When it comes to mattresses, firmness is a tricky topic. And yet, it is one of the factors that affect the final decision of the buyers. But the firmness of a mattress, even though described by the manufacturer, is extremely subjective. One mattress could feel soft, but for others it could be medium or even firm. This is because each individual has his/her own definition of what firmness means based on understanding, requirements, desires, and perceptions.
Due to the confusion surrounding the mattress firmness topic, this guide aims to break down the various types, the common myths especially concerning the differences between firmness and support, and eventually help consumers find the right level of firmness for themselves.
So What is Mattress Firmness?
The truth of the matter is when talking about firmness, it actually pertains to the initial feeling you get when you lie down on the mattress for the first time. Many people confuse firmness with support, which the latter is about how the mattress ensures that the spine is in its right alignment. When you first use the mattress, you could immediately feel like being pushed back to the surface. If this happened to you after trying the mattress, this is often considered a firm to very firm mattress.
Meanwhile, there are mattresses that will feel as if you’re floating on a cloud. There are lots of cushions and it’s like the mattress hugs and takes the shape of your body. This mattress is often considered a soft or plush mattress.
But there are also mattresses that find the balance between the level of hug and contour and push-back. This mattress is considered a medium firm mattress.
Once again, it is important to remember that the firmness of a mattress is subjective. Every sleeper has specific needs of comfort and among those that affect such requirements are the age, body type, gender, weight, and the kind of mattress firmness the person has been used to.
Universal Comfort – What is This?
There are mattresses that are considered to give “universal comfort,” which means that they aim to suit the needs of most users. There are scales to show how firm a mattress is and here, we will use a 1-10 scale of firmness where 1 is the softest and 10 is the firmest. And when talking about universal comfort mattresses, this is in the 5-7 range and this is critically important for many buyers since there are about 80% of buyers prefer a medium firm mattress.
However, being medium firm isn’t just what universal comfort means. This type of mattress also promises to react to the body in such a way that you would feel comfortable in every angle. This is possible because the mattress has several layers of foam that can handle almost every body type and weight variations of the sleepers. This enables the mattress to provide a steady level of firmness, comfort, and hug for all types of users.
The Amerisleep Americana is a great example. Starting at $749 for twin size mattresses, Americana is a 6 out of 10 when it comes to firmness. It has foam layers that have been designed to give universal comfort and a balanced feel for all kinds of sleepers. This is really useful for couples who are looking for a balanced level of firmness, but their body types may suggest that they should be using two different mattresses. Therefore, a universal comfort mattress works great, particularly in bridging the gap between heavy and light users and in creating consistency in feel or firmness regardless of the sleepers’ sizes.
Battle of Firmness Levels: Soft vs. Medium vs. Hard
Some people don’t like the idea of using a mattress that’s “universally comfortable.” If you like something specific, there are several mattress choices that are available for your needs. These mattresses have multiple levels of firmness, which make them ideal for people who have specific firmness requirements – especially if you’re not a fan of medium firm mattresses. Here are the three main levels of firmness that you can find on the market today:
- Soft: When evaluated using the firmness scale, a soft mattress typically falls anywhere between three to five out of 10. You will know that you have a soft mattress because it will have a noticeable amount of sink and hug. Most soft mattresses will sink up to three inches for people of average weight.
- Medium: Meanwhile, if you have a medium firm mattress, this is around five to seven out of 10 in the firmness scale. The sink and hug are also noticeable for medium mattresses, but would typically only have a sink level of up to two inches – an inch less than a soft mattress. As mentioned above, a medium mattress is often considered a universal comfort mattress.
- Firm: A firm mattress is considered 7.5 to nine out of 10 in the firmness scale. The sink level is only an inch or even less. The mattress is for people who want to feel that they are on top of the surface instead of them sinking.
Many mattress companies not only offer one type of firmness, but all these three firmness. Some even have a very firm mattress, which is a 10 out of 10 in the firmness scale. There are also some companies that offer customizable mattresses based on their firmness, while others address specific needs, such as those who are looking for slightly firm mattresses, but want a more pronounced hug.
The battle continues in the chart below in which you will see how well the mattresses perform based on their firmness level. The mattresses are rated according to their performance with 1 as the lowest and 5 as the highest.
|Factors||Soft Mattress||Medium Firm Mattress||Firm Mattress||Findings|
|Longevity||2.5||4||4.5||Firmer mattresses have longer lives than softer mattresses – especially those that are innerspring mattresses. Softer mattresses tend to have problems with compacting and sagging.|
|Price||2||3||3.5||When it comes to prices, you should expect softer mattresses to be a little bit pricier mainly because they have more padding and are often considered plush.|
|Off-Gassing||2.5||3.5||4||Because softer mattresses have lots of foam, they usually have initial odor. Note though that some manufacturers use natural ingredients without harmful chemicals, so you will hardly notice unpleasant smells. All in all, it depends on the manufacturer, but softer mattresses tend to release stronger smells.|
|Ease of movement (including getting up)||2.5||3.5||4||Softer mattresses conform to the body more than firmer mattresses and this often presents resistance to the movement of the body.|
|Coolness of surface||2||3||4||Because a person typically sinks more into the softer mattress, there is higher potential of heat trap. This causes the sleeper to sleep hot in a softer mattress.|
|Couple-friendly||3.7||4.5||2.5||Some couples like the bounce on softer mattresses, but many say that medium firm ones provide ease when it comes body movement.|
|Maintenance||2.5||3||3.8||Softer mattresses often require the users to rotate them in order to avoid sagging and body impressions.|
|Mattress moving or lifting||2.5||3||4||Because of the additional padding in softer mattresses, expect them to be heavier.|
What Kind of Firmness Do You Really Need?
As emphasized in this article a number of times, firmness is subjective. Every sleeper has a unique firmness level preferred and some factors come into play including the following:
|Factors Affecting Mattress Choice||Classifications or Types||Explanation||Making the Choice|
|Sleep Position Preference||· Side
|The three main positions for sleeping are key players when it comes to deciding which mattress to buy.||Side sleepers sleep more peacefully on soft to medium mattresses because they can contour to the curves of the body. Stomach sleepers are recommended to use medium to slightly firm mattresses because these allow their spine to remain in proper alignment while they sleep on their preferred position. If you’re a back sleeper, go for slightly soft to medium to even moderately firm because these mattresses can help relieve pressure while offering enough support.|
|Gender does have an important role to play in the selection of mattress mainly because there is difference in weight displacement. This difference causes varying pressure points for the two genders.||For female sleepers, there is more weight in the midsection in comparison with men. This is why a softer mattress is recommended for them, although not necessarily too soft. Women tend to feel more sinking in their lower back area and this can lead to back problems. In this case, a universal comfort or medium firm mattress is advised. For men, a firmer mattress is good for them, while others may also prefer a balanced feel mattress.|
|The weight of a person is also important in determining the firmness of the mattress to buy.||For a light sleeper, most people prefer a softer mattress. However, there are also some who look at the specific construction of the mattress. The top layers are more important than the base foam because of the decreased level of pressure. Meanwhile, the heavy sleepers may want the opposite as it is important that the mattress has enough base foam to support the weight.|
More about Weight
Firmness Guide for Smaller People (Under 120 Lbs.)
While your personal firmness choice may vary, the chart below shows the firmness that most people who are under 120 lbs. prefer.
|Body Type||Side Sleeper||Stomach Sleeper||Back Sleeper|
|People with broad waistlines but with narrower hips and shoulders||Soft to medium||Soft but not too soft to medium firm||Soft to firm but not too firm|
|People with equally broad hips, waistline, and shoulders||Soft to medium||Soft but not too soft to firm but not too firm||Soft to firm but not too firm|
|People with broad shoulders but with narrower hips and waistline||Soft to medium soft||Soft but not too soft to medium||Soft to medium|
|People with broad hips but with narrower waist and shoulders||Soft to medium soft||Medium soft to medium||Soft to medium|
|People with broad shoulders and hips but with narrower waistline||Soft to medium soft||Soft but not too soft to medium||Soft to medium|
Conclusion: As the person becomes lighter, the softer their preferred mattress firmness becomes.
Firmness Guide for Average-Sized Individuals (120 to 230 Lbs.)
If you belong to this group of people, the chart below shows the firmness preference of people with the mentioned weight. Note as well that your personal preference may still vary.
|Body Type||Side Sleeper||Stomach Sleeper||Back Sleeper|
|People with broad waistlines but with narrower hips and shoulders||Soft but not too soft to firm but not too firm||Medium to firm||Soft but not too soft to firm|
|People with equally broad hips, waistline, and shoulders||Soft but not too soft to firm but not too firm||Medium to firm||Soft but not too soft to firm|
|People with broad shoulders but with narrower hips and waistline||Soft but not too soft to medium||Medium to firm but not too firm||Soft but not too soft to firm but not too firm|
|People with broad hips but with narrower waist and shoulders||Soft but not too soft to medium||Medium to firm but not too firm||Soft but not too soft to firm but not too firm|
|People with broad shoulders and hips but with narrower waistline||Soft but not too soft to medium||Medium to firm but not too firm||Soft but not too soft to firm but not too firm|
Conclusion: In the mentioned range (120 to 230 lbs.), the higher the weight is, the firmer the preferred mattress firmness becomes.
Firmness Guide for People with 230+ Lbs.
As for heavier people weight at least 230 pounds, the chart below shows the preferred firmness based on the mentioned body type. As with the other charts, your own preference may vary.
|Body Type||Side Sleeper||Stomach Sleeper||Back Sleeper|
|People with broad waistlines but with narrower hips and shoulders||Firm but not too firm to firm||Firm||Firm but not too firm to firm|
|People with equally broad hips, waistline, and shoulders||Firm but not too firm to firm||Firm||Firm but not too firm to firm|
|People with broad shoulders but with narrower hips and waistline||Medium to firm but not too firm||Firm||Firm but not too firm to firm|
|People with broad hips but with narrower waist and shoulders||Firm but not too firm to firm||Firm||Firm but not too firm to firm|
|People with broad shoulders and hips but with narrower waistline||Medium to firm but not too firm||Firm but not too firm to firm||Medium to firm|
Conclusion: The heavier the person is over 230 pounds, the firmer the preferred mattress is.
Best Mattresses Based on Firmness Levels
If you’re on the lookout for a new mattress, here are the five choices for mattresses based on how firm they are:
|Firmness||Firmness Rating||Mattress||Price||Special Features|
|Soft||4||Simmons Comforpedic Restored Spirits||$2,299||No flip, plush with 13 inches of memory foam|
|Medium||6||Amerisleep Americana||1,049||Celliant cover, 10 inches with two layers of memory foam with great cooling features|
|Firm||8||Tempurpedic Contour Supreme||$2,199||With top cover that’s easy to remove, firm mattress but soft to touch|
- Looking for a soft mattress? Go for the Simmons Comforpedic Restored Spirits mattress.
What You’ll Like about This Mattress
- Extra plush feel
- Good for you if you’re a back or side sleeper
- With thick and high density memory foam
Just like other Comforpedic models from Simmons, the Restored Spirits has the same top layer. However, this one has an added bonus of 1.5 inches of Advanced AirCool memory foam to make sure that sleepers get comfortable and don’t feel hot even as they sink into the mattress. The same type of foam follows the first layer in which it has 2.5 inches of 5.5-pound memory foam. You will truly notice how super soft this mattress is.
Because this is a memory foam mattress, expect it to be excellent at motion isolation. Sleeping beside someone who has a habit of tossing and turning should no longer be a problem anymore. You won’t feel those movements, so you sleep soundly throughout the night. Additionally, the Comforpedic mattress is also highly rated for its ability to reduce pressure points. This makes the mattress unique out of the many soft mattresses around, which tend to lack support for the body.
What You Might Not Like
Unfortunately, because this mattress is very soft, repositioning or changing of sleep positions can become a problem. The cushioning depth makes it difficult for the user to switch to another position or side. Also, if you’re a stomach sleeper, you may want to look for a firmer mattress because you will not be comfortable sleeping in this mattress.
- If you’re looking for a medium feel mattress, go for Amerisleep Americana.
What You’ll Like about This Mattress
- Super affordable
- Sleeps cool
- Just right for a medium firm feel
There are plenty of things to love about the Americana from Amerisleep. It consists of two layers of foam, forming 10 inches of mattress. The top layer provides both comfort and support for the sleeper with three inches of Bio-Pur from Amerisleep’s technology on memory foam. It is plant-based with cutting-edge open cell structure, which allows the air to flow in and out of the foam without pressure at all. Therefore, you can sleep cooly even on hot nights. Meanwhile, the bottom layer serves as the foundational base of this memory foam mattress, which gives deep compression support for the users. Just like the first layer of the mattress, the second layer allows the whole mattress to breathe, so it stays cool.
You will also like how unique the cover of the mattress is. It is constructed with a combination of Celliant and polyester. The former is actually a thermo-reactive mineral thread, which has the ability to absorb heat from the body and other sources in the environment. Upon trapping heat, it will convert it into infrared light, which further improves the health of the consumer.
The main reason why Celliant is renowned is because it enhances oxygenation in the body, which has many benefits, including improved internal temperature regulation of the body and even pain reduction. Aesthetically, the cover looks modern, just like the other covers from Amerisleep. It is quite thin, which promotes breathability, while allowing the sleeper to come in contact directly with the foams. This gives the sleeper support and comfort.
The Americana mattress is a 6 out of 10 in the firmness scale. For some people, it may feel a little firm as there is no substantial sinkage or hug. You will feel that you’re floating on the foam instead of the hug you’d get when you’re on a softer mattress. However, despite this firmness, it is still very comfortable, which is why this mattress still falls in the medium category. Plus, there’s still a nice level of shaping and contouring to the body.
Many users commend the mattress’ cool surface. The level of cooling it provides is much better than other mattresses, even the more expensive ones. The mattress’ improved airflow makes it so much cooler, so you sleep more comfortably at night. This is all thanks to the open cell memory foam and Celliant covers already create a significant difference in temperature on the surface of the mattress. What’s more, since there is no major level of hug, the sleeper floats on the foam and therefore reduces the temperature.
What You Might Not Like about the Mattress
The Amerisleep Americana is quite unique as it actually suits most people’s needs. It has a balanced level of firmness and yet still gives great contouring and pressure relief. Even if you’re not used to something firm, the slightly firm feel is just right, making it a wonderful choice for beginners who want to try memory foam. But if you’re looking for a soft mattress, this may not be suited for you, especially if you’re expecting a dramatic hug.
Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a medium firm and cool mattress and you want to buy from an established company that will not let you down, this is the mattress to go for.
- If you want a firm mattress, go for the Tempurpedic Contour Supreme.
What You’ll Like about This Mattress
- Cool to touch
- Firm with great support
The Tempurpedic Contour Supreme mattress features the original formula of Tempurpedic: it’s soft where you want it and firm where you require it. Because this is a firm mattress, you will float on top of the foam. What you’ll definitely love about the mattress is its EasyRefresh cover, which you can easily remove, clean, and replace. The mattress also features moisture-absorbing SmartClimate System that keeps the mattress cool to the touch. It also has antimicrobial treatment, so you don’t have to worry about dust mites in your bed.
The mattress is 11.5 inches with 10 years warranty. Tempurpedic, just like Amerisleep, is a trusted brand and they ensure that their products are of high-quality. The mattress is durable, although there are some consumers who note that other Tempurpedic mattress last longer than the Contour Supreme. It has great motion isolation, thanks to its superior memory foam.
When it comes to firmness, this is an 8 out of 10 in the firmness scale, making it one of the firmest models from Tempurpedic. So if you’re a side sleeper, you may not want to go for this mattress because it tends to contribute to some aches and pains upon waking up. Nevertheless, if you’re a back sleeper or even a stomach sleeper, this mattress is great for you. It relieves pressure points and even promotes proper alignment of the spine.
What You Might Not Like about the Mattress
- Slight off-gassing
- A little bit delicate for a firm mattress
- Very pricey
- Minor heat
It is important that you take actual measurements of your room before you buy this mattress. Don’t ever guess. The queen size is 60 inches wide, 80 inches long and 11.5 inches thick. You can fold the mattress when necessary to make sure it fits the doors and staircases. Also note that you should have the right bed foundation; otherwise, this will void the warranty. The “right” foundation means that the mattress is completely flat. You can use your existing foundation and bed frame as long as they meet the requirement mentioned.
Special Mentions: Amerisleep Colonial Mattress (4/10 firmness) and 4Sleep (7/10 firmness)
First, let’s talk about the Amerisleep Colonial Mattress. It is a soft kind of mattress, but is actually on the medium-soft category. It’s quite unique because it suits people who are looking for a soft mattress, but not the very soft kind and is also suitable for those who are looking for a medium firm mattress, but is still fluffy with a pronounced hug. The Colonial mattress is Amerisleep’s second softest product and is recommended for side sleepers. But it doesn’t matter what your preferred position is because as long as you like more cushioning, this mattress is something that you will love.
More about the Amerisleep Colonial Mattress
The specs of this mattress are as follows:
|Warranty||20 years with 90 days trial period|
|13 inches of memory foam with the following layers:
· 2.0 inches of Bio-Pur+ memory foam for the top layer
· Four inches of Surface Modification Technology foam with a density of 1.65 pounds
· Seven inches of foundational support layer
|Cover Design||Two-tone design cover with grey and white colors|
|Materials Used for the Cover||21% Celliant
Why You Should Consider the Amerisleep Colonial Mattress
This mattress is exactly what you’re looking for if you want a softer mattress that offers a fair amount of body contouring or sinkage. You can get two inches of sinkage at the most when in a normal lying position. It also has a very cool surface because of the open cell structure of the memory foam technology used, named as Bio-Pur+. It is excellent at reducing heat retention, so you sleep cool even during hot nights.
The Colonial mattress isn’t for you if you’re looking for a mattress with excellent edge support. Nevertheless, if you want a mattress that has great support and is truly comfortable, this medium-soft mattress is for you.
As for 4Sleep mattress, this is the mattress for you if you want something that is firm but not too firm. Also dubbed as a medium-firm mattress, this bridges the gap between having a firm mattress and a medium mattress. You can feel the firmness and at the same time, it offers a little bit of softness so you don’t feel that you’re floating on top of the mattress. The layers of the mattress are worth mentioning:
|Top layer||Main foam||It is a 1.5 inches of gel memory foam that is designed so the sleeper sleeps coolly throughout the night. According to 4Sleep, you can expect that you will feel 87 to 90 degrees of cool surface.|
|Second layer||Response and movement absorption||The layer consists of an inch of foam that absorbs and minimizes motion transfer. However, there is a little bit of bounce even though this is a firm mattress.|
|Third layer||Deep compression support||This particular layer has 1.5 inches of foam that prevents the mattress from bottoming out, therefore reducing the feeling of being stuck. The deep compression support makes this bed great for people who are on the heavier side.|
|Fourth layer||Edge support system||This is an additional layer that you can actually find along the side edge of the mattress. It measures 2.5 inches and does a great job at reinforcing the edges so you can easily sit and sleep on the edge without feeling that it will collapse.|
As for the cover of the mattress, it is built from viscose, Lycra, and polyester. Note that Lycra is the material used in many performance sportswear. The combination of these materials gives the cover a nice softness that makes you feel like it’s a soft blanket. By design, it is very thin, but this is intentional in order for the cover to have increased cooling and breathability.
The mattress is quite good for beginners in memory foam, but if you’re used to innerspring mattress, you may not like 4Sleep. There are also fewer features compared to other mattresses in the same price range. Additionally, this mattress is only available online, so you can’t test it before you buy. Nevertheless, it has a 90-day trial that will allow you to try it and you can get the full refund if you return the mattress within that period.
More Tips When Choosing a Mattress Based on Firmness
There are some problems that you’ll probably encounter as you purchase your mattress, including:
|Mattress firmness is not right for you.||Consider using a topper.||You will find that mattress toppers are actually useful when it comes to changing the comfort levels and firmness of your mattress.|
|You’re not sure of what kind of firmness you should go for.||Buy firm.||Many consumers are just like you. They aren’t sure whether to go for soft or firm. Perhaps the mattress you intend to buy doesn’t have a medium feel mattress and you’re left to decide between soft and firm. It’s best to go for firm – even too firm, because there are several ways to soften a mattress as opposed to increasing the firmness.|
|Mattress causes shoulder pain and other aches.||Pillow and mattress firmness should be compatible.||If your mattress and your pillow are on the same firmness range, you can avoid having upper spine, neck, shoulder, and head discomfort or pain.|
Mattress firmness is just one of the factors that can affect your mattress buying decision – and yet it is very essential. Consider the mattresses mentioned in this article, along with your own preferences and other aspects so you can arrive at the right choice for your next mattress.