Mattress Firmness Guide

Your choice of firmness depends on different factors such as your age, weight, body type, gender, sleeping position, and physical or medical conditions, and it is usually an individual preference. What would work for one may not be suitable for others, and often can vary between sleepers that share the same bed.

For us, Kaye likes a firmer mattress than me for the most part, whereas I tend to prefer a softer option due to my heavier weight. There is an ideal level or standard of firmness which varies from one person to another. You have to find the right level that keeps you in that comfort zone.

A mattress’ level of firmness is crucial to good sleep. People who toss and turn can attest to how comfort and firmness are important when choosing a model that provides great sleep. Many manufacturers realize that it’s impossible to limit mattress options to just one. Like any other product, having options make it more convenient for shopping. It helps buyers compare and contrast one from the other.

However, these days a common type of mattress that is offered by “bed in a box” retailers is the “universal comfort” model – which is designed to appeal to a wide variety of sleepers as sort of a “one sizes fits all” option. Many of the mattresses we have tested here at Memory Foam Talk have been these universal comfort models, which have not always been ones we have enjoyed due to either being more firm or less firm than our own individual preference.

If you are sleeping on a mattress that is either too soft or stiff on your back then that it can cause more serious health problems in the long run. To address this problem, a number of manufacturers provide customization options or a wide range of firmness levels that will give you exactly what you need and expect.Last updated Feb 8, 2019 @ 1:08 am

1. Mattress Firmness – Confusion no More!

1.1. What Exactly Is Firmness?

Your first feel or touch of the mattress usually will give you a general idea of what it is. Do you feel the gentle cushioning or you think it’s a bit stiff? Sleeping on a too soft or too hard model can aggravate back pain or any other joint pain. The extremes may not generate the right benefits of comfortable sleep.

If you think that just sticking it out with your worn-out mattress saves you money in the long run– think again! Old mattresses tend to degrade in terms of firmness, comfort, and support. This will affect your overall sleep and comfort and most likely cost you more in the long run if you don’t get it right.

Some people usually think that firmness is the same as support – but that is an entirely different topic. The softness and firmness of the mattress depend mainly on its comfort layer. Many models are available on the market today, including latex, innerspring, polyfoam, memory foam mattresses, combination of latex and memory foam, gel foam, and other materials that customize your sleep experience. Choosing the right firmness of this comfort layer is important to get a mattress that meets your comfort need.

1.2. The Concept Of “Universal Comfort”

Mattress firmness is how it feels when lying on it. It can be quite subjective but there is also a concept coined as “universal comfort” which is usually at the medium firm range or 5-7 out of 10. You often hear this term and this does not just pertain to the firmness of the foam layers but more so to contour, responsiveness, and comfort.

This level of firmness is considered to be the most preferred range for a mattress by the majority of people. Universal comfort is designed to provide even consistency in firmness, support, weight distribution, contour, responsiveness, bounce, and comfort.

Firmness is important and it goes in tandem with support. A model which provides good support is able to keep your spine aligned and relieve pressure points which are very important especially for obese individuals or those suffering from chronic back and joint pains. The support core determines the level of support that is provided to users.

Traditional types of innerspring mattresses are constructed with support cores and insulated by wires or steel springs. The new mattress models in the market today are made usually of foam or latex and in combination which are designed to provide the same support, but without the use of springs.

Another factor that must be considered is different sleeping positions. Take into account how the mattress hugs or contours to your body and how much sinkage there is depending on how you sleep. If you sleep on your side, you generally want a softer model.

1.3. Firmness Scale

When shopping for a mattress, it is advisable to compare different models and brands because the materials and construction may vary depending on the manufacturer. You should also look at the reputation of the brand. The composition and design can directly affect its firmness levels so this must be considered when looking for the right sleeping solution that suits your needs.

Generally, mattresses are given ratings on a range of 1-10 on the firmness scale.

  • 1 (Very Soft). This is the softest option with generally deep sinkage.
  • 2-3 (Soft). This provides ample contour and high levels of sinkage.
  • 4-6 (Medium-Firm). This is the gray area which provides balance in terms of support, firmness, contour, and comfort.
  • 7-9 (Firm). This is a little bit firmer than usual
  • 10 (Very Firm). This is very stiff or hard and has zero contour and sinkage.

Firmness Levels of Mattresses that Have Been Reviewed on Memory Foam Talk (10 being the firmest)

Most consumers naturally pick a mattress in between or within levels 2 to 9 in the firmness scale. Barely anyone chooses the extremes of very soft and very firm types which provide little to no comfort or support. You want to choose a mattress that provides you the right comfort and support.

1.4. Dual Or Multiple Firmness Options

When it comes to your choice of mattress, the goal is to choose the right firmness that you need for your individual preferences. If you think you don’t fit the universal comfort model, then you should choose a model that allows you to choose how firm you want it to be. Many brands now provide more freedom and versatility of choice for their customers by having medium and firm options or soft/medium/ and firm. This gives you a better choice in getting the firmness right.

Some mattresses allow you to personalize the firmness yourself by having options to choose from multiple levels in the same model. You can customize them according to your own preferences. This is an advantage especially for those who have special medical requirements in the feel of their mattresses.

Also, having dual or multiple firmness options is also beneficial for couples or those sharing their beds with another person because you can both select your own desired firmness range.

Most brands that have firmness options provide customers with soft, medium, and firm options. Here’s how each one differs from another in terms of levels:

  • Soft (1-3) – Some sleepers like super plush mattresses as they are soft and gentle on the body. Many plush models are luxury types as well. They can provide good support but those who those who are obese or have medical issues like chronic pain in the back and joints may require a firmer type that can provide adequate support and can distribute weight proportionately. In terms of price, the plush variant of memory foams and latex tend to be pricier than firmer models. They provides generous contour or hug, which conforms to the curves of your body. They have a soft support core but because of this tend to have a shorter lifespan.
  • Medium (4-6) – This serves as the middle ground in terms of comfort and support. Most mattresses under this category are included in the universal comfort type of mattresses. It provides adequate support plus comfort which means it conforms to your curves with reduced sinkage. As it has medium-firm support core, it is expected to have a longer lifespan than the plush variety. In terms of price, this can go from high-priced to average.
  • Firm (7-10) – The firm types provide maximum support. This is the recommended type of mattress for those who are heavier and sleepers who are suffering from chronic pain because it has the highest levels of support amongst the three types. The downside of firm mattresses though is that they have reduced contour and comfort. Firm mattresses have the longest lifespan because of it firm support core.

2. How To Choose The Right Mattress Firmness

Shopping for a new mattress need not be stressful; you just need to cross-check a few things to consider in terms of comfort, support, price, and style. What you need to look into: your gender, sleeping position, weight, medical condition, budget, and if you are a couple or sharing the mattress with someone else. All of these factors ought to be weighed in before you start shopping.

2.1 According to WEIGHT

  • Light – For lightweight individuals, you may want to choose a soft to medium-firm model. You practically float on the surface of the bed with a weight of 130 pounds or less and will have no issues in terms of contour and pressure relief in this firmness range.
  • Average – If you weigh between 130 to 230 pounds then you are classified under this weight group. It is advised for you to choose a model that is medium-firm because it provides a good balance of comfort and support. While there are some who would opt for softer solutions, the medium-firm option would give you not just superior comfort but the adequate support needed for your head, neck, and back.
  • Heavy – Heavyweight or obese individuals who weigh around 230 pounds or even more would be most comfortable with a medium firm to firm model. A soft option won’t give you the right support and you will tend to sink deeper into the mattress. A thick one (10 inches to 12 inches) and also a thick support core will be ideal for this weight group to provide even distribution of their weight and also for good edge support. Heavyweight individuals tend to compress the mattress a lot and they need adequate and sturdy support for their weight.

2.2. According to SLEEPING POSITION

  • Side Sleepers Those who prefer to sleep on their sides generally will choose a soft-medium firmness model to provide adequate alignment of their spine while cushioning the back and joints. This also helps provide pressure relief and equalize the distribution of weight.
  • Stomach Sleepers – People who are used to sleep on their front or stomachs sometimes experience back pain with softer mattresses because they tend to sink into them and this causes misalignment of their spine. Medium-firm mattresses are most preferred and recommended for this sleeping style than softer models to alleviate pressure and chronic pain as well as to provide good support and contour for the entire body.
  • Back Sleepers – Individuals who like to sleep on their backs would most likely benefit in a medium-firm solution because it provides ample support for their spine while providing even distribution of weight. The most common complaints of those who sleep on their backs are neck pain and back pain. This can be reduced with the right mattress choice.

2.3. According to GENDER

Yes, we need to consider weight displacement in line with gender differentiation when you shop for a mattress. This also creates different pressure points for both genders.

  • Females – women tend to have more weight in their mid-section which meant a soft model could lead to lower back pain as there is reduced support and weight distribution in these areas. A medium-firm model or one that provides universal comfort would be more apt for females so as to provide cushioning and support plus pressure relief in the back and joint areas.
  • Males – A softer model to medium-firm is most appropriate for males because it can provide adequate back support, conform to the curves while providing pressure point relief.

2.4. According to SEX ENJOYMENT

If you are a couple, sex and intimacy is a vital part of your relationship. Choosing the right firmness level will help you enjoy intimacy better, all other things considered.

  • Soft – Having a plush mattress is definitely comforting but will it work when you are being intimate in bed? This is said to provide poor to fair enjoyment in coitus as compared to other firmness models because you tend to sink a lot in the bed and not provide responsiveness that you need for sex.
  • Medium-Firm – This is the best firmness model recommended for couples because it provides adequate responsiveness, comfort, bounce, noise-control, and contour to the body. All of these elements combined boost enjoyment while having sex.
  • Firm – Having a stiff or hard mattress can decrease enjoyment when having sex. Firmer mattresses tend to have less bounce and comfort generally speaking, and are not recommended for this reason for those wanting a great mattress for sex.


1. What is considered to be the BEST firmness level?

As mentioned above, firmness is subjective to an individual. There is no cookie-cutter rule to choosing the right firmness level. Your personal preference as well as your age, weight, gender, sex enjoyment, sleeping position or style, and budget all should be taken into consideration when choosing the right firmness level that is best for your health and lifestyle. When in doubt, choosing universal comfort models may provide you the balance of comfort, responsiveness, contour, and support that will help you sleep better at night.

2. Is firmness the same as support?

These are two separate attributes that are very important when shopping for this sleeping product. Firmness refers primarily to how the mattress feels when lying on it, while support is how it effectively it keeps your spine in alignment and alleviates pressure points.

3. Should I consider price and lifespan when shopping for a mattress?

Yes, you should, and there are different brands and models that are excellent mattresses within your budget range. Always check on the construction and materials first as well as the customization options or add-ons. In terms of lifespan, regardless of what model you have, it is advised to replace your mattress after seven years.

4. How can I try out different mattress models?

If choosing an in-store brand, then simply visit the store and try lying on different mattresses. The many on-line mattresses available today don’t allow that, but do offer sleep trials that let you try the product for 90, 100, and even 365 days in some cases, and if you don’t like it – you can return and get your money back or swap it out for a different one.