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Mattress Firmness Guide for a Good Night’s Sleep

By: Christina Davies
Updated on: April 05, 2024

Choosing the right mattress firmness is crucial for a good night’s sleep. However, with the various options available, it can be overwhelming to determine which level of firmness is best for you. This comprehensive guide will dive into the different aspects of mattress firmness, including what it is, how it is measured, and how to choose the right firmness level based on your sleeping needs. So, let’s dive in and find the perfect balance for your sleep comfort!

What is Mattress Firmness?

Mattress firmness means how soft or hard a mattress feels when you lay on it. It’s different for everyone and depends on things like how heavy you are, how you like to sleep, and what you prefer. So, it’s all about how comfy or not comfy a mattress feels to you. While some may prefer a plush, sink-in feel, others may prefer a more supportive and firm surface.

The mattress industry uses a scale from 1 to 10 to show how firm a mattress is to help shoppers choose the right one. A mattress with a rating of 1 would be extremely soft, while a rating of 10 would be exceptionally firm. The industry standard for medium firmness is typically around 6.5 out of 10, balancing support and comfort.

The Different Levels of Firmness

Mattresses can be categorized into three main firmness levels: soft, medium-firm, and firm. Let’s explore each level in detail:

Soft Mattresses

Soft mattresses on the firmness scale typically fall within the 3 to 6 range. These mattresses offer deep sinkage and body contouring, providing a plush and enveloping feel. People who like to sleep on their sides or want a really comfy bed like a soft mattress. These mattresses, like a pillow or thick memory foam layers, have extra padding on top to make you feel cozy. Some famous soft mattresses are Layla, Helix Sunset, and Nectar. They’re great if you want your shoulders, hips, and lower back to feel comfy while you sleep.

Medium-Firm Mattresses

Medium-firm mattresses are around the 6.5 mark on the firmness scale. They strike a balance between pressure relief and support, making them suitable for a wide range of sleepers. These mattresses usually combine soft foam top layers with sturdier foundations of high-density poly foam or pocketed coils.

Medium-firm mattresses are ideal for combination sleepers or back sleepers who benefit from a little extra mobility. The Saatva, DreamCloud Premier Rest, and Leesa Hybrid mattresses are among the top choices in the medium-firm category.

Firm Mattresses

Firm mattresses typically score seven or higher on the firmness scale. They offer minimal sinkage and are characterized by a firm and supportive feel. Firm mattresses are designed to lift every part of your body squarely on top of the bed, providing ample pushback. Strict stomach sleepers and heavier individuals who require extra support often favor them. The Helix Dawn, WinkBed, and Brooklyn Plank mattresses are excellent options for those seeking a firm sleep surface.

See Also: Do I Need a Firm or Soft Mattress?

Understanding the Firmness Scale

The firmness scale is a measurement used to describe the level of firmness or softness of various products, most commonly associated with mattresses and pillows. It helps consumers choose products that best suit their comfort preferences and sleep needs. Understanding the firmness scale can help you make an informed decision when purchasing mattresses, pillows, and other related items. Here’s a breakdown of the firmness scale:

  • 1 on the Firmness Scale – Extremely Soft: Finding a mattress rated as a one on the firmness scale is exceedingly rare because it would be practically impossible to sleep on. Such a mattress would offer excessive sinkage, completely lacking in support.
  • 2 on the Firmness Scale – Ultra-Soft: Slightly more plausible than a mattress rated at 1, a 2 on the firmness scale would still likely lack adequate support for the average sleeper. It would result in significant sinkage, making it unsuitable for most individuals.
  • 3 on the Firmness Scale – Very Soft: A mattress rated at 3 on the firmness scale is somewhat more manageable but still relatively uncommon. While there is noticeable sinkage at this level, mattresses with this rating often offer slightly more support. Typically constructed with memory foam, known for its deep pressure relief, this level of softness is best suited for side sleepers.
  • 4 to 5 on the Firmness Scale – Soft: A rating of 4 to 5 indicates a soft mattress with a more balanced feel. At this point, the comfort layers become slightly thinner, reducing the sensation of being overly “sunk into” the bed, which is characteristic of softer mattresses. Strict-side sleepers also prefer this firmness level.
  • 6 on the Firmness Scale – Medium-Soft: This rating is quite common among bed-in-a-box mattresses marketed as “soft.” While these mattresses still feature plush comfort layers, they are offset by a sturdy base made of high-density polyfoam, coils, or springs.
  • 6.5 on the Firmness Scale – Medium-Firm: A rating of 6.5 is commonly found in mattresses on the market today, signifying a true medium-firm bed. These mattresses strike a balance between pressure relief and support, making them suitable for a wide range of sleepers. They can be composed entirely of foam or a combination of foam and coils.
  • 7 on the Firmness Scale – Slightly Firm: A rating of 7 indicates a firmer mattress that elevates the sleeper out of the bed’s structure. Combo sleepers, stomach sleepers, and back sleepers typically benefit from the additional support provided by these mattresses.
  • 8 on the Firmness Scale – Firm: An 8 on the firmness scale designates a very firm mattress. These mattresses offer minimal body contouring and no “hug.” They are particularly well-suited for stomach and back sleepers and those who prefer a more traditional mattress feel.
  • 9 on the Firmness Scale – Very Firm: A rating of 9 is akin to an 8 in terms of firmness but with even less contouring and sinkage. These mattresses provide strong resistance, which may be too firm for most sleepers. However, heavier individuals might appreciate the extra firmness of an 8 out of 10 mattress.
  • 10 on the Firmness Scale – Ultra-Firm: Lastly, a 10 on the firmness scale is exceedingly rare. It offers no pressure relief whatsoever and is unlikely to be encountered.

Deciding on the Right Firmness Level

When determining the best firmness level for your mattress, it’s essential to consider your sleep position, body weight, and personal preferences. Here are some guidelines for choosing the right firmness level based on different sleep positions:

Back Sleepers

Back sleepers typically require a medium-firm mattress, around 6 to 7 on the firmness scale. This level of firmness helps maintain proper spinal alignment and provides support across the back. Back sleepers should look for mattresses that lift their spines into a neutral position, alleviating pressure and pain. Hybrid mattresses combine foam and coil layers and are often a good choice for back sleepers.

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers tend to prefer softer mattresses in the 4 to 6 range on the firmness scale. These mattresses offer deep pressure relief and contouring to the body’s curves, particularly at the shoulders, hips, and lower back. Side sleepers should prioritize mattresses that provide adequate cushioning to prevent discomfort and pressure points. Memory foam mattresses or those with plush top layers are well-suited for side sleepers.

Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers require a firmer mattress, typically in the seven and higher range on the firmness scale. Firm mattresses help keep the spine aligned and prevent excessive sinking of the hips, which can lead to back pain. Stomach sleepers should look for mattresses with a thin pillow top layer or those specifically designed to provide extra support. Innerspring or hybrid mattresses often meet the needs of stomach sleepers.

Firmness vs. Support: Understanding the Difference

It’s important to differentiate between firmness and support when choosing a mattress. Firmness refers to the immediate feel of the mattress, whether it is soft or firm. Support, on the other hand, relates to how well the mattress keeps your spine in alignment. While firmer mattresses tend to offer more support, there is no guarantee that a firm mattress will always provide the necessary support for your body.

When selecting a mattress, consider both firmness and support. A mattress should provide the right balance of comfort and spinal alignment. Firmness can also affect pressure relief, so if pressure relief is important to you, ensure that the mattress offers adequate contouring. Remember, a soft mattress can still offer support, and a firm mattress may not provide the best support for your needs.

Determining Your Ideal Firmness Level

To determine your ideal firmness level, consider your sleeping position, body weight, and any specific pain or discomfort you may experience. Here are some guidelines based on different factors:

Weight Considerations

  • Heavy individuals: Heavier individuals generally benefit from medium-firm to firm mattresses. These mattresses provide the necessary support and prevent excessive sinking.
  • Lightweight individuals: Lightweight sleepers can opt for softer to medium-firm mattresses. These mattresses offer sufficient contouring without creating unnecessary pressure points.

Sleep Position

  • Stomach sleepers: Stomach sleepers typically require a firmer mattress to maintain proper spinal alignment. Choose a mattress in the 7 to 8 range on the firmness scale.
  • Side sleepers: The side sleepers need a softer mattress to relieve pressure on the hips and shoulders. Look for mattresses in the 4 to 6 range on the firmness scale.
  • Back sleepers: Back sleepers generally do well with a medium-firm mattress that offers a balance of support and pressure relief. Aim for a firmness level around 5 to 7.

Pain and Discomfort

  • Back pain: Choose a mattress that offers proper support and keeps the spine aligned for back pain relief. Medium-firm mattresses are often a good choice.
  • Hip pain: Seek a mattress that relieves pressure and supports the lower back. Soft to medium-firm mattresses are typically suitable for hip pain sufferers.
  • Shoulder pain: Opt for a mattress that offers adequate cushioning for the shoulders. Soft or medium mattresses with good contouring capabilities are ideal for shoulder pain relief.
  • Neck pain: A mattress with good support alleviates neck pain. Look for a mattress that keeps the spine aligned and properly supports the upper back and neck area.

Making Your Final Decision

When selecting a mattress, it’s important to consider your individual needs and preferences. Your sleep position, body weight, and specific pain points should guide your decision-making process. If you’re still unsure, a medium-firm mattress is often a safe bet as it accommodates the majority of sleepers.

Remember to take advantage of trial periods offered by online mattress companies. These trial periods allow you to test the mattress in the comfort of your own home and ensure that it meets your desired level of comfort and support. Trust your instincts and listen to your body to choose a restful night’s sleep.

Finding the perfect balance of mattress firmness is a personal journey. If you think about what you need and remember what we discussed here, you can pick a mattress that’s just right for you. It will give you the support you need, feel comfy, and relieve any pressure. When you choose a good mattress, you’re investing in better sleep and enjoying it for a long time.


How often should I replace my mattress?

On average, mattresses last about 7-10 years. However, it’s essential to replace yours when it shows signs of wear and tear, like sagging or lumps.

Can you adjust the firmness of my mattress?

Some mattresses come with adjustable firmness features, allowing you to tailor the feel to your liking. However, most mattresses have a fixed firmness level.

Is a firmer mattress always better for back pain?

Not necessarily. While firmer mattresses can provide better support for some, others might find medium-firm mattresses more comfortable. Personal preference and medical advice should guide your choice.

Do memory foam mattresses come in different firmness levels?

Yes, memory foam mattresses are available in various firmness options, making them suitable for a wide range of sleepers.

Can I use a mattress topper to adjust firmness?

Yes, mattress toppers can add an extra layer of comfort and adjust the firmness of your mattress. They are a cost-effective way to fine-tune your sleeping experience.

Are hybrid mattresses a good compromise for couples with different firmness preferences?

Absolutely. Hybrid mattresses combine the perfect of both worlds, offering varying firmness levels on each side, ensuring both partners get a good night’s sleep.


In conclusion, your mattress’s firmness plays a pivotal role in the quality of your sleep. Understanding your sleeping position, body weight, and personal preferences is essential in choosing the right firmness level. Whether you prefer a soft mattress’s plush embrace or a firm one’s solid support, this guide has provided valuable insights to help you make an informed decision.


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