Mattress Firmness: Understanding and Choosing a Comfort Level
Firmness is one of the most important considerations for mattress buyers. The right firmness setting can provide a comfortable sleep experience and alleviate pressure points in the back, hips, and other sensitive areas of the sleeper’s body. The wrong firmness setting, on the other hand, can cause nightly discomfort and lead to more aches and pains. This guide will discuss the different mattress firmness settings and how these settings impact sleep quality.
What Is Mattress Firmness?
When discussing mattresses, ‘firmness’ refers to how soft or firm the bed feels to individual sleepers. Firmness is directly tied to the topmost comfort layers of the mattress. These layers – often made from materials like polyfoam, memory foam, and latex – are designed to cushion the sleeper and act provide a buffer for the firmer, denser materials found in the bed’s support core. The firmness setting indicates (among other things) how closely the mattress will conform to the sleeper’s body.
Another important mattress factor, support, is often confused with firmness. Support refers to the bed’s ability to provide a flat, even surface that minimizes pressure points and keeps the spine aligned. While the comfort layers impact firmness, the bed’s bottom layers – known as the support core – play the biggest role in a bed’s supportive qualities.
Additionally, conforming ability is distinct from firmness. Conforming ability refers to how consistently the mattress contours to the sleeper’s body without sagging under the shoulders, midsection, and other heavy areas. Ultimately, a mattress shopper should take firmness, support, and conforming ability into account before deciding which model is best for them.
It’s important to note that firmness preferences are completely subjective. A mattress that offers ideal comfort and support for one sleeper may feel uncomfortable and uneven to another. This is because certain factors – such as the sleeper’s weight, body type, and preferred sleep position – often indicate which firmness setting is best.
Mattress firmness is also loosely tied to other performance variables, such as the bed’s durability, temperature neutrality, and odor potential. With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at the different firmness settings for mattresses made today.
The Mattress Firmness Scale
When evaluating firmness, Tuck Sleep’s product analysts rely on a 1-10 scale. The scale breaks down as follows:
|Firmness Scale Rating||Corresponding Feel||Mattress Characteristics|
|1||‘Extra Soft’||The sleep surface will sink very deeply and conform closely|
|2-3||‘Soft’||The sleep surface sinks and conforms to a significant extent|
|4||‘Medium Soft’||The surface sinks somewhat and conforms fairly closely|
|5||‘Medium’||The surface does not sink much and will conform to a noticeable extent|
|6||‘Medium Firm’||The surface sinks very little and conforms to a moderate extent|
|7-8||‘Firm’||The surface remains even with little to no sinking; conforming is minimal|
|9-10||‘Extra Firm’||No sinkage and little to no conforming|
Although we have tested mattresses that fit each setting category, the vast majority of beds sold today fall between a 3 and an 8 on the 1-10 scale. Now, let’s take a closer look at each setting’s specific characteristics.
‘Very Soft’ and ‘Soft’ (1-3)
Softer mattresses with ratings from 1-3 usually perform as follows:
- Support:Softer mattresses offer good support for people who weigh less than 130 pounds – particularly side sleepers who want to improve their spinal alignment. Heavier people often find softer beds provide inadequate support and sag excessively.
- Conforming ability:Soft mattresses conform very closely to the sleeper’s body – too closely for some. Expect a tight, body-hugging sensation.
- Lifespan:Softer mattress materials tend to deteriorate more quickly. As a result, mattresses with exceptionally soft comfort layers typically have shorter lifespans than those with firmer layers.
- Price:Many mattresses are ‘Extra Soft’ or ‘Soft’ because they are constructed with several comfort layers, including memory foam and latex components. These materials can drive up the price-point by a considerable margin. Softer mattresses tend to be more expensive for this reason.
‘Medium Soft’, ‘Medium’, and ‘Medium Firm’ (4-6)
Mattresses with firmness ratings of 4, 5, or 6 usually perform as follows:
- Support:Mattresses with moderate firmness settings offer stable, adequate support without sacrificing surface comfort. This makes them ideal for people who weigh 130 to 230 pounds and sleep in any position.
- Conforming ability:‘Medium Soft’ to ‘Medium Firm’ mattresses provide a balance of cushioning and support, resulting in moderate but consistent body contouring.
- Lifespan:In terms of longevity, these mattresses tend to outlast softer models but are not as durable as ‘Firm’ or ‘Extra Firm’ beds.
- Price:‘Medium Soft’ to ‘Medium Firm’ mattresses tend to have fewer cushioning layers than their softer, more expensive counterparts. Price-points for these beds are on par with industry averages.
‘Firm’ and ‘Extra Firm’ (7-10)
Firmer mattresses with firmness ratings ranging from 7 to 10 usually perform as follows:
- Support:‘Firm’ and ‘Extra Firm’ mattresses sink very little, if at all. This makes them suitable for people who weigh more than 230 pounds – particularly back and stomach sleepers who need a flat, even surface for good spinal alignment.
- Conforming ability:Firmer mattresses usually have thinner comfort layers that conform to a minimal extent. While this is often ideal for heavier people, those weighing less than 230 pounds may find that the bed doesn’t conform closely enough to alleviate discomfort and align their spine.
- Lifespan:Firmer mattresses have the longest lifespans because the materials are denser and more resistant to indentations, sagging, and other forms of wear and tear.
- Price:Because they lack the padding materials that often increase price-points, ‘Firm’ and ‘Extra Firm’ mattresses tend to be cheaper than their softer counterparts.
What Is ‘Universal Comfort’?
Some mattress brands advertise ‘universal comfort,’ suggesting that their beds will be equally comfortable and supportive for all sleepers. These assurances are questionable at best, since individual factors like body type and preferred sleep position play a major role in a person’s firmness preferences.
Based on our product research and evaluations, we’ve found that mattresses with certain firmness settings receive more favorable owner reviews than others. Specifically, mattresses that are considered ‘Medium’ (5), ‘Medium Firm’ (6), and ‘Firm’ (7) have generated the most positive ratings. However, owner satisfaction is not exclusively tied to firmness and these reviews may take additional factors into account.
Bottom line: always take claims of ‘universal comfort’ with a grain of salt.
How to Choose the Right Mattress Firmness
In this section, we’ll discuss how customers can choose a mattress firmness setting based on different personal and performance factors.
Choosing Firmness Based on Weight and Body Type
Generally speaking, sleepers fall into one of three categories based on body weight. The table below breaks down the optimal settings for most sleepers in the light weight, average weight, and heavy weight groups.
|Weight Group||Weight Range||Typical Firmness Preferences||Ideal Firmness Settings for Most|
|Light||Less than 130 lbs.||This weight group tends to prefer softer mattresses that conform very closely|
|Average||130 to 230 lbs.||This weight group often prefers beds that offer a balance of soft padding and firm support|
|Heavy||More than 230 lbs.||This weight group usually prefers firmer beds with strong support and minimal conforming|
Mattress thickness is another variable associated with sleeper weight. Lighter people usually feel most comfortable on thinner mattresses because they are easier for getting in and out of bed. Heavier people, on the other hand, often find that thicker mattresses offer better support.
In addition to weight, body type is an important factor when deciding which firmness setting is best. For example, people with exceptionally broad shoulders and/or hips often prefer mattresses with ‘Medium’ to ‘Medium Firm’ settings. Alternatively, people with larger waists typically prefer ‘Medium Firm’ or firmer settings.
Choosing Firmness Based on Sleep Position
At Tuck Sleep, we categorize sleepers by four different positions: side, back, stomach, or a combination of two or more. Each of these positions has different characteristics and comfort needs.
Side sleepingis the most common sleep position, and is also considered the healthiest. Side sleepers usually need a mattress with a soft surface that conforms to the shoulders and hips. This ensures proper spinal alignment; excessively firm mattresses cause the spine to become uneven, and can lead to added aches and pains. Depending on their weight, most side sleepers find that a firmness setting ranging from ‘Soft’ (2) to ‘Firm’ (7) is best.
Back sleepingis the second most common sleep position. The spine is naturally aligned, so most back sleepers prefer mattresses that maintain an even, sag-free surface. This prevents heavier areas of their body from sinking further than lighter areas. However, excessive firmness can also be problematic because it causes the body to arch upward. For these reasons, the optimal firmness setting for back sleepers usually falls between ‘Soft’ (3) and ‘Firm’ (8).
Stomach sleepingis the least common sleep position; many experts advise against it because stomach sleepers often develop pains in their neck and shoulders due to the position of the head. Like back sleeping, stomach sleeping offers natural spinal alignment. However, because many heavier individuals carry significant weight in their midsection, softer mattresses tend to sink deeply beneath their bodies, resulting in uneven support. This is less of an issue for lighter individuals. As a result, the ideal firmness for most stomach sleepers falls between ‘Soft’ (3) and ‘Firm’ (8)
Combination sleepinginvolves a mix of side, back, and/or stomach sleeping, often each night. Combination sleepers often have a hard time selecting the right firmness because their preferences vary by position. For this reason, we recommend moderate firmness settings for combination sleepers; ‘Medium Soft’ (4) to ‘Medium Firm’ (6) will be suitable for most.
The following table summarizes our findings about firmness preferences in relation to sleeper weight and position.
|Sleep Position||Ideal Firmness for Light Sleepers (Less than 130 lbs.)||Ideal Firmness for Average Sleepers (130 to 230 lbs.)||Ideal Firmness for Heavy Sleepers (More than 230 lbs.)|
|Side||‘Soft’ (2) to ‘Medium Soft’ (4)||‘Soft’ (3) to ‘Medium Soft’ (4)||‘Medium’ (5) to ‘Firm’ (7)|
|Back||‘Soft’ (3) to ‘Medium’ (5)||‘Medium’ (5) to ‘Firm’ (7)||‘Medium Firm’ (6) to ‘Firm’ (8)|
|Stomach||‘Soft’ (3) to ‘Medium’ (5)||‘Medium’ (5) to ‘Firm’ (7)||‘Medium Firm’ (6) to ‘Firm’ (8)|
|Combination||‘Soft’ (3) to ‘Medium Soft’ (4)||‘Medium Soft’ (4) to ‘Medium Firm’ (6)||‘Medium’ (5) to ‘Firm’ (7)|
Firmness and Sex
When shopping for a new mattress, couples should take ‘responsiveness’ into account. Responsiveness refers to how much or little the bed ‘responds’ to a sleeper’s body. Highly responsive mattresses are quite bouncy, and considered best for sex; less responsive mattresses tend to sink too much, which can create a sensation some couples liken to fighting with the mattress.
In addition to firmness, couples should look at other factors when choosing a mattress for sex. For example, material construction is key; beds with thick comfort layers and foam bases do not offer the same responsiveness as mattresses with thinner comfort layers and coil-based support cores. Noise potential is also important, since silent mattresses are better for discreet sex than noisy ones.
Although firmness does not necessarily indicate how responsive a mattress will be, the following characteristics have been noted about different firmness settings.
|Firmness Range||Characteristics||Good for Sex Rating|
|‘Extra Soft’ to ‘Soft’ (1-3)||Softer mattresses tend to be the least responsive. Couples are likely to sink during sex.||Poor to Fair|
|‘Medium Soft’ to ‘Medium Firm’ (4-6)||Mattresses with moderate firmness settings offer good responsiveness without compromising comfort or support||Good to Very Good|
|‘Firm’ to ‘Extra Firm’ (7-10)||Firmer mattresses are usually very responsive – sometimes too responsive. Firm surfaces may cause discomfort for couples during sex, depending on their position||Fair to Good|
Firmness and Pillow Loft
Optimal mattress firmness is often tied to pillow loft, or thickness. Pillows fall into one of three general categories: low-loft (less than 3?), medium-loft (3? to 5?), and high-loft (more than 5?).
Generally, high-loft pillows are more suitable for firmer beds because the sleeper does not sink as deeply; the pillow provides comfortable padding without compromising support and spinal alignment. Alternatively, lower-loft pillows are better for softer beds because sleepers sink so deeply; when used with softer beds, high-loft pillows can elevate the sleeper’s neck too much and cause added discomfort.
One thing to note: a pillow’s material composition may determine how much it sinks beneath the sleeper’s head and neck, which in turn affects the loft. Some pillow materials – such as down/feathers, down alternative, and polyester – sink to a noticeable degree; others – such as memory foam, latex, and buckwheat – do not sink as much.
The right combination of firmness and loft can provide an even sleep surface and minimize aches and pains in the sleeper’s neck, shoulders, and other areas. The wrong combination can exacerbate discomfort issues. The next table looks at ideal pillow loft settings for different mattress firmness levels.
|Firmness Range||Rating for Low-Loft Pillows (Less than 3")||Rating for Medium-Loft Pillows (3" to 5")||Rating for High-Loft Pillows (More than 5")|
|‘Extra Soft’ to ‘Soft’ (1-3)||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good||Poor|
|‘Medium Soft’ to ‘Medium Firm’ (4-6)||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good|
|‘Firm’ to ‘Extra Firm’ (7-10)||Poor||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good|
Other Firmness Factors
In addition to body weight, sleep position, and the other variables discussed above, mattress firmness is also linked to the following factors.
- Durability:Thicker mattresses with softer comfort layers are more susceptible to early deterioration because indentations and sagging are likely to develop, which compromises support and causes aches and pains. Firmer mattresses have longer projected lifespans as a result.
- Temperature Neutrality:Many softer mattress layers are made of polyfoam, memory foam, latex, and other materials that absorb and trap body heat, causing them to sleep uncomfortably warm for some. Sinking deeply into a mattress can also disrupt airflow along the sleep surface. Mattresses with firmer layers that sink to a minimal extent are considered the best for temperature neutrality.
- Odor Potential:Most mattresses emit off-gassing odor when new. However, beds with high concentrations of polyfoam and/or memory foam tend to produce the strongest, most persistent smells. Because softer mattresses usually have more foam layers than firmer ones, they tend to have a higher potential for unpleasant odor.
- Mattress Weight:Because softer mattresses tend to be thicker, most are also heavier than average. This is especially true of hybrids and other beds with latex and/or coil layers.
- Price:Firmer mattresses tend to have fewer layers and less padding from memory foam, latex, and other ‘luxury’ materials. As a result, they are often priced lower than softer beds.
The table below summarizes all of the performance factors listed above for different firmness levels.
|Rating Criteria||‘Extra Soft’ (1)||‘Soft’ (2-3)||‘Medium Soft’ (4)||‘Medium’ (5)||‘Medium Firm’ (6)||‘Firm’ (7-8)||‘Extra Firm’ (9-10)|
|Conforming||Very Close||Close||Somewhat Close||Moderate||Moderate||Minimal||Very Minimal|
|Side Sleepers||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Very Good||Very Good||Good||Fair to Good||Fair to Poor|
|Back Sleepers||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good||Fair to Good|
|Stomach Sleepers||Poor to Fair||Fair||Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Fair to Good|
|Lightweight Sleepers (Less than 130 lbs.)||Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good||Fair to Good||Fair||Poor to Fair|
|Average Weight Sleepers (130 to 230 lbs.)||Fair||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Good||Fair|
|Heavyweight Sleepers (More than 230 lbs.)||Poor||Poor to Fair||Fair||Good||Good to Very Good||Very Good||Good to Very Good|
|Sex||Poor||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Fair||Poor|
|Ideal Pillow Loft||Low (Less than 3")||Low (Less than 3")||Medium (3? to 5?)||Medium (3? to 5?)||Medium (3? to 5?)||High (More than 5")||High (More than 5")|
|Durability||Poor||Fair||Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Very Good||Very Good|
|Temperature Neutrality||Poor||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Very Good||Very Good|
|Odor Potential||Poor||Poor to Fair||Good||Good to Very Good||Good to Very Good||Very Good||Very Good|
|Ease of Lifting/Rotating||Poor||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Good||Good to Very Good||Very Good||Very Good|
|Availability||Rare||Somewhat Common||Very Common||Very Common||Very Common||Very Common||Rare|
Multiple Firmness Designs
So far, we’ve focused on mattresses with one fixed firmness setting. However, today’s shoppers can also choose from beds with multiple firmness options. These include:
- Flippable beds:A flippable mattress is designed with two comfort layers – one on each side – and a shared support core. Most flippable beds have a different firmness setting on each side; to change how the bed feels, simply rotate it to the other side. Flippable mattresses are ideal for sleepers whose firmness preferences fluctuate from night to night.
- Dual-firmness settings:A number of mattress manufacturers offer single-sided mattresses with dual-firmness settings for couples. This means each side of the sleep surface has a different firmness level. Dual-firmness is optimal for couples/sleep partners with different firmness preferences. Please note most dual-firmness beds are only available for sizes Queen and larger.
- Adjustable firmness:A small selection of mattresses – mostly airbeds and ‘smart’ beds – allow owners to adjust the firmness setting using manual, remote, and/or app-based controls. Typically, the mattress will offer a firmness range, such as ‘Soft’ to ‘Medium Firm.’ These mattresses can be very beneficial for sleepers with fluctuating firmness preferences, but most carry steep price-tags.
Lastly, mattress toppers can be useful for sleepers who are dissatisfied with their bed’s firmness settings. A topper is an individual layer of cushioning – usually 2? to 4? thick – that is placed on top of the mattress to make the surface feel softer or firmer. Toppers are relatively inexpensive compared to the cost of buying a new bed. A wide range of materials are used to make toppers, including convoluted polyfoam, memory foam, latex, wool, and feathers.
Testing out a Mattress
Though many mattress buyers purchase their bed at brick-and-mortar stores, online ‘bed-in-a-box’ brands have become hugely popular in recent years. Because most online brands do not operate any physical locations, they face lower overhead costs and can sell mattresses at much lower price-points than their brick-and-mortar competitors. However, this means customers probably will not be able to test out the mattress before buying one.
This is where sleep trials come in handy. Most brands allow customers to essentially test out the mattress for a certain length of time; though trial periods vary by brand, most fall between 90 and 120 nights. If the customer is dissatisfied before the trial expires, then he/she may return the mattress for a full refund. Some trials also allow exchanges, and in most cases the manufacturer will arrange for the bed to be picked up at no extra charge to the customer.
We urge mattress shoppers to take advantage of sleep trials in order to determine if a bed has the right firmness – but be sure to read the fine print because some brands level steep return fees.
Brick-and-mortar shoppers have an easier time testing out mattresses for firmness because most stores have a wide selection of floor models. However, prices tend to be higher at these locations due to the substantial overhead expenses. Many customers find that visiting a brick-and-mortar store to test out mattress firmness is beneficial, whether they plan to buy a bed at the store or through an online seller.
One thing to note: most mattress warranties explicitly state that changes to the owner’s firmness preferences are not considered mattress defects. As a result, the warranty prohibits mattress repairs or replacements based on this issue. Customers who become dissatisfied with their bed’s firmness after the sleep trial has expired usually cannot receive a refund or replacement mattress under their warranty.
Lastly, let’s answer some common buyer questions regarding mattress firmness:
Does firmness affect mattress support?
Firmness describes how the mattress feels, while support refers to the bed’s ability (or lack thereof) to provide an even sleep surface. Firmness does not necessarily affect firmness, but certain sleepers will experience more or less support based on how firm or soft the mattress feels.
For example, someone who sleeps on their back and weighs more than 230 pounds may find that a ‘Soft’ (2-3) mattress provides uneven support because it sags excessively beneath their body. A side sleeper weighing less than 130 pounds may find that the same bed offers optimal support levels.
Who is best suited to a softer mattress?
Generally speaking, side sleepers who weigh less than 130 pounds are best suited for ‘Extra Soft’ or ‘Soft’ mattresses. People who weigh more than 130 pounds may experience excessive sagging, while soft surfaces also cause alignment issues for many back and stomach sleepers.
Who is best suited to a medium-firmness mattress?
Mattresses ranging from ‘Medium Soft’ (4) to ‘Medium Firm’ (6) are often the best option for sleepers weighing between 130 and 230 pounds. Side sleepers in this weight group gravitate toward softer settings, while back and stomach sleepers in the same group often prefer firmer beds.
Who is best suited to a firmer mattress?
Typically, people who weigh more than 230 pounds are best suited for firmer beds. Softer mattresses sag too much, which compromises the bed’s structural support and often causes aches and pains to develop. Side sleepers may find that firmer beds do not align their spines enough, but back and stomach sleepers usually prefer firmer surfaces.
What if my firmness preferences fluctuate from night to night?
If your ideal firmness varies, then you might be a good candidate for a flippable mattress with different firmness settings on each side. Those with bigger budgets may also opt for an adjustable airbed or smart bed. Lastly, mattress toppers can adjust the firmness of a mattress to a noticeable extent; using one periodically might be a cost-effective way for sleepers to change the firmness of their mattress.
What is the best option for couples with differing firmness preferences?
Many couples prefer different firmness settings. A dual-firmness bed can be useful for these sleepers because it features a different setting on each side of the bed.
How can I test out a mattress before buying one?
If ordering a mattress from an online brand with no brick-and-mortar locations, see if a sleep trial is available – and also read the fine print to avoid extra fees down the road. Most sleep trials allow customers to test out the bed for at least 90 nights, which is more than enough time for the bed to adapt to the sleeper’s body.
Testing out mattresses is much easier for brick-and-mortar shoppers: simply visit the nearest store and ask to test out beds with different settings.
Can I return a mattress that feels too soft or too firm?
Most brands allow customers to return their mattress for any reason during the sleep trial. However, once the sleep trial ends, most warranties state that changes to the owner’s firmness preferences are not considered defects, and do not qualify for mattress repairs or replacements.
Do any mattresses actually offer ‘universal comfort’?
Short answer: no. Firmness preferences are entirely subjective and based on a wide range of factors. A bed with ideal firmness settings for one sleeper may feel uneven and uncomfortable to another. By using the criteria we’ve described above and testing out a wide range of firmness options, shoppers can determine which mattress setting is best for them.
Get Better Sleep: How to Choose the Right Mattress Firmness
By Stacy Liman
Last Updated On March 25th, 2020
The firmness of a new mattress is a huge factor in how comfortable it is and can make or break a great night’s sleep. When buying a new mattress, it…
The firmness of a new mattress is a huge factor in how comfortable it is and can make or break a great night’s sleep.
When buying a new mattress, it is important to find one that fits your exact needs. When surveyed, 92% of people said that a comfortable mattress was important to getting a good night’s sleep. Comfort is directly associated with how firm or plush a mattress is. Of course, there are other factors in how comfortable a mattress is, but this article is going to walk you through how a mattress’s firmness plays into comfort.
Enjoy30% OFFany Amerisleep Mattress
Before, when we discussed how to choose the right mattress for your needs, we touched on the importance of getting the proper support while sleeping. Now we want to share in depth how to get the perfect firmness for every way you sleep.
The Importance of Proper Support
While most people equate a firm mattress with being more supportive, this is not exactly true. There is a difference between firmness and support. Support comes from having your spine in the proper alignment.
For example, if you are a side sleeper, you’ll need to allow your mattress to conform to your body. Having your hip and shoulder sink into the bed slightly while your core is elevated will allow your spine to be in perfect alignment. The most comfortable mattresses will help you fall asleep faster and sleep through the night easier.
Having the softest bed possible may seem like the ultimate goal, but don’t be fooled. Proper support can help rid your aches and pains. If your body is properly supported throughout the night, you’ll wake easier because your body didn’t have to strain itself to be comfortable the entire night.
Brands that advertise mattresses as “orthopedic” aren’t anything special. The Sleep Council explains that orthopedic mattresses are just extra firm beds. They claim that they support joints better, but any mattress that suits your sleep style is going to do that compared to just an extra firm mattress.
How to Determine Your Sleep Style
Most people fall into one of three main categories for sleeping styles. These are side, stomach or back. If you find yourself sleeping in multiple positions, then you’re a combination sleeper.
Note what position you find comfortable to fall asleep in and how you wake up to better understand what sleeping style you fall in to. Knowing this before looking at mattresses will be helpful. Once you know how you’re sleeping, you can find a bed that caters to your sleep style.
Here are some general rules that can help you in your search for the perfect mattress.
- Side sleepers:Look for a mattress that supports your side, but also lets your shoulder and hip sink in a bit. Your spine should be in line with the ground. Bending too much up or down vertically will engage your pressure points and make sleeping not as easy. Side sleepers tend to prefer a softer mattress.
- Back sleepers:Keeping your back as natural as possible is key. When you’re lying down on your back, your spine should mimic how you typically stand. Usually, back sleepers prefer a firmer mattress. Plus, the best beds for back pain are usually a medium-firm.
- Stomach sleepers:Like back sleepers, people who sleep on their stomach want their back to be in a natural position. Your upper body needs to supported so it doesn’t sink down and cause neck or back pain. As with sleeping on your back, a firmer mattress tends to keep your spine better aligned.
- Combo sleepers:If you find yourself getting comfortable in multiple positions, find a mattress that can suit all of your needs well. A medium-firm mattress will probably be the right balance of contour and support.
Go With What’s Comfortable
The final deciding factor for your mattress firmness is how it feels to you. Test out as many beds as possible before making your decision on firmness. These beds aren’t necessarily going to be one of the ones your going to buy, but they’ll give you a better understanding of what firmness you should be looking for.
Every mattress brand has a different scale for firmnesses, so what you might like about one company’s firmness might not translate to another. Make sure that you have a solid understanding of what firmness you like from multiple companies so that you’re making the most informed decision.
Testing a mattress in a showroom, or buying one online, isn’t going to give you a full picture of how you’ll sleep. Before you buy, see what the company’s return policy is. You don’t want to be stuck with a bed that causes you to have more pain than before. A sleep trial is imperative when you’re in the market for a new bed.
It can, however take up to four weeks to adjust to a different style of mattress. Say you found the best memory foam mattress for you (it has the best reviews, highest-quality foam, and a fantastic warranty) it can still take a few weeks for your body to adjust to the new bed. If you’re coming to memory foam from an innerspring mattress, your body might need to adjust to the new style of support it offers. If you’re sleeping poorly, it may be increasing any pain you’re having.
Finding the right firmness for your mattress is a process. Don’t stress if it takes a while to dial in exactly what you find comfortable and uncomfortable. Take time and relax, choosing the right firmness will only help you get better sleep.
Have any questions about proper mattress support? What type of mattress do you prefer based on your sleep style?
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.
About the author
Stacy Liman is a journalism graduate student and a freelance writer with a focus on mindfulness and content marketing. Stacy enjoys discovering new mattresses and connecting people with their perfect bed, but she more so enjoys understanding and writing about the science of sleep to help people get deeper, healthier rest.
You’ll enjoy these posts
Based on your reading history, we think you’ll enjoy these posts…
Mattress Firmness Scale & Guide – A Must Read Before Buying
There are quite a few different things that you’d like to account for when you decide to shop for a mattress. Given the fact that this is one of the most important purchases for your bedroom, it’s quite important to make sure that everything is handled properly.
Mattress firmness is one of the key characteristicsto consider before you make a purchase. Finding the right level is critical for your good night’ sleep. If you select a unit which is too soft or too firm, you are unlikely to sleep well, and you could even start experiencing issues with your back.
Luckily, there are quite a lot of excellent mattress companies which offer different levels of firmness. The challenge is that to determine it; you’d have to be aware of a lot of different things, especially if you do not have the option to try it.
What is Mattress Firmness?
Obviously, the first thing you’d like to account for is the essence of the characteristic. Believe it or not, there is a lot of misconception out there amongst potential mattress buyers. They tend to believe thatmattress firmness ratings and supportare the same things.
While the former directly correlates with the latter and they are mutually dependent,there’s a difference. The firmness of the bed is its hardness, put in a very simple way. Is it soft or is it hard? That’s the type of question that you need to ask yourself. It’s subjective and different sleepers will have a different feel.
However, this has become a critical characteristic, and it’s an important metric which is accounted for by every buyer. After all, it determines the overall level of comfort as well as the support that the entire thing is going to offer. Have in mind that mattress size shouldn’t impact your overall firmness feel.
Why Does it Matter?
The firmness of the mattress is a fundamental characteristic which is quite critical for the decision-making process. Not only will it determine the overall level of comfort but it’s also going to have a serious impact on the support of the bed as well.
This is something quite critical. The firmness has an impact over almost every important characteristic that your mattress is defined by. From the comfort and support to the overall performance of the unit, everything could be associated with its firmness.
What Does One Firmness Fits All Mean?
One firmness fits all is a phrase used to describe the type of firmness which is going to suit the wide majority of sleepers. The truth is that about 80% of sleepers would prefer a bed which ranges between 5 and 7 on the firmness scale.
With this in mind, it would be appropriate to assume that 6 out of 10 is the metric that the majority of people would be looking forward to.
Some would argue that there is no such thing and that the one size fits all approach is particularly inappropriate in this regard. This might actually be true, but the wide majority of people truly prefer a medium feel brought by their mattress.
There are a few different examples on the market which would target this particular firmness level only to accommodate the ever so growing market.
However, we strongly suggest that you check the bed first and make sure that it is integral and reliable. The firmness is undoubtedly a critical characteristic, but there are other important considerations that you’d have to account for.
While people tie firmness with support immediately, there are different types of beds. Those who use lower-quality materials, for instance, might be firm and yet fail to deliver the necessary support. That’s definitely something that you ought to consider when you’re making the decision.
Firmness vs. Support
Quite a lot of people regard firmness and support as the same thing. This, as we’ve already mentioned above, is not correct.
The firmness measures the immediate feeling that you get as you first lie down on your mattress.
The support, on the other hand, refers to the way the same keeps your spine in perfect alignment.
You can easily have a rather soft mattress which offers a lot of support or a firm one which is also supportive, but it creates a lot of different pressure points which makes it counterproductive.
When you go ahead and pick your mattress, it is quite important to make sure that you separate the firmness as well as the support and have them both in mind. The firmness is just the way your bed feels.
You would also have to make sure that it’s comfortable, that it relieves pressure, that it’s cool and all the other things of the kind. For instance, a firm mattress might fail to deliver the necessary contouring and, hence, it wouldn’t be appropriate for people who prefer to sleep on their sides. These are just a few of the considerations that you’d want to take into account.
In any case, it’s important to keep all those in mind and make sure that the product delivers a proper feel altogether.
Our Firmness Scale & Chart
Extra Soft (1-2)
This is a type of bed which is incredibly soft. These are those mattresses which are absolutely incapable of delivering proper support. The sinkage is tremendous, and that’s undoubtedly something that you should stay away from. It’s just going to harm your spine, and it’s unlikely to be very comfortable as well.We haven’t reviewed any beds that have this level of firmness.
These are softer (plush) mattresses which usually have a sinkage that ranges from 1.5 to 3 inches. These would usually come in two different forms – deep cushion hug and a traditional deep contour memory foam. These are great for people who prefer to sleep on their sides. They are, however, not ideal for back and stomach sleepers.
Medium-balanced beds are the preferred options on the market. It’s estimated that about 80% of the people would fall into this category and most beds we have reviewed have been around this level. You can either go for the average 6 or use something softer in the face of 5 out of 10 on the mattress firmness rating, depending on your personal preferences. Both types are ideal for different kinds of sleeping positions as well.
These are slightly firmer to firm mattresses, and they provide a little less hug as well as sinkage than the medium ones. There are certain exceptions, however, but the truth is that these accommodate people who prefer a little more firmness underneath them. However, the majority of people would find them a bit harder.
Extra Hard (9-10)
These are mattresses which are extra firm. In fact, very few beds would go within it, and there are some therapeutic ones. This is the main reason for which a very limited amount of people would actually prefer this type of units.
How to choose a mattress firmness
Some considerations for choosing a firmness when shopping for a new mattress.
What is mattress firmness?
When buying a mattress, there are literally thousands of choices. Having options is great, but when deciding on just one bed that will be comfortable and suit your needs, an endless selection can make it more difficult to narrow down your choices.
One of the most important considerations when deciding on a mattress is comfort. A lot of what we identify as “comfort” relates to how soft or firm a mattress feels, and beds can range from very soft to very firm. Think of soft and firm as two ends on a spectrum and every degree on this spectrum is referred to as the “firmness level” of a bed.
Brands use different forms of categorization to label their mattresses. Some of these labels are complicated and usually involve numbered ratings. For example, Saatva offers a scale for their firmness levels ranging from 1-10. This large range makes it difficult to decide where your firmness fit may be. Some brands such as Casper and Leesa sell a one-size-fits-all mattress which features a firmness that they claim is universally comfortable. The single firmness approach can be appealing to shoppers in a world of overwhelming choice, but the problem is that since people come in all shapes and sizes, it is impossible to make a single mattress that is actually comfortable for everyone. Mattress names, such as Loom & Leaf’s “Relaxed Firm” mattress, are nearly as confusing. Realistically, the different firmness levels can be summarized in three, straightforward descriptions: soft, medium, and firm.
It’s important to note that the firmness and support level of a bed are different. Firmness relates to the uppermost layers of a bed, while support is provided in the middle and lower layers. All well-made mattresses offer an underlying support system, regardless of what the top layers feel like. Even beds that feel very soft on top may still have an excellent support system below. A firm bed does not necessarily mean more support, as some doctors and chiropractors used to suggest. The softness or firmness of a mattress refers only to the initial feel of a bed.
Which firmness is right for you?
So how do you know which firmness is best for you? Some sources explain that finding your personal preference is as simple as asking yourself, “Do I prefer a soft or firm bed?” While it might seem like a simple question to answer, there are actually a variety of reasons behind our mattress firmness preferences. If you aren’t sure what firmness level you need, exploring these reasons will help you with your selection.
Sleeping comfortably often depends on whether your spine is properly aligned. When standing or sitting, your spine is supported because you are subconsciously controlling your posture. When you lay down but are awake, your muscles are still engaged, so your alignment is maintained. However, when you fall asleep, your muscles relax, and your body relies on the sleeping surface to maintain alignment. If you’re sleeping on a surface that doesn’t naturally support your back, you may wake up with aches and pains as a result.
It’s a common misconception that when we lay on our backs our spines are straight. Our spines actually have a slight, natural curve. So while you sleep, it’s crucial that your mattress supports this natural curvature, which also helps to relieve pressure points. The most important pressure points to consider when selecting a firmness level are those which have the most contact with your bed, such as your shoulders, hips, and legs. Choose a mattress firmness that offers adequate support without creating points of pressure, provides good body weight distribution, and is compatible with your sleeping position. For example, when sleeping on your side, your hips and shoulders should sink into the mattress enough to relieve pressure points and keep your spine in line.
Again, remember that “soft” does not necessarily mean “lacking support”. Choosing a firmness level simply means choosing the surface that will allow your spine to align properly on the mattress. Spinal alignment on the sleeping surface depends on various aspects including your body weight and typical sleeping position.
Your sleeping position is a crucial consideration when deciding on a fitting firmness level. The amount of pressure exerted on specific points in your body depends on which points are supporting most of your weight. For example, someone who sleep on their stomach will exert more downward force on their hips than someone who sleeps on their back.
While sleep positions and firmness preferences come down to personal taste, there are recommendations for those who are undecided about what firmness to choose:
Side sleepersgenerally prefer a softer mattress. A soft surface allows the mattress to conform to pressure points in the shoulders and hips, as well as the arm that gets tucked beneath side sleepers, preventing numbness and tingling.
Stomach sleepersget more comfort out of a firmer mattress. Pressure in the hips and pelvis is much greater for stomach sleepers, because these are the points supporting most of their weight. A medium or firm mattress will prevent your hips and pelvis from sinking lower than your shoulders and creating an unnatural curve in the spine.
Back sleepershave the most range in firmness, as pressure is more evenly spread across their pressure points while they sleep. Because of this, back sleepers can find comfort on soft, medium, and firm mattresses. If you’re still undecided, a medium firmness mattress is a pretty safe choice.
Depending on your body weight and sleeping positions, you and your partner may need different firmness levels, but it can be difficult to sacrifice your comfort. A medium firmness mattress can be a good compromise to satisfy both partners.
Weight is another key factor in choosing a firmness level, particularly for people who are over or under the recommended body mass index (BMI) range. The more you weigh per square inch of your body, the more force is exerted on your pressure points when you lay down. A heavier person may sink very low into a soft mattress, and a light person may feel as if they are pushed on top of a firm mattress. An additional consideration for heavier people (or those with mobility issues) is accessibility; sinking into a soft mattress makes it difficult to get in and out of the bed.
A general rule of thumb: the higher you are on the BMI scale, the firmer you will want your mattress. Conversely, the lower your BMI, the softer your mattress should be. The following guide can help you find your recommended firmness level:
- Below average BMI:Soft or medium
- Average BMI:Medium
- Above average BMI:Firm
Firmness levels in different types of mattresses
Now that you have a better idea of what kind of firmness levels there are, you can begin to look at which types of mattresses offer you options in that range. The firmness levels in different mattresses depend on the type, quality, and quantity of the materials used in the comfort layers, as well as the design or composition of the materials.
Innerspring mattresses are the most varied in terms of firmness levels. The firmness of these beds depends on the shape, gauge, and number of coils, as well as the type and amount of material packed in and around the coils. It’s important not to confuse the coil count of a mattress with its firmness level. Even a bed with a very high coil count can feel soft if the thickness (or gauge) of the coil is low. The shape of the coil also matters; hourglass-shaped coils are often firmer than continuous coils.
A popular form of the innerspring mattress is the pillow-top, which includes a separately sewn and upholstered comfort layer placed over the mattress. Pillow-tops provide a cushiony feel on top, even if the mattress surface below is firm.
Ideal For: Average weight, back sleepers, side sleepers
Latex mattresses are made with foam rubber material, which gives it a distinct “bounce back” feel. Although these mattresses are offered in a range of firmness levels, they usually skew to the firmer side of the scale. This makes them ideal for stomach sleepers and those with a higher BMI.
One of the newest options in latex mattresses is the “zoned” latex mattress. Zoned mattresses are built in rows of varying firmness to provide targeted firmness on pressure points. This means that the mattress is able to provide soft cushioning where you need it and firmer support everywhere else.
Ideal For: Heavyweight, back sleepers, stomach sleepers
Memory foam is a polyurethane foam that has a unique visco-elastic response that reacts and softens with heat to mold itself to the form of any applied pressure. When the pressure is removed and the foam is allowed to cool, the foam returns to its original shape.
Memory foam firmness isn’t directly related to density. Instead, its firmness is affected by the foam’s ILD rating and how the different layers are constructed. This variety of ILD ratings and versatility in layer composition means a wide range of firmness possibilities. A softer memory foam mattress will allow for more sink-in and contouring. A firmer memory foam mattress will still mold to body shapes, but will also provide more support. The foam allows your body to descend on different levels, resulting in even spine support. This uniform positioning also lessens the impact on pressure points, preventing aches, pains, and numbness.
Ideal for: Light – heavyweight, side sleepers, back sleepers, co-sleepers
Air beds are comprised of open compartments that are filled with air to increase or decrease firmness. These beds aren’t the inflatable air mattresses typically used for camping or other short term use. Air beds offer more support than inflatable mattresses, are made with other materials, and are intended for long term use. These mattresses often come with options for making adjustments on either side of the bed, which is a great option for couples with differing firmness preferences. Because you can regularly change the firmness level on these mattresses to reduce the downward force on specific pressure points, these beds are also often used for people with back injuries.
This type of mattress has many mechanical dependencies and may not be the most dependable choice as a result. Like many other air filled products, air leakage can be a problem, resulting in an inconsistent level of comfort as air slowly leaks from the bed over time.
Ideal for: Co-sleepers, those with back injuries or chronic back pain
What if you choose the wrong firmness?
Discomfort while sleeping on a new bed can signal one of two things: either the firmness level of the bed isn’t right for you, or you have not gone through a full “break-in” period with your bed.
If you have slept on the bed for longer than the breaking in period and you are still experiencing discomfort, there may be options to adjust the bed’s firmness level to better suit your needs. To assess whether your bed is too soft or too firm, you can observe cues from your body. Certain sensations and pains can tell you what the problem is, and what you need to do to improve your comfort.
How to tell if your mattress is too soft or too firm?
- Pressure points such as shoulders, hips, or knees are pushed up above the rest of the body
- Numb or tingling shoulders or hips
- Sensation of sleeping on top of the mattress, or away from it
- Pressure points such as the shoulders, hips, or knees are sinking below the rest of the body
- Difficulty getting in and out of the bed
- Sensation of “bottoming out” on the upper layer(s) of the mattress
Adjustable firmness options
Depending on the brand you choose, there might be options to alter the firmness level of your mattress after the initial break-in period. Innovations like Novosbed’s Comfort+ adjust firmness by adding a layer of polyfoam to the mattress to make the bed firmer or softer as needed. This option can help remove some of the doubts about choosing the wrong firmness at the time of purchase, knowing you can resolve comfort issues instead of going through the hassle of a return.
If your chosen mattress does not offer an adjustable firmness like Comfort+ and you are faced with a decision between a firmer and a softer mattress, opt for the firmer bed. This way if you are unhappy with how firm it is after you bring it home, you can adjust it to be softer by buying a pillow-top or a foam topper.
Making the final decision
Finding a comfortable mattress should be much easier once you’ve chosen a firmness level that suits your needs. When shopping in retail locations, keep in mind that a showroom shopping experience might not necessarily be a good indicator for which firmness level you require, because floor model mattresses are often already broken in and will feel softer than a brand new mattress. New mattresses, particularly ones made with high density foam, can take up to 30 days to break-in. On the other hand, shopping for a mattress with a good online retailer will provide you with a sleep trial, a break-in period, and any additional information you’ll need to find a mattress that you’ll love for years.
How To Choose a Mattress in 5 Easy Steps – The Definitive Guide
I think you will agree with me when I say that choosing the right mattress is no easy task?
First, you have to dispose of your old one and then go through a tedious process of selecting a new bed that will serve you well for years to come.
And having couple dozen options, manufacturers and handful types and materials doesn’t help, does it?
Luckily for you, you canfind out exactly how to pick a new mattressand most important thing to consider.
Table of contents (use it to jump to a certain section)
If you are in a hurry jump to our conclusion and summary.
Join Better Sleep Community
Have you joined our Facebook group?
Come ask questions in our awesome community that stretches around the globe. Build connections and make friends with folks just like you trying to sleep better.
Step 1: Do You Really Need A New Mattress?
Many people change their beds after just a few years, and that’s perfectly fine if you can afford it. The fact is, it’s not a small investment, so take a moment to determine do you really need a new.
Generally, after seven or eight years you will most likely need a new mattress. Of course, it depends on the quality and material (we will cover the types and materials later in this article). And if you feel back or neck pain it might, your bedding is a good place to start.
Here is the average mattress lifespan in years based on material and type:
Step 2: Determine your Budget
A bit of personal backstory here…
Several years back I went to a store and purchased amattress priced at $2500which was not even the most expensive one there. During the first year or so it was perfect, and I felt rejuvenated, and I slept like a baby during that time.
But, something happened.
My new and awesome mattress started sagging and losing support and needless to say my back and neck suffered.
Another two years had passed until I decided to buy a new oneonline at $850and this is the same one I’m using today after three years. Back to reality.
Not anyone will have the budget to walk into a store and buy something for several thousand dollars. Luckily, these days there are manyonline optionsyou can choose from rangingfrom $500 to $1200. There are also Black Friday bed deals (and Cyber Monday) that can result in additional savings as well.
Don’t get confused here. More money does not mean better quality. If you think that some of these online options are somehow worse than in-store ones, you are badly mistaken.Stores tend to inflate the prices as much as 1000%.
Here are some guidelines for you:
- Don’t always go with the cheapest option you find– This is a rule of thumb for most products you buy online. Spending less than $500 for a queen mattress simply because it means lower durability, more toxins and lower sleep quality in general.
- Higher Price does not mean Higher Quality– I bet you know this one, but it’s worth mentioning.
- Go with $1000 range for Queen size– This is usually where you will find the best bang for your buck.
- King / Cal King will cost slightly more– I would increase the budget for King and California King to $1400-1500 as you will have many more choices in that range.
- Now that you have your new budget set, I’m guessing you are asking yourself“what type of mattress is best for me?”Let’s dig in.
Step 3: Choose Your Ideal Type and Material
Ok, so this is where most people will go with their personal preference rather than anything else. If someone says “latex is the best,” I would not take this as final until I read other opinions and test it myself. Here are the most common options you will find these days.
This is the most traditional form of the mattress, and as of late, it’s received a bad rap. However, it is important to understand the potential benefits you could receive from going the traditional route, as well as the reasons why this option has lost its luster.
An obvious pro to purchasing a bed with springs is that it is one of themost affordable optionson the market, due in part to a decrease in demand and also in part to so many other options that have the potential to be more comfortable andbetter for overall health.
Another consideration is that these mattresses are known to last for decades. Spring beds are exceedingly durable. Being that the springs are typically made from different types of metals, they tend to keep their shape for many years.
Additionally, being that they are the most traditional style, they are also the most familiar. People recognize and understand what they are getting when they purchase a bed with springs. There is no guess work with this option like there may be with memory foam or other newer options.
The last notable advantage to this style of bed is that, because of the amount of space located between the springs, this option allows for the most circulation of air. This flow helps to keep the temperature down, allowing for acooler night’s sleep.
Example of the coil mattresses structure
Ideal for: People who want strong support, durability, cooling and great bounce. It also has an excellent edge support.
These mattresses are known for their fantastic cooling and comfort. Latex has a good bounce, responsiveness too.
Authentic latex foam is made from a tree called Hevea-Brasilenis tree, specifically from the white liquid extracted from it. Latex is harvested, and when the excess water is removed, you end up with raw material fantastic for various products, bedding systems being one of them.
It’s also great because you don’t get off-gassing and odors like with memory foam products.
Example of the latex bed structure
There are two types to choose from:
- Natural – More healthy option and environment-friendly. But it’s also more expensive so expect to pay around $2000 for a good natural latex mattress
- Synthetic – Made by mixing synthetic polymers with natural tree sap. Less expensive of course but less healthy in turn.
Latex is best forpeople who want good cooling, responsiveness, and bounce.
Memory foam was first developed in the 1970’s by NASA as a safety material for seat cushions to protect pilots and passengers during plane crashes. Since then, the material has blossomed into the burgeoning product employed by virtually every mattress maker.
Example of the memory foam bed structure
Why has it become so popular? The answer is that it is said to provide superior comfort and support for the entire body. Anyone who’s pressed their hand into this material immediately understands its appeal.
Memory foam uniquelyconforms to every inch of the bodythat is pressed into it. When you lift your body from the material, it slowly regains its original form, essentially making it perfect for every body type and every sleeper.
Another unique property of memory foam is itsmotion isolationcapabilities. You may have seen those commercials with a lady jumping on a mattress with a glass of wine at the other end. Miraculously, the wine doesn’t spill.
The wine doesn’t spill because the energy from jumping is not transferred to other parts of the mattress. This translates to better sleeping for partners, because the tossing and turning of one does not affect the other, a feature that is not found among any of the other options on the market.
One of the most common issues that people experience is that thematerial retains heat. If you are someone who requires a cool night sleep, the memory foam option may not be the best choice for you. While the manufacturers are coming up with new and better ways to keep the heat down, the jury is still out as to whether or not they’ve succeeded.
Ideal For: People who want body shaping, contour, pressure relief and good support.
The hybrid mattress is an unusual combination of both traditional spring and memory foam. Providing the best of both worlds, this option offers the contouring and lack of motion transfer of foam coupled with the support of springs.
Structure of the hybrid bed- example
The term “hybrid” is very loosely used to describe the combination we just mentioned. However, the amount of foam for these beds varies widely depending on the level of firmness desired. Some options employ less than 1.5 inches of foam, lending to the fact that they more closely resemble that of a traditional spring bed rather than the more modern memory foam option.
To find the most optimal version of a hybrid, it’s best to choose the one that hasclose to 3 inches of foam. Anything above that, and you might as well forego the springs all together.
One negative aspect of these beds is the fact that they are one of the more expensive offerings you’ll find. Purchasing one of these could put you in the multiples of thousands of dollars, a significant investment, but a worthy one if you plan to enjoy it long term.
Good For: People who want best all around product with good support, bounce, cooling and pressure relief.
And now the three less common but still important types:
These beds offer a unique ability tochange the sleeping positionbased on your preference. You can elevate the head or feet giving you more options than traditional products. These beds provide extra comfort for people suffering from chronic lumbar pain or just want to be slightly elevated to prevent snoring. They do look ugly though most of the time.
Perfect for: People with certain medical conditions like snoring, older sleepers and people with lower back pain.
These are usually coil, latex or memory foam beds buthave a layer of soft material sewn into the cover to make it more comfortable. These are also considered more luxurious and usually cost a bit more than standard options.
Good for: People who prefer more padding and softer feel.
A rather weird option, but sometimes very fun especially if you love waterbed sex. Some of the most common reasons for opting in for this type is a backache and arthritis relief. These beds are also great for people with allergies.
Good for: People with back pain, arthritis and allergies and anyone looking for something less conventional.
Step 4. Determine your Ideal Sleeping Position and Firmness
Most of us have a unique way of sleeping every night. No matter if you sleep on your side, stomach or back, or even if you switch throughout the night you will have to consider and choose the ideal type of bed based on your preference. So, take a moment and think, what’s your favorite sleeping position because that determines theideal firmness of your new bed.
The most important factor for back sleepers is firmness and support. If your mattress is too soft, your body will sink and cause back pain. You will need one that’s soft enough to provide pressure relief but still provides enough support. On a scale of 1-10, the perfect range would be 5-7.
According to The Better Sleep Council, only roughly 15% of people are back sleepers. Being that you are unique, it’ll take a special mattress to offer you the night’s rest you are seeking.
It’s the consensus that memory foam mattresses provide the highest level of comfort for people who sleep on their backs. This is because it provides adequate contouring to the spine while maintaining a longevity of proper support and structure.
Many people who often sleep on their sides, endure discomfort and pain in their hip joints and shoulders.It’s usually due to unsuitable bedding.
It’s advised that you go with a bit softer option than for a back sleeper as these they provide for an equal distribution of pressure while you’re sleeping on your side.
Ideally, you want to choose a mattress with firmness level of 3-6 (out of 10) which falls undermedium soft.
This is considered the worst sleeping position. The most important thing for stomach sleepers is to provide equal distribution of weight across your entire body as your torso will apply most pressure. If the mattress is too soft (not enough support) your spine will curve causing back pain.
You will want to look for something in 5-7 range, which falls undermedium to medium-firm. The good thing is that most options are in this range.
Step 5. Consider your Weight as a Factor
On first glance, you might be asking yourself,what does weight have to do with choosing a mattress?
The truth is, support, hug, feel, sinkage and even cooling will depend on your body type and weight. Another harsh truth is that there is no “best” mattress for every one of us.
Let’s take a look at the following guidelines how to choose an ideal firmness level based on your weight:
- Light (Less than 150 pounds)– You will want a medium firm bed around5-6 firmnessthat doesn’t sink too much. If you are lighter than 150 lbs, you can even go with four since most beds are rated for average sleeper of 180lbs.
If you want a softer feel or if you are a side sleeper you can opt for 3-4 firmness range. These are soft orplush options.
- Average (150-200 pounds)– Like with the previous category you can choose industrystandard of 5-7, providing perfect support and comfort.
Some sleepers will want to opt for more softer beds, and that’s perfectly fine, just go with 3-5 range if you sleep on your side and you are all set.
- Heavier Person (200+ pounds)– Heavier people can cause more pressure points on their back, and ideally you want to choose a firmer option to adjust for sinkage. If you are having problems with cooling, you ought to consider coil mattresses.
Ideally, choose a thick (12”) or thicker bed. This will provide good support and soft feel.
How to Select the Right Mattress for You – Summary
Hopefully, you have finished reading the above but even if you haven’t these five steps will ease your task of choosing a mattress for you or your family.
- Do you need a new mattress?– If your current bed is over eight years old, I’d consider replacing it no matter what. If you are having trouble sleeping or experiencing back or neck pain I would start searching.
- What is your current budget?– Don’t go with the cheapest option you find. Aim for $700-1200 range for a standard queen size bed (see top options). Of course, if you are buying smaller ones for your kid or teenager, the price will be considerably lower. Don’t spend less than $400 though. The quality drop-off is huge.
- What are your ideal type and material?– This is hands down the biggest challenge. Memory foam offers good contour and hug but sleeps hot. Traditional coil ones provide good bounce and cooling and are generally more durable. I recommend foam or hybrid to most people except for heavier sleepers who should opt for innerspring.
- What’s your preferred sleeping position?– This determines your ideal firmness level. On a scale of 1-10 (one being soft and ten being very firm), back sleepers will want to opt for a medium firm (4-7), side sleepers for more softer option (3-5) and stomach sleepers will need more support to avoid sinking (6-7 range).
- What’s your body type and weight?– Lighter sleepers (150lbs or less) will want a 1-2 points softer mattress to get the same feel like an average (180lbs) person. On the other hand, if you are a heavier person you will need more support and thicker mattress to support the weight.
Author: Sleep Advisor
Our team covers as many areas of expertise as we do time zones, but none of us started here as a so-called expert on sleep. What we do share is a willingness to ask questions (lots of them), seek experts, and dig deep into conventional wisdom to see if maybe there might be a better path towards healthy living. We apply what we learn not only to our company culture, but also how we deliver information to our over 12.7M readers.
Sleep research is changing all the time, and we are 100% dedicated to keeping up with breakthroughs and innovations. You live better if you sleep better. Whatever has brought you here, we wish you luck on your journey towards better rest.