Mattress Firmness Guide

How firm do you like your mattress?

Some people love sleeping on a soft surface that has a lot of give so that they feel like they are sinking into the mattress and being cradled as they sleep. Other people hate this feeling and prefer to sleep on a firm surface that gives them plenty of support. Or, there are some people whose preferences are somewhere in the middle and are seeking a bed that gives them the best of both worlds. Which are you?

In order to determine the right type of firmness in your ideal mattress, let’s take a look at the different options and their pros and cons. Remember: there is no right or wrong and one type of mattress is not better than the other. It simply depends on your sleeping style and your own personal preference, as well as other factors such as your weight and whether or not you have any aches and pains or injuries.

What is Firmness?

Generally, the firmness of the mattress is described by how it initially feels when you first lie down on the mattress. It is not the same as support, which has to do more with how the inner workings of the mattress hold up your body over time and keep your spine in alignment. You can have a soft mattress with lots of support – so when you are shopping for a new mattress keep these terms separate in your mind.

Of course, firmness is subjective. A heavier person will sink into a mattress more than a lighter person, so they might describe the same mattress as softer. Usually, when mattress manufacturers describe the firmness of their mattress, they use a number on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the firmest.

Firmness can depend on the materials that are used in the mattress. For example, memory foam is generally considered to feel softer than a coil mattress. However, there are different degrees of firmness within all materials. For example, hybrid mattresses will usually come in Soft, Medium, and Firm options with different amounts of the same layers of material.

woman testing mattress


Typically a mattress that is described as “soft” will fall between a 3-5 on the scale of firmness. These mattresses will have a lot of “hug” to them and when you lie on them you will feel like you are gently sinking into the material. Some have described it as feeling like you are sleeping “in” the mattress rather than on top of it.

This type of mattress is great for you if you sleep on your side, as it will contour to the curves of your body and relieve the pressure on your joints. However, a disadvantage is that you may find yourself getting too hot at night depending on the material and how enveloped you are within the mattress. Also, some people dislike having sex on very soft mattresses because their limbs sink into the material and it’s difficult to balance, get traction, or develop a rhythm.


This is the middle of the road option that will likely appeal to most sleepers. It is usually described as a 6-7 out of 10 on the firmness scale. It is what Goldilocks would have liked – not too soft, not too hard, but just right.

Medium mattresses are ideal for stomach sleepers, as they will help to keep your spine in alignment when you are lying in this position. Also, they are great for people who tend to move around to different positions in their sleep, also known as combination sleepers. Most people use a medium-firm mattress, so if you aren’t sure of what your exact preference is, this is probably a good place to start.


A firm mattress is generally within the 7.5-9 range out of 10 on the scale. When you lie on top of this mattress, you will feel like you are floating on the surface rather than sinking into it. Very few mattresses sold would fit into the 9-10 range on the firmness scale, as not many people want to sleep on a bed that hard.

If you often sleep on your back, a firm mattress might be right for you. Also, if you are larger than the average person you may want to choose a firmer mattress. When you weigh more, you’ll sink into the bed more and a softer bed won’t be comfortable.

Think about your sleep positions, weight, and any aching body parts when choosing which mattress firmness might be best for your needs.

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