Firm vs Soft Mattress: What’s Best for You?

5 min read
5 min read

Do I need a firm or a soft mattress? This question runs through every mattress buyer’s mind, especially for first-time buyers. Soft mattresses conform to the sleeper’s body. Firm mattresses, on the other hand, provide the necessary support. So which one should you go for? Here’s a detailed guide on firm vs soft beds that will help you decide your next mattress type.

How to Determine If You Need a Firm Or a Soft Mattress

Determining the correct firmness level for your mattress depends on your sleeping requirements. Are you still confused? Don’t worry; here is the list of factors that will help you select the ideal firmness for your next mattress.

Comfort 

Comfort level varies from person to person. You may feel comfortable sleeping on a firm mattress while others may not. To know which mattress is the best, you can compare your current mattress sleeping experience with the experience of sleeping in a hotel, or at a friend’s place, or any other mattress in the past.

Bodyweight

Your body weight and size play a significant role in deciding the firmness level of your mattress. Heavy people may sink in a soft bed, and hence they prefer bulky mattresses. Lighter sleepers prefer soft or medium-firm mattresses as they don’t sink into the mattress.

Sleeping position

Another significant factor that impacts your comfort level on different mattresses is your sleeping position. Generally, people who sleep on their stomach and back prefer firm mattresses as they require extra support for the head, neck and spinal alignment. Side sleepers enjoy sleeping on soft mattresses as it conforms to the shape of the body.

However, the firmness level depending on the sleeping position is entirely subjective, and there is no particular rule for the same.

Partner preferences

If you sleep with a partner such as a spouse, kid or pet, you may have to consider their sleeping preferences as well. You may have to consider their body weight, sleeping position, and comfort levels before deciding the firmness of your mattress. Experts suggest a medium-firm mattress for couples. However, if your partner preferences are entirely different from yours, you may need specially customized mattresses that suit your sleeping styles.

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Firm Mattress

Firm mattresses benefits are notable, and so are the drawbacks. Let’s understand them in detail.

Advantages of a Firm Mattress

  • Firm mattresses are ideal for back and stomach sleepers as it helps in preventing sinking and keeps the shoulder, head, and spine in alignment with each other. 
  • Suitable for sleepers who weigh more than 230 pounds because sleeping on a soft mattress may sink them, and they may touch the base of the bed.
  • Firm mattresses avoid overheating, as they do not closely conform to the sleeper’s body.
  • Firm mattresses improve air circulation. 

Disadvantages of a Firm Mattress

  • A firm mattress may lead to spinal misalignment in light sleepers
  • Not a good option for people with arthritis and joint pain. 

Advantages and Disadvantages of a Soft Mattress

Soft mattresses come up with many pros and cons. Let’s understand them in detail.

Advantages of Soft Mattress:

  • Soft mattresses reduce stress for side sleepers as the body contours easily to the body’s shape and help relieve pressure on joints.
  • Conform to the shape of the body easily.
  • Soft beds are an excellent choice for people whose weight is less than 130 pounds. Soft mattresses respond to the bodyweight of light sleepers and conform to their body.
  • Comfortable for sleepers with joint pain and arthritis as it cushions the sensitive areas.
  • Soft mattresses are known to reduce tension and alleviate pain.

Disadvantages of Soft Mattress

  • Soft mattresses may sink over time.
  • A soft mattress may lead to overheating due to over conforming nature.

Mattress Firmness Scale

You might wonder how firmness is measured. Firmness is measured using the mattress firmness scale is measured on a scale of 10. The table below shows the different mattress firmness on a scale of 10.

Mattress Firmness
Mattress Type
Properties
1/10
Extremely Soft
The body will sink in really deep
2-3/10
Soft
The body will sink significantly. Suitable for sleepers under 130 pounds
4/10
Medium Soft
Good contouring, less sinkage
5/10
Medium
A proper balance of contouring and firmness with less sinkage
6/10
Medium Firm
Less conforming and slightly firm feel
7-8/10
Firm
No sinkage, very less contouring
9-10/10
Extremely Firm
Hard surface with no contouring at all

Firmness vs Support

Firmness and support are the two most significant features of any mattress. There is very little difference between a soft and firm mattress.

Firmness refers to the feel of the bed surface when you rest on the mattress.  The body may either feel either soft or hard or, in some cases, in between the both. Depending on the firmness level and your body weight, your body may drop into the mattress or sometimes stay on the surface level of the bed.

Support refers to the support your body receives while sleeping for a proper spinal alignment. An excellent supporting mattress provides perfect spinal alignment and relieves pressure.

You may find a firm mattress supporting while others may not. The support you get from a bed is subjective to your sleep preferences and health conditions.

What Should You Choose Between the Two?

By now, you might have understood the differences between soft vs firm mattresses. But how to find a mattress that is perfect for you?

Who Should Choose a Firm Mattress

You should choose a firm mattress if-

  • you are a heavy sleeper whose weight is above 230 pounds 
  • you are a back or stomach sleeper without any back pain
  • you are a hot sleeper and do not like any overheating during sleep

Who Should Choose a Soft Mattress

You should choose a firm mattress if-

  • you are a light sleeper whose weight is above 230 pounds
  • you are a side sleeper
  • you face arthritis and joint pain issues often
  • you need pressure relief
  • you are comfortable with a mattress that conforms with your body shape

The Final Word

The firmness level is a significant factor in buying a new mattress. There is no point in selecting a bed with a firmness level that does not fit with your comfort, body weight, sleeping position, and existing health conditions. You may need to try various mattress types before getting the perfect mattress for your body type. Hopefully, our detailed guide will help you in selecting the right mattress firmness for your next bed.

Happy Sleeping!



A firm mattress improves the spinal alignment of your back, neck and spine and hence is better for back pain.

Beds with soft or medium-soft firmness are the best mattresses for side sleepers. The range of firmness of these mattresses is between 3-7.

Most hotels use medium or medium-firm mattresses.



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Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

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www.sleepauthority.com is brought to you by Resident. Our company sells Nectar, DreamCloud, Awara, Level Sleep, and Home Well Designed. While we intend for this site to be an educational and useful resource for consumers interested in sleep-related topics, we also promote our family of brands – brands that we believe in – on this website. Where we have commissioned independent research and/or articles to support our content, we will state as such in the sub-heading of the article. Where we compare our brands and products against others, we will provide the review criteria as well as state our basis for choosing the “best” or “top” product in a link accompanying the comparison. Our aim is to assist consumers in choosing the best solution for getting restful and comfortable sleep and it is our belief that there is a Resident product that meets any sleeper’s needs.

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians