Mattress firmness is one of the number one requirements when searching for the perfect bed and comfort level and no two firmness levels are the same.
Firmness: A highly subjective term when it comes to mattress description. But, what does it mean to have a “firm mattress”? Can a soft mattress be firm?
Although firmness is a term used by manufacturers, retailers, and customers, you’ll hardly ever find a nuanced discussion of what it means and why it is important when shopping for a mattress. In this guide, we’ll decipher all that.
We’ll look at how mattress firmness affects your body temperature while you sleep, motion transfer when your partner tosses and turns at night and why it’s important for your sex life as well. Read on to learn how to choose the perfect mattress firmness.
What Does Mattress Firmness Mean
Firmness is a term used to describe the feel of a mattress with regards to the level of comfort you get when you sleep on it. Let’s break that down further.
If sleeping on your mattress feels like you’re lying on a concrete floor that would be one extreme level of firmness. On the other hand, if it feels like you’re floating of soft fluffy clouds that’s would be on the opposite end of the firmness spectrum.
It all depends on perspective. What feels “firm” to one person may not be comfortable for someone else. So, mattress manufacturers make them with different firmness levels to cater to every kind of customer there is.
Firmness vs. Support: What’s the Difference
Firmness and support are two terms that you’ll often find used interchangeably. However, in the mattress world, they don’t mean the same thing.
As stated before, firmness is the level of comfort of a mattress as pertains to how hard or soft it is to the user. Mattress support, on the other hand, means how well the mattress promotes spinal alignment.
So regardless of how hard or soft a mattress is, the level of support it offers means that it promotes pressure point relief to keep the spine in the proper position. While the types of mattress firmness depend on the user perspective, support is not subjective.
The Mattress Firmness Scale
The mattress firmness scale ranges between 1 and 10 with 1 being the softest and 10 being the firmest. Different types of mattresses with various firmness levels play a role in the support and sleeping position best suited for them. Here’s how:
Level 1-3: Soft
It’s rare to find a mattress with a firmness level of 1. Most soft mattresses usually fall in the 2 to 3 range.
Because of how soft they are these types of mattresses are excellent for relieving pressure points on the spine since they are able to conform to the body’s orientation. They can be a bit of a double-edged sword though.
Most people find that they have too much sink and contouring which may lead to excessive curvature of the spine when they sleep. In the long term, this may cause chronic back pain.
If you’re a side-sleeper, then you’ll find these ranges of mattresses suitable for you. This is because these categories of sleepers have the most pressure points at their hips and shoulders.
So since a soft mattress provides adequate cushioning at these points, they are the most comfortable for such sleepers. Those who usually sleep on their back and stomach wouldn’t find them as comfortable due to the sheer amount of sink. These mattresses will likely draw the spine out of alignment in the long run.
Level 4-6: Medium
Smack in the middle of the spectrum is the medium firmness range. The majority of individuals prefer this mattress firmness level. They provide the perfect balance of contouring and sink to relieve pressure points on the body while maintaining spinal alignment.
Most sleepers find this range of firmness ideal since it works well for people who sleep in multiple positions. It’s also the go-to for couples who share the same bed but prefer different sleeping positions.
Level 7-10: Firm
Level 7-10 of the scale represents the highest firmness levels. While they might not have the deep sinking and contouring features of softer mattresses, some are designed to offer sufficient levels of support with just the right amount of cushioning for the body’s pressure points without causing any long-term problems.
Side-sleepers would find these mattresses quite uncomfortable despite the pressure point relief they offer. This level of firmness is most suited for back and stomach sleepers since it prevents their abdomen from sinking deeply into the mattress.
The majority of sleepers find the mattresses at the highest range of this group to be highly uncomfortable. It’s better to test out the mattress before you purchase it to prevent any disappointment when you take it home.
Why Is Firmness Important When Choosing a Mattress
So far, we’ve established that the firmness of mattresses matters. But, do you understand why it’s important?
It goes beyond your preferred sleeping position and pressure point relief. It has everything to do with comfort.
Comfort is what determines whether you’ll have a hard time falling asleep when you get into bed. Or, spend countless hours tossing and turning as you attempt to find a comfortable position so that you can drift off to dreamland.
Having the right mattress plays a huge role in your overall sleep hygiene. An uncomfortable mattress means it’s not providing you with the right amount of support which increases your risk for developing chronic back issues and consistent soreness when you wake up.
With that in mind, how do you choose the right firmness level on a mattress? Here are 5 approaches you can use:
We can’t emphasize this enough: Firmness is subjective. It all depends on what your perception of comfort is.
So, a great starting point would be to think about your current mattress. If there was one thing you could change about it what would it be?
Would you prefer to have it a little firmer or slightly softer? You can also use other mattress experiences you’ve had for comparison.
For instance, maybe you spent a couple of nights at a hotel or at a friend’s house. What was your mattress experience there like? How would it compare to your current mattress?
You don’t need to know what their exact firmness levels were, but it can point you in the right direction with regards to getting a firm vs. soft mattress. These Leesa Mattress reviews can also help with the decision-making process.
Your body exerts pressure on your mattress. This ultimately determines how the mattress responds to your body.
Two different people with different weights might have conflicting perceptions of the level of firmness a particular mattress offers. If you weigh 130lbs or less, you should go for a plush mattress in the 2 to 5 range on the firmness scale.
For sleepers who weigh more than 130lbs but less than 230, medium-firm mattresses in the 4 to 6 range would be most suitable. Anyone who weighs more than 230lbs needs a firmer mattress preferably in the 6 to 8 range.
This would offset the exaggerated sink and contouring that heavier individuals experience when they sleep on plush mattresses. It also adds a much-needed layer of comfort required for a good night’s sleep.
Plush mattresses have a lot of sink and contouring. This limits the amount of air that flows around the body which causes heat to build up in the mattress and subsequently the body.
What’s more plush mattresses more so those made from memory foam are notorious for causing persons to sleep hot. If this is something you’d rather avoid, consider moving further up the firmness scale.
Plush vs. Firm Mattress: Which of the Two Is Better for Sex
Let’s face it. You need to cover all your bases before settling on the firmness level of your mattress. The perfect mattress for sex should have both firmness and bounce which ensures lots of movement and fun in the bedroom.
If you engage in frequent sexual activity, a plush mattress may pose a bit of a challenge. Both partners might find themselves sinking too much which may hamper movement on the bed.
A mattress that is too firm, on the other hand, may make it difficult to assume certain positions. A medium-firm mattress provides just the right amount of comfort and firmness to complement your sex life.
Motion transfer refers to how much movement on one side of the bed is felt on the other end. This is an important consideration for those who share a bed.
Mattress firmness levels that are higher up on the scale tend to have very little motion transfer. That way your partner’s movement in the middle of the night won’t awaken you or disrupt your sleep.
The Bottom Line
If your current mattress is causing you sleepless nights it might be time to get a new one. Use the tips in this guide to help you pick the perfect mattress firmness level that suits your needs.
Choose a retailer that provides a sleep trial break-in period. This ensures that you get a feel for your mattress before deciding if it’s right for you.
Be sure to check out our blog for more lifestyle-related posts.