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mattress guides

Mattress Firmness Scale — Find The Right Firmness For You

mattress firmness guide
Jul 29, 2020

We've created this guide to make it easier for you to choose the right firmness and provide yourself with proper spinal alignment and the correct support. Here we will discuss mattress firmness scale, factors that you should consider when choosing the right firmness (sleeping position and weight), and pros and cons of soft and hard mattresses.

So, let’s start our journey to multiple nuances and details about mattress firmness!

What does firmness even mean?

Here is the most important thing you need to know about the term itself — it’s not the same thing as a mattress support. Do you sink into a mattress? Does it feel like a wooden board? These are extreme examples, but these questions show what this term really means - firmness determines how you will feel when sleeping on it. There are a lot of things that can make a mattress softer or firmer, but the main ones are the material the mattress is made of and the thickness of the comfort layer.

Mattress firmness scale

Firmness is quite a relative term. Still, there is a 1-10 scale that makes it possible to distinguish softer and firmer mattresses. 6 is about the medium firm. People choose medium firmness options (5-7 on average) most frequently, as it fits most sleeping styles. Let’s take a look at the table that shows what indicators are used when it comes to firmness and, more importantly, who should use them.

ScaleCategoryWorks for
1, 2Super SoftLight & very light sleepers, side sleepers
3, 4Medium (Soft)Light & side sleepers, combination sleepers, and couples
5, 6MediumBack sleepers, combination sleepers, couples
7, 8Medium (Firm)Back sleepers, combination sleepers, couples, people suffering from chronic back pain
9, 10Super FirmHeavy sleepers, back sleepers, stomach sleepers, sleepers suffering from chronic back pain

So, these are the main levels of firmness. Let’s pay a bit more attention to each of them.

1, 2 — The softest ones

This is the softest existing type of mattress. Of course, it’s usually chosen by people who for certain reasons don’t need any support but look for an incredibly plush feeling — a sleeper or sleepers will sink in tremendously, so consider this before buying the softest mattresses.

3, 4 — Medium soft mattresses

Obviously, these mattresses are a bit firmer — they have sinkage from 1.5 to 3 in, to be exact. Any of the mattresses within this range would be the best bed for side sleepers, but definitely not so good for people who prefer to sleep on their back and stomach.

5, 6 — Medium

This is one of the most popular options and no wonder. Simply put, these are quite soft, “average” mattresses that fall under the category of medium mattresses. A kind of perfect compromise. That, in turn, means that people who buy it don’t sink all the way down to the bottom layers of their mattresses, and at the same time, they enjoy the real comfort without sinking or feeling like they’re sleeping on a wooden board.

7, 8 — Medium firm

As you have probably guessed, these are firmer mattresses that work great for people who are looking for a bit harder surface, but not an extreme option.

9,10 — The firmest ones

These are the hardest of the hardest, the mattresses that are usually chosen for a reason. Some of them are called therapeutic. Of course, they are less popular than Medium and Soft ones, but still — if you suffer from chronic back pain, this may be a good solution (please, consult your doctor before making a decision.)

How to choose a mattress firmness: criteria to consider

Now you know what are the main types of firmness, but which one will suit you - soft, medium-firm, or extra firm? You need to consider a few criteria, and we’re going to describe them below.

What type of sleeper are you?

We already mentioned the type of sleepers, but let’s sum it up. Here are the basic recommendations for people who prefer to sleep on the back, side, stomach, or combine it all.

For those who sleep on their stomach

These people usually choose a firmness 5-7, i.e., medium, or firmer mattresses. This can be easily explained by the fact that they still need to sink into a mattress a bit, but they still need more support. So, the medium is perfect.

For those who sleep on their side

Well, these sleepers need softer options, 3 to 6, to be exact. Such soft and medium mattresses will provide a bit more sink, which is essential for a side sleeping position: people who prefer it, need proper spinal alignment plus just the right amount of sink for cushioning shoulders and hips.

For those who sleep on their back

Sleepers who fall under this category are quite versatile — they can sleep really well on mattresses of any type, from 4 to 8. This range will give you enough support and will align your spine appropriately.

Combination sleepers

Combination sleepers are pretty much like those who sleep on their back — they can choose between a wide range of options. Average sleepers who prefer not to choose an only position can enjoy sleeping on mattresses of 3-8 firmness level.

What’s your body weight?

Yes, that’s a really important criterion to consider. Relying only on the way a certain mattress feels is a bad decision — it may seem that it’s just a perfect option, but if you choose the wrong product, it will have its negative consequences. So, let’s take a look at the three categories of weight and mattresses that are better for light, average & heavy people.

If you weigh less than 130 lbs

The scheme is simple: the lighter a sleeper is, the less is pressure on a mattress. Consequently, they can afford softer options — they just don’t sink into them as much as heavier people do. By the way, people who weigh significantly less, for example, only 110-120 lbs can choose even softer mattresses than we recommend for side/back/stomach sleepers.

If your weight is from 130 to 200 lbs

The number of options that work pretty well for people who belong to this group is overwhelming. That’s why the best strategy for them is to focus more on other important things besides firmness, for example, position, number of sleepers, overheating/no overheating, chronic back pain/no back pain, etc.

Medium mattresses are pretty good for them, mostly because they are pretty good for all, but still — you can find a lot of great options in this category. If you understand that you need more support or more softness, you can also look through the super firm and super soft mattresses.

If you weigh more than 200+ lbs

Of course, heavier people need firmer mattresses just because they sink into a mattress deeper than people who have a lower weight. Though some may say this is a benefit, it is not as pleasant as it sounds — the too-soft mattress is no good, too. That’s why we recommend looking through the options in a medium-firm to firm categories — in most cases, such mattresses work perfectly.

Firmer or softer — what mattress should I buy?

There are plenty of different types of mattresses, but even if we focus only on “soft” and “firm,” it’d be still pretty difficult to answer the question, “Should I choose a harder or a softer mattress?”

The manufacturers sell mattresses of different firmness, and usually, you can find all the firmness options in one brand. However, some manufacturers often provide the customers with the statistics on their most popular mattresses and their firmness levels (for example, more than 80% of Saatva customers choose a luxury firm 5-7 option). Here’s the infographics that shows the most popular firmness options of some mattress brands.

Now let’s consider the benefits and drawbacks of firm and soft mattresses.

Pros & cons of a firm mattress

Pros:

  • It’s more supportive
  • Better for cooling
  • Allowing blood to flow better due to reducing the pressure on your circulation system
  • Easier to move around
  •  

Cons

  • They are still a bit less comfortable (or significantly, when it comes to the hardest ones) than soft mattresses
  • Not as much pressure relief
  • Heavy sleepers may eventually find indentations on their firm mattress

Pros & cons of a soft mattress

Pros:

  • Great pressure relief
  • More comfort for people having any health issues (i.e. back pain)
  • Soft mattress absorbs motion, so it’s good for couples

Cons

  • Worse for cooling
  • Tend to grow softer over time
  • Harder to move around
  • Less supportive

Types of mattresses & firmness — conclusions

Recently, it was considered really firm mattresses as the best option for people who care about their health. There were two right statements that read as follows: “The harder the mattress, the better for your back” and “The softer the mattress, the better the sleep, but you will inevitably pay for comfort later.” Basically, they are both wrong. The right statement is, “The right mattress firmness is one of the most subjective things ever.”

There is no single formula that would work for everyone. And yes, that means that a person or a couple going to buy a mattress will need to spend much time considering all the info about the firmness and other important criteria (like weight, sleeping position, etc.) to make the right choice. But, it’s worth every effort — the right firmness guarantees you great sleep, good mood and therefore, beauty and strong health.

Let’s sum up everything we said in this guide on firmness and draw the conclusions.

Firstly, let’s take a look at those who should choose a firmer mattress. They are:

  1. Those who prefer to sleep on top of their bed
  2. Stomach sleepers
  3. Back sleepers
  4. People with mobility issues
  5. Hot sleepers

Now, let’s look through the list of those who should choose a softer mattress. They are:

  1. Side sleepers
  2. Those who’d like to sink into a mattress
  3. Those who suffer from certain symptoms, in particular, pain (however, harder mattresses are usually used for the treatment of the disease itself, so you should discuss your problem with your doctor first)
  4. Couples

As you can see, one can’t just say something like “A soft mattress is better/the best/the worst/etc”. Moreover, choosing the softest one, for example, won’t guarantee that you will sleep like a baby — there is a big chance that you’ll simply overheat instead of enjoying your featherbed. However, picking a random medium mattress is not such a good idea, too — there might be a much better option that will make you enjoy your rest to the fullest.

That’s why we recommend you consider all the criteria we mentioned earlier and choose the option that meets most of your requirements.