringing your head in position for comfortably watching TV or reading. Otherwise, you're more positioned to look at the ceiling if you are laid completely back. The foot of the bed raises the bottom of your mattress about 10 inches from the frame. If you find a head and foot position you really love, there are two preset buttons on the remote so you can save them for easy adjusting later—say one for lounging and one for sleeping. I love the under-bed lighting that provides just enough brightness to find something or to light your way to the bathroom at night, but not enough to wake up your partner or blind your sleepy eyes.

Head lift (top) and pillow tilt (bottom).Photograph: Medea-Giordano

Put to Bed

The king size can be used with a standard king mattress or a split king for moving each side independently. I deeply regret not buying a split king mattress, as the ability for my husband and I to each choose exactly the angle we want would make this a significantly better experience. But spending $1,600 on a bed was already pushing our limits, and we couldn't fathom the extra cost for a split, which could be $400 more on the low end, or even over $1,000 more, depending on the bed you're looking at. Thankfully, most nights we find a happy medium, but if you share a bed with someone with wildly different preferences, it's something to consider.

Photograph: Casper

The adjustable base works with foam and hybrid mattresses—it doesn't have to be Casper—but you shouldn't use a traditional innerspring mattress. The bases can be inserted into most bed frames for a more polished look (check the dimensions and weight restrictions first), or you can add the legs and let it stand on its own and even add one of Casper's headboards. We used it on its own, and my only complaint is that without a separate frame to keep it tidy, the wires dangled underneath and my cats unplugged the bed once during a particularly serious Zoom session. The company suggested adding zip ties, but you need to keep some slack so the bed can adjust without pulling.

It wasn't hard to put together—the only tool needed was an Allen wrench—but it was tedious and tiring, and I wouldn't have been able to do it alone. It took my husband and I about an hour and 15 minutes. You do most of the work while the frame is upside down, finishing it up after flipping it over. Our frame arrived via UPS in four heavy boxes—two for the bottoms, and two for the tops. Soon, you'll be able to choose in-home delivery and setup for an additional fee. Many older reviews on the brand's site say that was more of a hassle, with weeks to months of delivery time, however, Casper said it is now working with a new delivery partner that will be available this month.

Bars at the bottom keep your mattress in place when it's raised.Photograph: Medea-Giordano

The Cost of Comfort

Many bed frames are pricey, but not all frames have motors that will eventually give out. Russell Jelinek, Casper's vice president of product development, said lifetime depends on usage, but “it is built to last for many years.” There wasn't any elaboration on what maintenance could be done, if any, but Jelinek said should something go wrong, you can reach out to customer service for troubleshooting. There's also a protection plan for an additional cost. I was disappointed that there wasn't more clarity on what is possible to fix and what isn't.

Whether you get the fancy Max or the simpler option, it's an investment. If it's not on sale when you're looking, wait for one. I personally track mattress prices all year for WIRED's mattress deals posts, and they are nearly always discounted. If they're not, they will be in a few days. Casper discounts its frames frequently too.

If you're anything like me, you likely will raise both ends just slightly enough to get comfortable most of the time. I pictured myself sleeping nearly upright, but of course, that isn't the case in practice. If you don't sleep on your back, many adjustments will be uncomfortable. But after just a few nights, lying flat felt unnatural. I could live without it, but I don't want to.