Mattress Firmness Guide

Your choice of mattress 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 works for one may not work for others and this often varies between sleepers that share the same bed.

As for us, Kaye likes firmer mattresses, whereas I prefer softer models because of my heavier weight. There is not an ideal level or standard of firmness that works the same for all people and everything varies from one person to another. You have to find the mattress that will be of the right firmness to keep you properly supported and comfortable all night long.  

The firmness of a mattress is crucial for getting enough of a quality night’s 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 one product to another. 

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 individual preferences.

If you are sleeping on a mattress that is either too soft or too firm then that it can cause some 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 can give you exactly what you need and expect.Last updated Apr 23, 2019 @ 10:30 pm

1. Mattress Firmness – Confusion No More!

1.1. What Exactly Is Firmness?

Your first feel or touch of the mattress will give you a general idea of what it is like. Do you feel the gentle cushioning or you think it’s a bit firm?

Sleeping on a too soft or too hard model can aggravate back pain or any other joint pain. The extremes may not give you all the benefits necessary for a of comfortable and painless night’s sleep.

If you think that keeping your worn-out mattress will save you some money, 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.

Some people usually think that firmness is the same as support, but these are different things. The softness and firmness of the mattress depend mainly on its comfort layer.

Many models are available on the market today and they include latex in their comfort layers, innerspring, polyfoam, memory foam, combination of latex and memory foam, gel foam materials, and other special features that determine how firm the mattresses are and that can improve the quality of your sleep.

Choosing the right firmness of this comfort layer is important to get a mattress that meets your comfort needs.

1.2. The Concept of “Universal Comfort”

Mattress firmness is how it feels when lying on it. This 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 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 hand in hand with support. A model which provides good support is able to keep your spine aligned and relieve pressure points which is very important especially for heavier sleepers or those suffering from chronic back and joint pains. The support core determines the level of support that it provides.

Traditional types of innerspring mattresses are constructed with support cores and insulated by wires or steel springs. The new mattress models on the market today are usually made of foam or latex or they feature a combination of these materials and 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 are a side sleeper, you will need a softer model.

1.3. Firmness Scale

When shopping for a mattress, it is recommended 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 the firmness levels so this must be considered when looking for the right solution that suits your needs.

Generally, mattresses are given ratings on a range from 1 to 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 usually pick mattresses that fall between 2 to 9 in the firmness scale. Barely anyone chooses very soft and very firm types which provide little to no comfort or support. You should choose a mattress that can provide you with the right amount of comfort and support.

1.4. Dual Or Multiple Firmness Options

When it comes to your choice of mattress, the goal is to choose the mattress of the right firmness that will suit all your specific needs and sleep preferences. If you think that the universal comfort model can’t meet your needs, then you should choose a model that offers different firmness options.

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 greater choice and allows you to get the right mattress for you. 

Some mattresses allow you to personalize the firmness yourself by offering you to possibility to swap the layers of different firmnesses and adjust the firmness according to your needs.

Also, some mattress brands like Helix offer you the possibility to customize the bed yourself and choose the materials and firmness on each side individually, which is especially good for your if you share your bed with a partner whose sleep preferences are different from yours. 

Most brands that offer different firmness options usually offer soft, medium, and firm options. Here’s how each one differs from another in terms of firmness:

  • Soft (1-3) – Some sleepers like super plush mattresses as they are soft and gentle to 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 evenly. In terms of price, the plush variant of memory foam and latex mattresses tend to be pricier than firmer models. They provide generous contour and hug and conform to the curves of your body. They have a soft support core, but because of this they often 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. They provide adequate support and comfort, which means that they perfectly conform to your body without causing excessive sinkage. As they have medium-firm support core, they are expected to have a longer lifespan than the plush options. In terms of price, these can go from high-priced to average.
  • Firm (7-10) – The firm types provide maximum support. They are a recommended mattress type for those who are heavier and sleepers who are suffering from chronic pain, because they provide the greatest support amongst the three types. The downside of firm mattresses, however, is that they don’t provide so much contour and are not so comfortable. Firm mattresses have the longest lifespan because of their firm support core.

2. How To Choose the Right Mattress Firmness

Shopping for a new mattress doesn’t need to be stressful; you just need to take into consideration a few important things such as comfort, support, price, and style of the mattress.

You should also consider your age, sleeping position, weight, medical condition, budget and whether you are going to sleep alone or share your bed with a partner.  

2.1 According to WEIGHT

  • Light – If you are a lightweight person, you should choose a soft to medium-firm model. You will 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 with this firmness.
  • Average – If you weigh between 130 to 230 pounds then you are classified as slightly heavier and it is the best 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 a superior comfort, but the adequate support needed for your head, neck, and back.
  • Heavy – Heavyweight individuals who weigh around 230 pounds or even more would be most comfortable with a medium firm to firm models. A soft option won’t give you the right support and cause you to sink deeper into the mattress. A thick one (10 inches to 12 inches) with a thick support core would be ideal for this weight group as it can provide even distribution of their weight and 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 should choose a soft-medium firmness model that will keep their spine properly aligned while cushioning their hips and shoulders and preventing the appearance of pressure points.
  • Stomach Sleepers – Stomach sleepers may sometimes experience back pain with softer mattresses because they tend to sink into them which causes misalignment of their spine. Medium-firm mattresses are most preferred and recommended for this sleeping style as they will alleviate pressure and chronic pain and provide good support and contour for the entire body.
  • Back Sleepers – Back sleepers will benefit the most from a medium-firm solution because it provides ample support for their spine while offering an even distribution of weight. The most common complaints of those who sleep on their backs is neck and back pain. This can be reduced with the right mattress choice.

2.3. According to GENDER

Yes, you need to consider weight displacement in line with gender differentiation when you shop for a mattress. Here is why:

  • Females – women usually have more weight in their mid-section which means that a soft model could lead to lower back pain as it won’t provide enough support that these body areas need. A medium-firm model or a universal comfort model would be more suitable for females as it will provide enough cushioning, support and pressure relief to those areas where they are needed the most such as the back and joint areas.
  • Males – A softer to medium-firm model is most appropriate for males because it can provide adequate back support, conform to their specific curves and provide 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 mattress of the right firmness will help you enjoy your late night’s activities better.

  • Soft – Having a plush mattress is definitely comforting but is it the best mattress for sex? It provides poor to fair enjoyment when  compared to other firmness models because it causes you to sink a lot in bed and doesn’t have the 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 and are not recommended for this reason for those wanting a great mattress for sex.

3. COMMON QUESTIONS by CONSUMERS

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

As mentioned above, not all of us are the same and what works for one person may not work for others. There is no a clear definition on how to choose the mattress of the right firmness level.

Your personal preference as well as your age, weight, gender, what you enjoy during sex, sleeping position or style, and budget all should be taken into consideration when choosing the right firmness level.

If you have doubts, then choosing some of the universal comfort models may provide you with 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 terms that are very important when shopping for a new mattress. Firmness refers primarily to how the mattress feels when lying on it, while support is how 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 that offer excellent mattresses within your budget range. Always check the construction and materials first as well as the customization options available.

As for a lifespan, regardless of what model you have, it is recommended to replace your mattress after seven years.

4. How can I try out different mattress models?

If you want to purchase some of the in-store mattress brands, then simply visit the store and try lying on different mattresses. You can’t do this with the mattresses offered online by online mattress companies but they offer sleep trials that allow you to try out the mattress for 90, 100, or even 365 days, and if you don’t like it, you can return it and get your money back or take another mattress.