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Firm vs Medium Mattress: Finding the Perfect Balance for a Restful Sleep

By: Christina Davies
Updated on: April 05, 2024

  • Choosing between a firm and medium mattress depends on your sleep style, body weight, and personal preferences.
  • Firm mattresses (8-10 on the firmness scale) are ideal for back and stomach sleepers, as they promote proper spine alignment and provide support. They are also suitable for individuals over 230 pounds and those who sleep hot.
  • Medium mattresses (5-6 on the firmness scale) offer a balanced feel with a combination of support and cushioning. They are versatile and work well for side sleepers, combination sleepers, and couples with different sleep preferences.
  • When selecting a mattress, consider your sleep style, body weight, and whether you have specific needs, such as back pain relief.
  • Different types of mattresses, including memory foam, latex, innerspring, and hybrid mattresses, offer unique characteristics and benefits to cater to individual preferences.

Are you searching for the perfect mattress to provide a restful night’s sleep? Choosing between a firm and medium mattress can be challenging, as both options offer unique benefits. This article will explore the differences between firm and medium mattresses, discuss who they are suitable for, and provide some tips to help you make the right decision. Whether you’re a back, side, or combination sleeper, we’ve got you covered!

Understanding Firmness Levels

Firmness levels indicate how a mattress will likely feel when most individuals lie on it. These levels are often subjective because a person’s body type can influence how a mattress feels. For instance, a firm mattress might feel slightly soft to someone weighing over 230 pounds, as their weight can compress the mattress’s surface. Conversely, a medium mattress might seem too firm for a smaller person, as they might not exert enough pressure to make the mattress conform to their body.

These firmness levels are typically measured using a 1-10 scale, where 1 represents the softest option, and ten indicates the firmest. However, it’s important to note that some companies may reverse this scale, with one as the hardest option and ten as the softest. Why are firmness levels important? They are crucial because every sleep style has a specific firmness range that suits it best. A person’s preferred sleep position and body weight determine their sleep style.

Here’s a brief overview of what each sleeping style requires:

  • Side Sleepers: A mattress for side sleepers should typically be in the soft to medium range to provide adequate pressure relief.
  • Back Sleepers: Mattresses for back sleepers should offer a medium-firm to firm feel to encourage proper spine alignment. A medium feel is acceptable if the mattress has lumbar support.
  • Stomach Sleepers: Mattresses for stomach sleepers should have a firm feel to prevent excessive sinking, which can lead to spine misalignment.
  • Combination Sleepers: A mattress for combination sleepers should have a medium feel and a responsive surface to prevent the feeling of being stuck as they change positions.
  • Petite Sleepers: Mattresses for petite sleepers should be on the softer end of the firmness range for their preferred sleep position.
  • Heavy Sleepers: Mattresses for heavy sleepers should be on the firmer end of the recommended range for their preferred sleep position.

Who Should Consider a Firm Mattress?

Firm mattresses, typically ranking between 8 and 10 on the firmness scale, offer a stable surface with minimal sinkage. They are particularly well-suited for stomach and back sleepers, as they provide the necessary support to maintain proper spine alignment. When the spine bows too far into a mattress, it can lead to discomfort and back pain.

Additionally, individuals weighing over 230 pounds often find firm mattresses surprisingly comfortable. The firmness of the mattress helps distribute their weight evenly, providing a supportive and comfortable sleeping surface. Furthermore, a firm mattress may be a better choice if you tend to sleep hot, as it retains less body heat than softer options. The reduced malleability of a firm mattress also promotes airflow, keeping you cool throughout the night.

Lastly, if you prefer the feeling of lying on top of your mattress rather than sinking into it, a firm mattress is an excellent choice. It offers a supportive surface that prevents excessive sinkage.

Medium Mattresses: The Balanced Choice

Medium mattresses, falling within the 5 to 6 range on the firmness scale, provide a balanced feel with a combination of support and cushioning. They are suitable for a wide range of sleepers thanks to their versatility. Side sleepers, in particular, benefit from the pressure-relieving properties of medium mattresses, as they offer enough cushioning to alleviate pressure points. Combination sleepers, who frequently change positions during the night, also find medium mattresses accommodating due to their ability to provide adequate support in any sleeping position.

Couples with differing sleep styles often find a compromise in medium mattresses. Whether one partner is a back sleeper and the other is a side sleeper, a medium mattress can meet the needs of both individuals. However, it’s worth noting that heavier sleepers should exercise caution when considering a medium mattress, as their bodies may sink too far into the surface, potentially causing spinal misalignment and discomfort. In such cases, a firmer mattress may be a more suitable option.

A medium-firm mattress might not be the most suitable option for individuals dealing with chronic back pain. Some sleepers find that a medium mattress can exacerbate back pain, while others find relief with a medium-firm mattress. Research suggests that a medium-firm mattress is the optimal firmness level for alleviating and preventing back pain.

Considering Other Mattress Firmness Options

While firm and medium mattresses are the most common choices, it’s important to note that other options are available to cater to individual preferences. Depending on your sleep style and desired comfort level, you may find a medium-firm, medium-soft, or soft mattress more suitable.

Medium-Firm Mattresses: A medium-firm mattress is often recommended as the best mattress for back pain. Research indicates that medium-firmness provides optimal support to prevent and relieve back pain. Back, stomach, and combination sleepers find medium-firm mattresses comfortable. These mattresses also cater to hot sleepers, couples, and individuals weighing over 230 pounds.

Medium-Soft Mattresses: Medium-soft mattresses offer additional cushioning while maintaining a supportive feel. They are a popular choice for side sleepers and those weighing under 130 pounds. These mattresses are often more affordable than softer, making them attractive for budget-conscious shoppers.

Soft Mattresses: Soft mattresses typically feature thick, plush comfort layers that relieve pressure. They are particularly well-suited for side sleepers who prefer a cradling sensation. While soft mattresses offer exceptional comfort, high-quality options also incorporate additional support features to prevent excessive sinking.

Exploring Different Mattress Types

Now that we have discussed the various firmness levels let’s dive into the different types of mattresses available. The primary types are memory foam, latex, innerspring, and hybrid mattresses. Each type offers unique characteristics and benefits, allowing you to find the perfect match for your needs.

Memory Foam Mattresses: Memory foam mattresses comprise several layers, including a comfort layer, a transition layer, and a supportive base. These mattresses conform to your body, offering superb pressure relief. While traditional memory foam mattresses tend to retain body heat, more recent models frequently integrate cooling technologies to address this concern. Memory foam mattresses are offered in various firmness levels, accommodating individual tastes and financial considerations.

Latex Mattresses: Latex mattresses offer a similar conforming feel to memory foam mattresses. They are known for their durability and resilience. While latex mattresses tend to be more expensive, they are a famous choice among eco-conscious consumers due to their natural materials. However, you may want to explore other options if you’re on a budget.

Innerspring Mattresses: Innerspring mattresses feature a simple design consisting of coils encased in fabric with thin layers of padding on top and bottom. They provide a firm sleeping surface and are often ranked as medium-firm to firm. While innerspring mattresses offer good support, some individuals may find them lacking in pressure relief. This makes them an ideal choice for side sleepers considering a hybrid mattress, which combines the benefits of innerspring and memory foam.

Hybrid Mattress: Hybrid mattresses combine an innerspring base with a top layer of conforming foam. This design combines the benefits of both innerspring and memory foam mattresses, providing excellent support and pressure relief. Hybrid mattresses are popular for sleepers who want the best of both worlds. However, they come with a higher price tag than innerspring or memory foam mattresses.

Take Advantage of Sleep Trials

Choosing the right mattress can feel overwhelming with so many options available. Fortunately, many mattress companies offer sleep trials, allowing you to try out a mattress and return it if it doesn’t meet your expectations. Sleep trials typically last a few months, giving you ample time to determine if a mattress fits you.

If you’re considering purchasing an online mattress, you can’t try before buying. Customer reviews can offer valuable perspectives into how a particular mattress feels and performs. Reading reviews from individuals with similar sleep preferences can help you make a more informed decision.

FAQs about Firm Vs Medium Mattress

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How can I tell if my mattress is too firm?

If you regularly wake up with neck or back pain, your mattress is likely too firm for your needs. Too-firm mattresses often fail to relieve pressure points, leading to discomfort and pain. Side sleepers may experience sore shoulders and hips if their mattress is too firm.

Should side sleepers select a firm or soft mattress?

Side sleepers benefit from the pressure-relieving cushioning provided by softer mattresses. Firm mattresses can lead to pressure buildup in the shoulders and hips, resulting in stiffness and discomfort. Side sleepers should opt for a soft, medium-soft, or medium mattress to ensure proper alignment and pressure relief.

How can I make my mattress more comfortable?

Adding a mattress topper can provide a plush feel if your mattress is too firm. Additionally, using soft bedding can help alter the overall feel of your mattress. On the other hand, if your mattress is too soft, a mattress topper or placing it on a firmer foundation can increase its firmness.

Investing in high-quality pillows and breathable bedding can significantly enhance your sleep experience. Regularly rotating your mattress can also help maintain its supportive feel.

Do foam mattresses become softer over time?

Yes, foam mattresses require a break-in period to reach their optimal comfort level. A foam mattress may take a week or two to break in fully. Over time, the mattress may experience subtle softening as it ages. Alternatively, if the mattress’s top layer flattens due to regular use, it may feel firmer.


Choosing the right mattress is crucial for achieving a restful and rejuvenating sleep. Firm and medium mattresses offer unique benefits and are suitable for different sleepers. You can make a well-informed decision by understanding your sleep style and preferences and considering factors like body weight and sleep position. Remember to take benefit of sleep trials and read customer reviews to ensure your chosen mattress is the perfect fit. You can enjoy nights filled with comfort, support, and blissful sleep with the right mattress.


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