How Firm Is Orthopedic Mattress

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The 7 Highest Rated Firm (Hard) Mattresses in 2020

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One of the first things you ought to do when you go ahead and start looking for a bed is to identify the type of sleeper that you are. Do you prefer to sleep on your sides, back or stomach? As long as you get that sorted out correctly, you are good to go.

The next thing to consider, and probably the one that would ultimately determine your choice, is the mattress firmness. We are going to take a closer lookat some top rated firm mattresses on the market. They are usually preferred by people who like to sleep on their backs or stomach.

For more options, we recommend that you read our highlights of best-rated brands and see the winners for each category.

Of course, that’s far from being enough when it comes to determining the firmness level of your bed. There are quite a few things that you would have to account for to understand what makes a great firm (or extra-firm) mattress. That’s why we’ve taken the liberty of providing you with everything you need to know in a structured and comprehensive manner. Hopefully, after you are done the reading, you’ll be confident choosing your ideal “hard” mattress.

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Top 7 Firmest Bed Reviews

Saatva – Affordable Luxury

Highlights:

  • CertiPUR-US® Certified
  • 120-Day Trial
  • 15-Year Warranty
  • Charity Initiatives
  • Made in the USA

Saatva’s Firm model is an especially supportive innerspring bed that features a coil-on-coil construction with firmer foams in its comfort layers. Sleepers should feel like they are floating on top of the mattress rather than sinking into it and the alignment should be great for most back and stomach sleepers.

The coil-on-coil design includes individually wrapped springs on top of an interconnected coil base. While the first layer of coils helps contour, the base helps prevent sagging and gives support. The steel in the base coils has been tempered, which increases their durability.

Why is it special?A firmer innerspring experience provides all the things people love about coils. From bounce to support, Saatva offers a high-quality package.

It has premium features, like an enhancement to the lumbar area, as well as a dual perimeter edge support, and the incorporation of organic cotton into its cover. In addition, Saatva offers free White Glove Delivery and mattress removal.

Nectar – Exceptional Value

Highlights:

  • CertiPUR-US® Certified
  • OEKO-TEX® Certified
  • 365-Day Trial
  • Forever Warranty

This bed was made to suit most budgets with exceptional value due to the generous trial period and reasonable price. If you love the traditional feel of memory foam but feel like you get stuck deeper that you’d like it most mattresses, Nectar could be for you. Firm and supportive, but great for pressure points, Nectar uses a combination of three types of memory foam to provide the deep cradle many sleepers love without causing them to get stuck or overheat.

Because of the great support and soft pressure point relief, this bed could be a great option for a variety of sleeping positions, helping to maintain proper alignment. Though Nectar allows you to sink in comfortably, it shouldn’t retain heat like other memory foam options because of its breathable cover and the gel-infused top layer of foam.

What stands out?This bed was made with one firmness level to be suitable for most sleeping positions so you shouldn’t have to worry if you’re a combination sleeper or your partner sleeps differently than you. Combined with the extra-long trial, its versatility makes it a great value.

Plank by Brooklyn Bedding – Extremely Firm

Highlights:

  • CertiPUR-US® Certified
  • 120-Day Trial
  • 10-Year Warranty
  • Made in the USA

Firmer beds have plenty of benefits, from properly supporting stomach sleepers to helping many sleep cooler. For those looking for the right option, Plank by Brooklyn Bedding should be firm enough to support you, while allowing some cradling so you don’t feel like you’re sleeping on an actual plank.

On this firmer Brooklyn bed, you’re not likely to sink in but rather lay on top of the supportive foams and enjoy an evening of cool sleep. This option is great for stomach sleepers for proper spinal alignment, and while it might not relieve pressure points like memory foam, if you like sleeping on the floor, odds are that’s not a huge factor on your list. However, if the bed is a little too soft for your liking when it arrives, you can even flip it over for a firmer feel.

What makes it unique?As the foams are quick responding, most sleepers shouldn’t have any trouble with repositioning, and though it’s an all-foam model, with gel infusions, it shouldn’t retain heat.

For stomach and back sleepers, this bed is likely a dream come true, especially if you don’t find yourself preferring less cushion.

Brooklyn Aurora – Amazing Cooling

Highlights:

  • CertiPUR-US® Certified
  • 120-Day Trial
  • 10-Year Warranty
  • Made in the USA

For those who want to sleep on a firm cooling mattress with great features, the Brooklyn Aurora is one of the best we’ve seen, which is offered in a Firm configuration. The Brooklyn Aurora uses proprietary Titanflex™ latex alternative as the main foam in this bed with cooling and support mechanisms built into every layer. With pocketed coils, memory foam, and copper gel integrated into various parts of the bed, we know it may be oversaid, but this mattress has it all.

Why is it special?Brooklyn aims to pass along their savings in manufacturing to the customer, which is why they own their manufacturing process, cutting out middlemen. This means customers could get luxury quality and materials in a bed in box option without paying an exorbitant amount.

However, that’s not even the best part of this bed. While it’s exceptionally firm, it also has bounce, motion isolation, and edge reinforcement for those who want support they can rely on.

Loom & Leaf – Memory Foam

Highlights:

  • Organic Cotton Covering
  • CertiPUR-US® Certified
  • 120-Day Trial
  • 15-Year Warranty
  • Made in the USA

Firm memory foam? Although it may seem too good to be true, especially to stomach and back sleepers, the Firm model from Loom & Leaf is an incredibly supportive memory foam solution.

With the perks of a luxury mattress crossed with a firmer feel, this bed should elevate sleepers without making them feel like they’re sleeping on a rock.

The supportive foam and quilted organic cotton cover give it some comfort while the overall construction of the layers delivers firm support. With a cooling Spinal Zone Gel pad in the center third, sleepers should experience ideal temperature regulation and some extra support for the spine. This is especially helpful when lying in a position with a lot of surface area contact with the bed.

What stands out?For a good firm memory foam solution, it is hard to beat Loom & Leaf. It is an exceptionally well-made product that feels truly high-end. If you decide to purchase, you’ll even receive complimentary White Glove Delivery and mattress removal services.

Zenhaven – Flippable

Highlights:

  • Dual-Sided
  • OEKO-TEX® Certified
  • 120-Day Trial
  • 20-Year Warranty
  • Made in the USA

If you’re not quite sure if you need a harder mattress but suspect that maybe you should try one out, Zenhaven is a safe option because you can flip it over at will for a new feel– it is dual-sided. The brand claims that its Gentle Firm side feels 18% firmer than its Luxury Plush side.

Zenhaven uses four layers of tree-tapped American-made Talalay latex, bundled in organic New Zealand wool and cotton. The Talalay process for producing latex ensures a durable and consistent material that should also be hypoallergenic. The brand has taken its production one step further by innovating the Talalay design to include five zones for even more support for the shoulder and torso areas.

What makes it unique?Zenhaven has a luxurious latex feel, giving the body a buoyant sensation when lying down, along with solid support and quick responsiveness in each layer. If you find yourself in need of a softer bed, it’s only a flip away.

Complimentary White Glove Delivery and free mattress removal are part of the Zenhaven package, making your best night’s sleep even more hassle-free.

Love and Sleep by Nest Bedding – Budget Choice

Highlights:

  • CertiPUR-US® Certified
  • GREENGUARD Gold Certified
  • 100-Night Trial
  • Lifetime Comfort Guarantee
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Made in the USA

Nest Bedding® built its entry-level Love & Sleep budget bed with so many higher-level features that we’re surprised at the price. Their multiple comfort levels include a Firm mattress that works well for exclusive stomach sleepers and back sleepers who like a little extra support.

This iteration of the Love & Sleep has a supportive 8-inch foam core that is topped with a 2-inch layer of Energex foam that provides pressure relief and contouring. The entire bed is wrapped in a durable cover integrated with phase-change materials to help keep your temperature regulated throughout the night.

Why do we love it?The company has included some impressive cooling technology and a generous sleep trial/warranty package with their beds that give it fantastic value in the entry-level space. Additionally, for being an all-foam bed, this model does well with motion isolation and provides enough bounce to keep most sleepers happy.

There is also a Lifetime Comfort Guarantee that helps ensure your satisfaction for as long as you own the bed.

Who Should Sleep on a Firmer Bed?

One of the first things that you want to consider is what kind of sleepers benefit the most from a good firm option. If you usually sleep on your back or your stomach – you may fall into that category. At the same time, if you are a heavier regarding weight, you’d also likely benefit a lot from a hard mattress that is more stiff than what a side sleeper needs.

For those of you who like to sleep on their backs – the harder bed will work at keeping your spine in proper alignment, and it should prevent excessive sagging and contouring.

Stomach sleepers, on the other hand, also benefit from a hard mattress for reasons that are quite similar. They tend to keep a particularly flat profile, which results in fewer gaps between your body and the bed. With this said, if you prefer belly sleeping, you should consider a unit that will prevent your back from arching. At the same time, the bed should prevent your pelvis from sinking right into it.

Who Shouldn’t Get a Hard Bed?

Naturally, some people wouldn’t prefer a particularly hard bed. Those of you who like sleeping on their sides probably wouldn’t appreciate the extra firmness. The reasons are numerous.

Right off the bat, the very first thing that you should consider is that while sleeping on your side, you exert a lot more pressure on a concentrated surface on the mattress. That’s why the sinkage can be a lot more. If the bed doesn’t contour your body and sink appropriately, you can start experiencing pain in your shoulders and lower back.

People who are light regarding weight should also stay away from hard beds. The reason is quite simple – they wouldn’t be able to exert enough pressure on the bed to sink and would likely float on top of it. This is a rather unpleasant sensation that can also cause a lot of issues.

Benefits of a Firm Model

Obviously, firm mattresses are suitable for a particular types of sleepers. There are numerous benefits brought by a firmer bed, so let’s have a look.

  • They are more comfortable for some

The truth is that you can never have too much support. However, the opposite is true. Firmer mattresses offer an expressed amount of support, and they are a lot more comfortable if used by the right person. Those of you who experience lower back pain, neck or joint issues could benefit.

You would never be able to get a proper rest if your mattress is overly soft or if it’s sagging for the positions we’ve discussed. With this in mind, a proper bed with the necessary amount of firmness will comprehensively align your spine, inducing a state of great relaxation.

  • Excellent alignment

If there is one thing that you should consider when picking a mattress, that’s the spine alignment. A firm bed can significantly help with this if used for the proper positions.

  • Proper distribution of weight

A firm model offers splendid overall weight distribution which can alleviate a lot of pressure points between the body and the bed.

Buyer’s Guide

As you have started your search online, there are a few guidelines you can use to help find something you will be comfortable on for years to come. While some people like to go to shops like Mattress Firm or other local stores, if you prefer to shop online, reference the following tips to help make your selection.

How Firm?

There are different types of firmness levels when it comes to it. We’ve decided to focus on those who score up the higher end of the scale.

Typically, for a mattress to be above the average, it has to be medium firm, firm, and extra firm. These all have different purposes.

For instance, medium-firm beds are preferred by the vast majority of sleepers. It’s estimated that about 80% of people prefer this particular firmness level. Firm ones would feel slightly less tough in comparison, and the firmest ones are very sturdy.

Hard mattresses are great for back and stomach sleepers while extra-firm ones can be used by people who are substantially overweight or are just very heavy. This would help guarantee the necessary support.

What Material?

There are different types of materials that you can go for. The most preferred on the market when it comes to beds are memory foam, innerspring and latex.

Now, if you are a fan of memory foam mattresses, you could have a harder time finding a firm, let alone extra firm bed. This is due to the natural properties of the material.

On the other hand, innerspring and latex are materials are generally more responsive, and they can make it easier for the mattress to be a firm. They are the predominant materials for most extra-firm solutions just for that reason.

Beware of Sagging

Sagging in mattresses that are firmer could be a serious issue for sleepers. In certain situations, the excessive sag is caused by the low quality of the material. That’s why we recommend making no compromises if you’re to buy a firm bed.

Old mattresses, however, may no longer have the material or structural integrity to deliver the necessary amount of support. Keep in mind that the average useful lifespan for the majority of beds will range between 8 and ten years. Of course, there are a lot of factors that might affect and alter this such as usage, body type, weight, and others of the kind.

Edge Support

The edge support is quite important for some, and it’s amongst the factors that you can account for. Poor edge support could potentially lead to quicker sagging of your mattress as you sleep regularly on it.

For those sleepers who share it with someone else, you are likely to find yourself on edge a lot more than you’d like to. This is when you can definitely appreciate proper edge support.

However, another way to help get around it is to get a bigger size if you are part of a couple. For instance, instead of getting a good Queen size mattress, you can order a King size so there is more available space for each person.

Amorous activities are also an important consideration. Interestingly enough, quite a lot of couples enjoy taking advantage of the edge of the bed for sexual activities. Most of the options outlined above do not suffer from this problem.

Temperature (Air Flow)

This is one of the most commonly underestimated characteristics and also one of the most important ones for many people. The air flow that your mattresses allows largely determines the overall temperature of the unit.

The last thing you’d want is to wake up sweating through the night, just because you’ve picked a unit that retains a substantial amount of heat.

You can aim for something cooler and innerspring and latex are the leaders in this segment, though there are often gel infusions in memory products. Overall, a cooler bed is attributed to better sleep and proper rest.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Medium-Firm Mattress?

When you’re looking for a bed, you’re looking to blend the perfect amount of two key features, which are pressure relief and support. You want one that is soft enough to cushion the places where the body tends to develop pressure when lying prone, and you also want a bed with enough support in place to keep your weight resting evenly. This blend is not the same for everyone or every sleeping position, but Medium-Firm tends to accommodate most sleepers in most positions.

If you’ve been doing some mattress shopping, you’ve probably heard the words “medium-firm” a lot: there’s definitely a reason for this. Mattress manufacturers looking to capture the largest market for their brand aim for this firmness because it tends to be the most versatile feel across the largest population of body types. It is also ideal for combination sleepers who switch positions at night.

It’s important to keep in mind that not every sleeper will experience a bed in the same way, and what feels Medium-Firm for one person might feel quite a bit firmer to someone who is significantly lighter than average. Likewise, someone significantly heavier might experience a bed marked Firm as quite a bit softer.

Orthopaedic Mattresses

Choose an orthopaedic mattress for firmer support

If you suffer with back, joint or musculoskeletal problems, an orthopaedic mattress could give you the support you need at bedtime. Or you may simply prefer the support from a firmer mattress, in which case these mattresses would suit you too. Orthopaedic mattresses are designed to give you maximum support, offering better weight distribution to help gently relieve those sleep pressure points.

Choose your orthopaedic mattress

Orthopaedic solutions for a blissful nights sleep

Sealy Ortho Mattress

The Sealy Ortho Support is ideal for those who prefer a firm sleeping surface. Featuring Sealy’s Posturepedic spring system, the mattress profiles your body to provide the maximum support and comfort.

Clima Control Latex Mattress

Our bodies have impeccable air conditioning as we go about our everyday lives. The Clima Control Latex Ortho features a sophisticated system that helps regulate our body temperature while we sleep, which is important for optimum comfort throughout the night.

Como Backcare Firm Mattress

With 1000 individually pocketed springs, the Como Backcare Firm has premium ultra firm orthopaedic support to ensure you sleep well all year round. It’s seasonal – with one side layered with English wool to keep you warm on chilly winter evenings and the other side offering the coolness of quality synthetic fibres in summer.

Silentnight Ortho Choice Mattress

Introducing the Silentnight Ortho Choice Eco 1400 mattress, featuring their unique Eco Comfort Fibres™ – sustainable and breathable fibres that are 100% recyclable and intelligently constructed to deliver superb comfort night after night.

Pure Magnificence Mattress

The Pure Magnificence is a luxuriously handcrafted bed like no other. Handcrafted in Britain by Staples, master bed makers for over 120 years, the Pure Magnificence indulges you with sumptuous all-natural fillings of British Highland wool, bamboo, alpaca and pashmina.

Sealy Haven Mattress

our bedroom should be a sleep haven – a place where you can enjoy a blissful, rejuvenating rest every night. Our premium mattresses from The Sanctuary Collection by Sealy allow you to do just that.

Slumberland Halo Pocket Mattress

The Slumberland Halo Pocket 1400, with the finest Belgian damask fabric and traditional hand tufted finish, offers the ultimate in true support and is ideal for those who prefer a firmer feel. Part of the Slumberland Solutions collection, this mattress is the work of nearly 100 years of expertise in making mattresses.

Tempur Helsinki Mattress

Sumptuous quilted fabric using TEMPUR Extra Soft Material for the ultimate in plush comfort. The original TEMPUR material – our breakthrough technology derived from NASA – relieves pressure points and absorbs partner motions.

Natural Bamboo Ortho Mattress

An extra firm mattress; with 2000 responsive pocket springs. Superbly resilient, sumptuous natural fillings of Bamboo, Wool, Alpaca, and Tencel.

Sealy Activsleep Ortho

The Sealy Ortho Extra Firm provides support across the entire sleeping surface. Do you wake up easily during the night due to a partner or pet moving? The mattress features Sealy’s PostureTech Zero Deflection (ZD) system which combats both weight and movement to avoid motion disruption

Myers Orthorest Mattress

With over 800 pocket springs and layers of myerpaedic support, the Orthorest 800 Mattress is the ultimate bedroom companion. Edge to edge technology allows full use of the mattress and prevents you from rolling out of bed while tufting pre-tensions the mattress for a firmer feel.

Ortho Options Mattress

If you require extra firm orthopaedic support from your mattress, the Ortho Options is perfect to compliment your sleeping style. With its extra firm coils to provide consistent all-over support for your whole body, the Ortho Options is a fantastic all-rounder mattress and great value.

Orthopaedic mattress sizes

Select your prefered mattress size

Find your perfect orthopaedic mattress

Select your preferred mattress type

Memory Foam

Originally developed by NASA, memory foam mattresses are topped with a layer of temperature-sensitive foam that moulds to the shape of your body as you sleep. This offers exceptional support, relieving the pressure on your joints for a truly luxurious night’s sleep.

Pocket Sprung

These mattresses contain hundreds of individual springs, housed in their own fabric pockets. Each one moves independently, so you get just the right amount of support on your pressure points. It also means you’re less likely to be disturbed when your partner rolls over at night.

Open Coil

If you’re looking for a hard-working, durable mattress at a great price, take a look at our open coil mattress range. For years the UK’s most popular type of mattress, open coil mattresses contain a lattice of springs that help spread your weight more evenly.

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Shop Specialist Orthopaedic Mattresses

An orthopaedic mattress is the ideal choice if you need enhanced levels of support. Specially designed to care for and support your back, orthopaedic mattresses are recommended if you suffer from back pain. An orthopaedic mattress is usually firmer than other mattresses.

Ortho mattresses help to promote a healthy sleeping posture, support spinal alignment and distribute weight evenly across the mattress. The result is a healthier, comfortable sleep. Start your day with a smile – you’ll wake up refreshed, free of aches and pains.

If your current mattress is leaving you feeling more tired when you wake up than when you went to sleep, it’s time to consider a new mattress. We offer a wide range of orthopaedic mattresses from leading brands such as Silentnight, Sealy, Rest Assured and Myers to name a few.

We keep most of these superior quality orthopaedic mattresses in stock so they’re available for you to enjoy deeper, more restful sleep as early as tomorrow! Read our guide and discover how an orthopaedic mattress can help you.

If your budget is causing you to hesitate, take a look at our excellent selection of orthopaedic mattresses with up to 65% off the regular retail price. You can also take advantage of our Free Two Man Delivery Upgrade to the room of your choice on specially selected products. Shop our orthopaedic range today and enjoy a better night’s sleep.

How to buy the best mattress

We explain how to find the best mattress without paying thousands of pounds.

Put us to the test

Our Test Labs compare features and prices on a range of products. Try Which? to unlock our reviews. You’ll instantly be able to compare our test scores, so you can make sure you don’t get stuck with a Don’t Buy.

Do you want a good night’s sleep? Deciding which type of mattress to buy is only part of the story. Whether you prefer a pocket-sprung or a memory-foam mattress, our tests have found big differences between the best and worst of each mattress ‘type’.

Make the wrong choices and you risk being lumbered with a needlessly expensive mattress that’s uncomfortable, unsupportive and unable to stand the test of time without sagging and softening.

Thankfully, we’ve explained everything you need to know below to ensure you get the right mattress.

Video: how to buy the best mattress

Watch our video to help you pick the perfect mattress for your sleeping position, body shape and bedroom.

Types of mattress

Pocket-sprung, latex and memory-foam mattresses have all impressed in our tough tests, so the type of mattress you choose really comes down to personal preference and budget.

Pocket-sprung mattresses

If you want a traditional mattress with natural fillings, such as wool, you’ll want a pocket-sprung mattress.

With these, each spring is enclosed in its own fabric ‘pocket’ – each reacts to pressure from your body independently. However, these can be pricey and our tests show they can sag significantly over time.

Memory-foam mattresses

Memory-foam mattresses can be more durable and mould to your body shape but, in some cases, this can increase your body temperature and restrict your movement.

For more information about mattress types, see our guide to choosing the best type of mattress.

How much does a good mattress cost?

A new mattress can cost anywhere between £100 and several thousand. Factors such as brand, size and the types of material used can all have a significant impact on cost.

But, as the graph below shows, our mattress tests have found you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a mattress that will support your spine and last for years to come. Take a look at our list of the best cheap mattresses.

Number of Best Buy mattresses by price

What are the best mattress brands?

Our April 2018 survey of more than 5,000 mattress owners revealed that three in 10 Which? members bought their current mattress because it’s made by a brand they trust. If you’re not sure what the best mattress brands are, we can help.

Check out our guide to the best and worst mattress brands. This reveals what people think of the brand of mattress they own, including how comfortable their mattress is, and covers major brands such as Casper, Ikea, John Lewis, Sealy and Silentnight.

Soft vs firm mattresses

When it comes to firmness, the most important thing is to buy a mattress that you find comfortable.

Don’t buy a mattress that’s firmer than you’d like on the assumption that it will be more supportive. Time and again, our tests have shown you don’t have to buy a firm mattress to get excellent and long-lasting support.

Equally, don’t assume that a firm mattress in one store will feel the same in other shops. Firmness is subjective and manufacturers describe the firmness of their mattresses in a range of different ways.

That’s why we don’t use terms such as soft and firm in our reviews. Instead, we objectively test mattress firmness on a scale of one to 10, where one is the firmest and 10 the softest, so you can easily compare the firmness of different mattresses.

We also measure how supportive each mattress is for a range of different body sizes and sleeping positions.

Use our mattress reviews to arm yourself with a shortlist of supportive mattresses to try out in store.

Best mattresses: features to look out for

As mattresses serve a single basic function – to help us sleep – they don’t come overloaded with jazzy features. But there are still a few things to look out for.

  • One-sidedAs the name suggests, only one side of a one-sided mattress is designed to be slept on. Mattresses can be extremely heavy – the heaviest we’ve seen weighs more than 50kg – so you may be relieved not to feel obliged to flip it. You’ll probably still need to rotate it from head to toe, though, so it’s a good idea to check the ease of use rating in our mattress reviews.
  • Natural fillingsMany pocket-sprung mattresses also contain layers of synthetic fillings, such as foam. If you’re keen to avoid these, look out for mattresses specifically claim to be made using only natural materials.
  • Memory foamSimilarly, just because a mattress contains memory foam doesn’t make it a memory-foam mattress. We only class a mattress as memory foam if it contains more than just a token layer of the body moulding material. See all our memory foam mattress reviews.

Try before you buy

Buying a mattress online may be cheaper and more convenient but, unless you’re buying a bed-in-a-box mattress (see below), it’s always best to try before you buy.

When we asked Which? members about their experience of buying a mattress, more than a third of them told us they feel intimidated trying out a mattress in the shop. A good mattress shop shouldn’t mind you doing this. See our guide on the best mattress shops.

When trying out a mattress in-store:

  • Wear comfortable clothing and remove your outdoor gear.
  • Lie on a mattress for at least 10 minutes, in positions that you normally sleep in.
  • If the bed is for two, go with your partner.
  • Don’t shop for beds when you’re tired, as all the mattresses will feel great.
  • Don’t let sales assistants influence you – they can’t decide whether the mattress is comfortable for you.

If you’re buying a memory foam mattress, relax in one position, then move into another. Was it easy or did you struggle to move? If the latter, you might find the memory mattress will restrict your movement too much, especially in cold weather when the memory foam will be harder.

Should you buy a mattress online?

If you’re looking for a bargain mattress, one option is to try a few mattresses out in a shop, before going home to search for the best price online. That’s what 5% of Which? members did when they bought their last mattress, according to our 2018 survey of more than 5,000 mattress owners.

But around 14% bought online without trying their mattress first. That sounds risky – especially when we’ve just recommended you try a mattress before you buy – but it’s not if you buy a bed-in-a-box mattress.

Bed-in-a-box mattresses

These are mattresses that are bought online, vacuum-packed into a box and delivered direct to your door, and there are three reasons you should consider one:

  1. By cutting out the retailer and selling direct from manufacturer to consumer, many brands claim you’re getting a higher-quality mattress for less.
  2. Most online-only mattresses offer a sleep trial of at least 10 weeks. During this time you can try the mattress at home and send it back for a full refund if you don’t like it. In most cases, the manufacturer will collect the unwanted mattress from your house for free before recycling it or donating it to charity.
  3. We’re yet to test a bad one. More than half of the Best Buy mattresses we’ve uncovered can only be bought in a box.

Make sure your mattress fits your bed base

Manufacturers may encourage you to buy a mattress and bed base together, and this is a good idea if you’ve had your old base for many years.

If you buy the mattress and base separately, or are going to keep your old base, measure carefully to make sure they’re a good fit. Dimensions can vary so don’t rely on a new double mattress being exactly the same size as your old one.

Is your mattress going on to a slatted base? Then make sure that the slats are no more than 6cm wide or more than 4cm apart. This ensures sufficient ventilation, while preventing the mattress sagging through between the slats.

For more information, read our guide: What bed size do you need?

Check the guarantee/warranty on your mattress

Make sure you know what your rights are if there’s a problem with your mattress.

Most guarantees for mattresses will not cover gradual wear and tear, which leads to loss of support. So make sure you use our mattress reviews to pick out a durable mattress that will stand the test of time.

Most online-only mattresses offer a sleep trial of at least 10 weeks.

Before you buy your mattress, check whether there’s anything in particular, such as removing labels or using a base other than a recommended one, that would invalidate the guarantee.

Now you know how to go about buying the best mattress for you, check out ourbest mattressrecommendationsto reveal the mattresses that will support your spine and last for years.

Do I Need a Soft or Firm Mattress?

Quick Overview

Whether you need a ‘soft’ or ‘firm’ mattress will ultimately depend on your body, budget, and personal preferences. The right firmness level for a given sleeper varies by height, weight, and sleep position.

Additionally, mattress firmness is often linked to pricing and performance factors like durability and pressure relief. Due to the wide range of mattresses sold today, multiple firmness options are available for memory foam and latex beds, innersprings, hybrids and other common mattress types.

Read on to learn more about finding a mattress with the right firmness level for you and your sleep partner.

Why Is Firmness Important?

A mattress with the right firmness level will provide adequate support and alleviate pressure points throughout the sleeper’s body. Mattresses that feel too firm or not firm enough can create joint discomfort, back and shoulder pain, and exacerbate pressure points.

How soft or firm a mattress feels will largely depend on how the comfort layer (or comfort system) is constructed, as well as its overall thickness. The comfort layer is defined as the body-cushioning system that forms the topmost part of the mattress, and its composition will determine how closely the mattress conforms to a sleeper’s body. Common comfort layer components include polyfoam, memory foam, latex, and/or steel microcoils, as well as the mattress cover. Some mattresses have a single-layer comfort system, while others may have as many as four or five individual layers in the comfort system.

Other factors can be used to evaluate firmness in different mattress types. In innerspring mattresses, the gauge (or thickness) of steel coil and other metal components can affect overall firmness. In mattresses made entirely of foam and/or latex, firmness may be linked to a measurement known as indentation load deflection (or ILD). ILD refers to how much weight is needed to indent a sleep surface by 25%; mattresses with low ILD ratings are not as firm and require less weight for indentation, while mattresses with high ILD ratings are firmer and require more weight.

Due to the wide range of firmness preferences among individual sleepers, many mattress manufacturers offer models with multiple firmness options. Additionally, some mattresses are available in ‘dual firmness’ or ‘split firmness’ designs that feature different firmness settings on both sides of the top surface; these models are geared toward couples with differing firmness preferences. Other ‘flippable’ models feature different firmness settings on both the top and bottom surfaces, and they can be rotated whenever the owner wants to change the firmness.

Firmness vs. Support

Firmness is tied to bodily support, although it’s important to differentiate between these two terms: firmness refers to how a mattress feels as soon as a sleeper lies down, whereas support refers to how well a mattress maintains an even and sag-free surface, aligns the sleeper’s spine, and relieves pressure throughout the night.

That being said, mattresses that are too soft or too firm may lack proper support for certain sleepers. Excessively soft mattresses often sink excessively, which can compromise support for heavier individuals. These beds may also create discomfort for those who sleep on their back or stomach, since both of these positions require flat surfaces for good spinal alignment.

Alternatively, many lighter individuals find that excessively firm mattresses do not conform closely enough; as a result, they do not experience as much pain and pressure relief as heavier people. Side sleepers also tend to prefer mattresses that are less firm; this position often requires surfaces that conform closely to align the spine and alleviate related aches and pains as they develop.

In addition to firmness, sagging and indentations in the sleep surface can also negatively impact mattress support. Minor indentations of 5 inches or less may not affect how the mattress feels, but deeper sagging can cause pressure points to develop in affected areas of the sleeper’s body. Generally, mattresses built with high-density foam, Dunlop latex, or coil support cores withstand sagging and indentations to the most noticeable extent.

How Is Firmness Measured?

At Tuck.com, we rate mattresses using the following 1-10 firmness scale:

  • 1 (Extra Soft):An extremely plush sleep surface that sinks deeply beneath a sleeper’s body.
  • 2-3 (Soft):A very plush surface that conforms closely and sinks somewhat deeply.
  • 4 (Medium Soft):A plush surface with adequate conforming and minimal sinking.
  • 5 (Medium):An even balance of firmness and conforming with little sinking.
  • 6 (Medium Firm):A low-conforming surface with very little (if any) sinking.
  • 7-8 (Firm):A sufficiently firm surface that conforms to a degree without any sinking.
  • 9-10 (Extra Firm):An extremely hard surface with no conforming or sinking.

It’s important to note that mattresses with firmness settings of ‘1’, ‘9’, or ’10’ are quite rare because the vast majority of sleepers prefer surfaces with firmness settings of 2 to 8. As a result, most mattresses sold today fall between ‘Soft‘ and ‘Firm.’

Firmness and Sleeper Type

Body weight and sleep position are arguably the two most important factors for determining the right mattress firmness.

People with below-average weights generally feel more on mattress with lower firmness settings; if the mattress is too firm, then they may not weigh enough to feel any conforming or pressure relief. On the other hand, people who weigh more than 230 pounds may experience uncomfortable sinking on mattresses with low firmness settings.

Sleep position is key because it determines which areas of the body need more cushioning and support.

  • Back sleepers require more spinal and lower back support to maintain proper spinal alignment and prevent pain and discomfort from developing.
  • Side sleepers have vulnerable pressure points at the shoulders and hips, and also require neck support for proper spinal alignment.
  • Stomach sleepers generally need firmer mattresses to adequately support their hips and prevent uncomfortable sinking; most physicians do not recommend stomach sleeping due to the high risk of discomfort and pressure.

As a result, a side sleeping individual who weighs 150 pounds will react quite differently to the feel of a mattress than a back or stomach sleeper who weighs 300 pounds. Additional factors include the sleeper’s shoulder, waist, and hip measurements.

Using customer reports and product analysis data, the table below features the most popular firmness setting for individuals with different weights and sleep positions. Please note that this table reflects general findings; mattress firmness preferences are highly subjective, and we strongly urge all buyers to test out multiple firmness settings before buying a new mattress.

Weight GroupSleep PositionOptimal Firmness Range
Lighter than average
(Less than 130 lbs.)
SideMedium Soft to Medium
BackMedium Soft to Medium Firm
StomachMedium Soft to Medium Firm
Average
(130 to 230 lbs.)
SideMedium Soft to Medium
BackMedium to Firm
StomachMedium to Medium Firm
Heavier than average
(More than 230 lbs.)
SideMedium to Medium Firm
BackMedium Firm to Firm
StomachMedium Firm to Firm

Firmness and Mattress Price

Although mattress price-points vary from brand to brand, models with low firmness settings (1 to 3) tend to be the most expensive due to extra padding layers that make the comfort system feel exceptionally soft.

Additionally, high-end materials like Talalay latex and gel memory foam tend to produce comfort systems with the softest settings. Alternatively, firmer mattresses feature less padding and are usually cheaper by comparison.

Firmness and Mattress Performance

The firmness setting may be used to determine how a mattress will perform in the long run. Performance factors tied to mattress firmness include the following:

  • Durability:Mattresses with low firmness settings – particularly innersprings – tend to be the least durable due to premature sagging and indentations in their relatively soft sleep surfaces. Firmer mattresses are less susceptible to this type of degradation, and their average lifespan is significantly longer.
  • Pain/pressure relief:Mattresses with mid-level firmness settings (4 to 6) tend to alleviate the most bodily pain and pressure, since they are designed to offer a balance of comfort and support. Models that are too firm or not firm enough provide less pain and pressure relief by comparison.
  • Smell:Off-gassing odor is an issue for most mattresses, but mattresses with low firmness settings (1 to 3) tend to produce stronger, longer-lasting smells because they have thicker foam layers; off-gassing is a major complaint among foam mattress owners. Firmer mattresses, on the other hand, generally contain lower amounts of foam and, as a result, produce less odor.
  • Temperature neutrality:Medium Firm and Firm mattresses typically retain less body heat and sleep somewhat cool as a result, while mattresses with lower firmness settings usually sleep warmer. However, temperature neutrality is more closely linked to mattress type; innersprings and hybrids tend to retain less body heat than foam and latex models.
  • Sex:Mattresses with mid-level firmness settings tend to be best for sex because they are sufficiently responsive without causing too much sinkage. Firmer mattresses are usually responsive enough for sex, as well. Mattresses with lower firmness settings may also be responsive but sinkage is an issue for some.
  • Ease of moving:Mattresses with low firmness settings are usually heavier, and need to be rotated more often, than mattresses with higher firmness settings.

The table below features a summary of pricing and performance expectations for mattresses with different firmness settings:

Firmness RangeExtra Soft to Soft (1-3)Medium Soft to Medium Firm (4-6)Firm to Extra Firm (7-10)
PriceMost expensiveAffordableMost affordable
DurabilityPoor to FairFair to GoodGood to Very Good
Pain/pressure reliefFair to GoodGood to Very GoodPoor to Fair
Odor potentialPoor to FairFair to GoodGood to Very Good
Temperature neutralityPoor to FairFair to GoodGood to Very Good
SexFair to GoodGood to Very GoodGood to Very Good
Ease of movingPoor to FairFair to GoodGood to Very Good

Firmness and Pillow Loft

Pillows play an important role in mattress firmness preferences. Pillow loft, or pillow thickness, can greatly affect the feel of a mattress. The thickness of a pillow is measured using the term ‘loft’. Low-loft pillows measure less than 3 inches thick, medium-loft pillows measure 3 to 5 inches thick, and high-loft pillows measure more than 5 inches thick. A good rule-of-thumb when choosing pillows for a mattress: the lower the firmness setting, the lower the pillow loft.

The table below features a detailed breakdown of the optimal pillow loft for different firmness settings:

Firmness RangeLow-Loft Pillow RatingMedium-Loft Pillow RatingHigh-Loft Pillow Rating
Extra Soft to Soft (1-3)Very GoodFair to GoodPoor
Medium Soft to Medium Firm (4-6)Fair to GoodVery GoodFair to Good
Firm to Extra Firm (7-10)PoorFair to GoodGood to Very Good

Mattress Buying Tips

Many mattress manufacturers list a firmness setting with different models. If this information is not available online for a particular model and you are unable to test out the mattress in person, we strongly recommend reaching out to that company’s customer service division to inquire about its firmness level.

Many online-only mattress brands offer sleep trials for new customers. These trials are typically 30 to 90 nights in length; customers have the option of returning their mattress for a full or partial refund before the trial period ends. In some cases, customers may be able to exchange their mattress for a different model — but it is important to read the fine print, since some brands do not allow customers to exchange their mattress for a model with a different firmness level.

Additionally, most companies will not honor warranty claims for customers who are dissatisfied with the firmness level of their mattress, or whose comfort preferences have changed since they made their original purchase. Unless the mattress shows another type of defect covered under the warranty (such as deep indentations or protruding wires), mattress owners will likely be unable to replace their mattress for a model with a different firmness setting.

Mattress Firmness Checklist

Before purchasing a mattress, here are a few firmness-oriented considerations to make:

  • What is your mattress budget?Mattresses with low firmness ratings tend to be more expensive than those with higher firmness ratings.
  • What is your weight?People who weigh less than 130 pounds usually feel more comfortable on ‘Soft’ or ‘Medium’ mattresses, while those who weigh more than 230 pounds often prefer higher firmness ratings. People who fall in the middle, fittingly, tend to prefer ‘Medium Soft’ to ‘Medium Firm’ surfaces.
  • What is your preferred sleep position?Generally speaking, side-sleepers are more comfortable on mattresses with lower firmness ratings, while back- and stomach-sleepers prefer mattresses with higher firmness ratings.
  • Do you have chronic back pain or constant pressure/discomfort?If the answer is yes, then you may feel most comfortable on mattresses with mid-level firmness ratings.
  • Is off-gassing a major issue?People who are sensitive to strong smells may prefer firmer mattresses, since they produce less off-gassing odor compared to mattresses with lower firmness ratings.
  • Do you sleep hot?Mattresses with ‘Medium’ or ‘Firm’ ratings typically retain less body heat than those with ‘Soft’ ratings, and sleep cooler as a result.
  • Do you plan to use the mattress for sex?Mattresses with lower firmness ratings tend to be more responsive – and thus, better for sex – than those with higher firmness ratings.
  • Do you plan to move/rotate the mattress on your own?Mattresses with lower firmness ratings tend to be heavier (due to additional padding layers) than firmer mattresses. Additionally, less firm mattresses need to be rotated more often on average.
  • What type of pillows do you own?Low-loft pillows are best paired with mattresses that are less firm, while high-loft mattresses go with firmer mattresses. If you do not own pillows with the right loft level, then you may need to purchase new ones in order to feel comfortable.
  • Are firmness exchanges allowed?Before committing to a specific brand, be sure to review the terms of their sleep trial and mattress warranties. In some cases, you will not be able to exchange your mattress for a model with a different firmness once the initial purchase has been made.

Firmness FAQ

Lastly, we’ll answer some common additional questions regarding mattress firmness options.

How can I test out firmness before buying?

Those who visit brick-and-mattress stores can arrange to visit one of these locations and lie down on a mattress to test the firmness. However, physical stores typically have a narrower selection of beds and price-points tend to be higher due to overhead costs related to maintaining a brick-and-mortar establishment.

Many online mattress brands do not operate brick-and-mortar locations, but they offer ‘sleep trials’ that allow customers to test out a bed before committing to a full purchase. Most sleep trials begin on the date of purchase and delivery, and extend for at least 90 consecutive nights; in rare cases, the trial may span one year or longer.

If the customer is dissatisfied with their bed before the trial period expires, then they may return it for a full or partial refund (depending on the brand’s trial offer). Some companies will also arrange for the mattress to be picked up from the customer’s residence at no extra charge, while others will apply shipping and transportation fees to the total refund amount.

One thing to note: some mattress sellers impose a mandatory break-in period. This means customers must test out the mattress for a certain amount of time (typically at least 30 nights) before they qualify for a full refund on their return.

What if I have different firmness preferences than my partner?

Differing firmness preferences can be a challenge for couples, but many of today’s beds address this concern by offering multiple firmness settings. These include mattresses with dual-firmness, meaning each side of the bed has a different firmness setting.

Other mattresses are flippable, with a different firmness setting on the top and bottom surfaces. These beds may be more suitable for couples who are willing to compromise on firmness night-to-night.

For couples with different preferences who would rather not purchase a new mattress, toppers can be very useful. A mattress topper is an individual layer of cushioning that rests on top of the mattress, usually beneath the top sheet. Most toppers make the mattress feel softer but some can actually increase the firmness. Common topper materials include memory foam, latex, down/feather blends, and wool.

I bought a mattress and I don’t like the firmness level. What can I do?

First, look into the bed’s return policy. If you are dissatisfied with the firmness but 90 nights have not elapsed since the original purchase or delivery date, then you may be able to return the bed for a full refund or, in some cases, exchange it for a different model from the same brand.

If the trial period has passed, then you will most likely be unable to return the mattress for a refund. Most mattress warranties stipulate that mattress repairs or replacements are not available simply because the owner’s firmness preferences have changed; in other words, firmness preference is not considered an identifiable defect.

Those who want to change the feel of their mattress after the trial period expires can use a topper to increase or reduce their bed’s firmness. If six to seven years have passed since the mattress was purchased, then it may be time for a new bed; the average mattress will perform for about seven years before it needs to be replaced.

Are different materials firmer than others?

When evaluating mattress firmness, material composition is usually a poor indicator. A bed’s comfort layers may contain memory foam or polyfoam, latex, minicoils, wool, and other materials with firmness settings ranging anywhere from ‘Extra Soft’ to ‘Extra Firm.’ How these materials are engineered will determine how firm or soft they feel.

However, as noted above, some materials tend to be more supportive than others. For example, beds with Dunlop latex and/or coils in the support core typically maintain flat sleep surfaces with minimal sagging.

On the other hand, memory foam and polyfoam beds tend to develop sagging and indentations in the sleep surface that compromise support, regardless of how soft or firm these materials actually feel.

As a general rule, use the bed’s listed firmness setting to evaluate how it feels and avoid using the mattress materials as criteria. If the firmness setting is not listed, feel free to contact the brand’s customer service division to inquire.

I’m (X) weight and sleep in (X) position but I don’t like the firmness level your table says I’d like. What’s up with that?

Although our general mattress assessments are mostly accurate, firmness preferences are highly subjective.

Just because a sleeper has a certain weight and/or preferred position does not necessarily mean their optimal firmness setting will correspond to the majority of sleepers in their weight or position group. A lighter individual or side sleeper may prefer an ‘Extra Firm’ bed, while a heavier person or back/stomach sleeper may find a softer bed is most comfortable.

Ultimately, the most important consideration is the firmness levelyouprefer, regardless of body type of sleep position. The best way to decide is to test out as many different firmness settings as possible.

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