When Greg Verlander's father came home from rehab after having a stroke, he was upset to find a hospital bed in his room. The bed's institutional appearance made him feel unhappy and unhealthy, his son said.
Verlander never forgot that, and when he learned of a family friend who had constructed a headboard and footboard for a hospital bed, he wanted to make them available to others. Today, TenderCare Beds offers the products online in five finishes. "I just wanted to change people's environment," Verlander said.
Other companies, too, have started selling headboards, bed skirts and other accessories designed to help hospital beds look less institutional. Interior designer Kelee Katillac of Kansas City, Missouri, specializes in remaking rooms for people who need hospital beds or medical equipment. "As people leave the hospital sooner, there's a greater need," she said.
Upgrades to home hospital beds are just part of a new focus on making beds better in general — more stylish and comfortable for a wide range of activities beyond sleeping.
There are beds you can adjust to make it easier to work on a laptop, beds that keep you cool at night and beds that charge your cellphone. Many of the new offerings — including adjustable mattresses and supportive pillows — help people age in place, says Joe Buckheit, founder of AgingCare.com, a website designed for people caring for loved ones at home.
Innovations in the bedding industry have "exploded," says Mary Helen Rogers, spokeswoman for the International Sleep Products Association in Alexandria, Virginia. Manufacturers are responding to consumers' growing understanding of the value of proper rest, and increased interest in working, gaming or watching TV in bed.
"Surviving on the minimum amount of sleep is no longer cool," Rogers says.
For people who have difficulty sleeping because they get too warm, Rogers says, manufacturers have begun using new fabrics, foams and gels designed to keep the mattress from absorbing heat.
Those improvements address some of the concerns generated by memory foam mattresses, which initially were denser — and therefore warmer — than traditional mattresses, says Derek Hale, editor of Sleepopolis.com. "Foams are always improving," he says. "They're not as warm as they used to be."
There also are products that will blow cool or hot air under the bed or between specialized sheets.
Adjustable beds have become more appealing and affordable, Hale says. The motors are quieter, faster, and can be operated by remote control or phone app. Some beds have massage features, USB ports or built-in lighting. In many cases, the bases and mattresses are compatible with traditional bedroom furniture, so buyers don't have to change their decor.
An adjustable bed that allows for additional supportive positions can help ease minor discomforts such as back and joint pain, snoring, acid reflux and swelling in the feet, says AgingCare.com's Buckheit.
"People are more open and more thoughtful about their medical conditions," says Rogers. They are telling retailers, "here's what's going on with me, and retailers are passing it on to manufacturers."
While adjustable beds are not a substitute for hospital beds, they do appeal to people with minor health concerns, says Ann Mowrey, spokeswoman for Easy Rest Adjustable Sleep Systems in Baltimore.
"We get a fair number of people who have slept on hospital beds and can't stand it so they wind up purchasing our beds," she says. "They report their mood and comfort improved by the switch, and for some they are able to sleep back in the same bed with their loved one, which makes them happy."
Today's adjustable beds let people sharing a bed set their own sleep positions. A wife can adjust her husband's position if his snoring is keeping her awake, adds Jay Thompson, president of the Leggett & Platt Adjustable Bed Group in Carthage, Missouri. His company makes adjustable bed bases.
Many customers — particularly millennials — choose adjustable beds because they want to use the features while they are awake, he says. Raising the top of the mattress makes it more comfortable to work, read or watch TV.
"It's the idea that I just want to be able to adjust my position for comfort. I don't want to have to prop a half a dozen pillows when I want to chill out in my bed and watch TV or work," Thompson says. "It's a lifestyle buy."