Buying a mattress is never easy. There are too many considerations to keep in mind, and one of them is the mattress firmness.

The kind of firmness you choose for a mattress determines how happy you will be with your purchase even after many years to of use. The thing is, your mattress’ level of firmness determines how comfortable it feels when laying on it.

However, the most important thing to understand before even walking to any store is that mattress firmness is relative. What you consider to be the ideal firmness for a good night sleep might be someone else’s nightmare. We are crafted differently, and our sleeping positions, body weights, lifestyle changes among other things will pull you towards a certain firmness.

This guide aims at covering all the important aspects of mattress firmness. I will also be guiding you on how you should go about selecting the right firmness for your needs while also focusing on the various mattress firmness levels.

Alternative guides:

What is mattress firmness?

A mattress firmness describes the level of stiffness in a mattress. You can easily feel the stiffness by laying on it as this is the most recommended test when buying a mattress. Now, all mattresses have a comfort layer, and it is the sole determinant of its firmness. The comfort layer is found directly under the mattresses’ sleep surface and the layer can either be made from memory foam, latex, polyfoam, or any other material that can cushion your body.

Why does the mattress firmness matter?

Maybe once in your life, if you’re lucky, you have woken up with some joint discomfort, shoulder and/or back pain or couldn’t sleep well due to too much heat. Most people think that the pains are due to poor sleeping postures, but that’s just one of the reasons.

The wrong mattress firmness can cause all this hence why you should be more careful when purchasing one. Some mattresses are too soft, and there is a likelihood of too much sinking as you sleep resulting in discomfort. Luckily, the market today has a broad range of mattress firmness level to choose thus different sleepers are well accommodated.

Rule of thumb when it comes to mattress firmness

What the majority consider the right firmness might not be right for you. The perfect firmness for you should be firm enough to offer the needed support yet soft enough to relieve pressure points while conforming to your figure. And, even as you look into your body weight, size or preferred sleeping position, don’t forget to compare different models and brands. Each has their way of constructing theirs with different composition because all this, including where the manufacturing took place, affects the firmness levels.

Mattress firmness vs. Support: Apart from firmness, what other factors should you consider?

Most talk in the mattress industry is the firmness levels. However, as much as firmness is important, one should also consider the mattress’ support. Most people confuse support with firmness, but they are totally different.

Firmness refers to the mattress’ stiffness, but support denotes how effectively the mattress keeps the sleeper’s spine aligned and how good it relieves pressure. Thus, in a nutshell, the mattress’ support core determines how much support the sleeper gets as they lay on it.

Additionally, the mattress’ conforming properties play a big role in how the mattress contours to your body curves as well as your sleeping positions. Thus, when selecting a mattress, consider its firmness, support or comfort core, and conformability.

How to choose the perfect mattress firmness:

Mattress firmness ranges from:

  • Very soft

The problem with a very soft mattress is that sinking is real, and most people will find them very uncomfortable.

  • Soft

A soft mattress gives a bearable sinking and good contour.

  • Medium-firm

Most people choose mattresses in this category as they give a great balance of support, firmness, and conformability.

  • Firm

Firm mattresses are sufficiently firm and do not compromise on comfort or conformability.

  • Very firm

Very firm mattresses make you feel like you are floating on them. They are extremely hard and have little to no padding thus no conformability.

Note: Rarely will you find someone going for a very soft or very firm mattress. They are not comfortable to sleep on, but any other option might do you good.

Performance from the different firmness levels:

Very Soft & Soft

Mattress Firmness Guide - How to Choose the Right Mattress Firmness

Support: Mattresses with this firmness level provide adequate support for some sleepers, but people with chronic pain or who are overweight might find them uncomfortable as they lack a good balance of support and softness.

Conforming: When it comes to conforming, mattresses in this category excel as they contour to your body curves easily.

Lifespan: Unfortunately, very soft and soft mattresses tend to have a shorter lifespan than the firmer options.


Mattress Firmness Guide - How to Choose the Right Mattress Firmness

Support: With a medium-firm mattress, you get adequate support without any sacrifice on surface comfort.

Conforming: Mattresses in this category do not sink too much. Thus, they offer enough conformity while supporting your curves adequately.

Lifespan: Firm mattresses last longer than medium mattresses.

Firm and very firm

Mattress Firmness Guide - How to Choose the Right Mattress Firmness

Support: With a firm mattress you get the highest level of support. They are also the best for heavier people or anyone with chronic pains.

Conforming: They do not offer adequate conformability as they are too hard.

Lifespan: Firm mattresses have excellent longevity.

What factors determine the right level of mattress firmness for different individuals?

As I mentioned above, mattress firmness is subjective. However, certain factors can guide you in picking one in the right firmness level. Basically, there are three major factors, i.e., Weight, sleeping position and sex.


With weight, you either fall in the:

Light people category (0-130 pounds) and in this case, a soft or medium firm mattress will be perfect. The reasoning is that light people will barely compress a firm mattress thus conforming might be zero and may end up “floating” on the mattress and no pressure relief.

Average people category (130-230 pounds) and you should get a medium-firm mattress. The medium-firm mattresses offer adequate comfort and support for people in this weight category, but if you prefer more conformability, you can get a softer mattress.

Heavy people category (230 pounds and above) should pick a medium-firm mattress but should be thicker because, with this weight, you compress the mattress more, but the thickness can help in preventing too much sinking. Also, you should go for a mattress with a thicker support core, say six inches, for proper support.

Sleeping Position

You are either a side, back or stomach sleeper and in rare cases, a combination. You will thus prefer a different firmness level based on your sleeping position. Let’s look at each of these positions and the level of firmness for each.

Back: People who sleep on their backs prefer medium-firm mattresses as they distribute the pressure on the body evenly. They offer just enough support and contouring for a comfortable sleep.

Side: Side sleepers prefer soft-medium mattresses as they conform to your figure closely thus helping align your spine.

Stomach: Most stomach sleepers go for medium-firm mattresses as they offer the most comfort. With a firm mattress, a stomach sleeper is likely to experience pressure and pain, and soft mattresses are even worse as they tend to sink deeper as their weight is not evenly distributed.

Mattress firmness level and sex

You might have had different sex experiences on different mattresses but here is what my research led me too. Also, this is what most people recommend;

Soft mattresses: these mattresses are less responsive, and they sink a lot thus making you feel like you are “fighting” them.

Medium-firm: the mattresses in this level of firmness are considered perfect for sex. They have a good balance or comfort, bounciness and noise control.

Firm: compared to soft mattresses, firm mattresses are the best, but they can get noisy and uncomfortable.

And, don’t forget the effect of the mattresses’ components when it comes to sex. For example, innerspring mattresses are bouncier and noisier while foam and latex mattresses are quieter but are prone to discomfort as the sink fast.


Is firmness affected by the mattress’ support?

The answer is no. Firmness and support are two different things as I mentioned above. Firmness only refers to the mattress’ stiffness and support refers to how well the mattress aligns your spine and how it relieves pressure points. For lighter people, softer mattresses offer to provide the best support, but heavier people prefer firmer mattresses. The two, firmness and support, do not affect each other.

What’s the best, softer or firmer mattress?

Again, as I mentioned from the beginning, firmness is subjective. Someone might find a softer mattress to be the most comfortable, but some people prefer firmer mattresses. The only way to know which one fits you best is by evaluating yourself, what’s your wait, your sleeping position, and so on then finally try one out.

Can you use price to determine the best firmness for a mattress?

Very firm mattresses are the cheapest followed by those between medium and firm but the most expensive are the softer mattresses as they contain high-end materials such as memory foam and latex. However, look at different models and brands before making a choice as the prices always vary.

What’s the best method of testing mattress firmness?

The only sure way is to do it from the store. But most importantly, if you share a bed, ensure that he/she is with you during the trial.

What is a Universal comfort?

Universal comfort refers to mattresses that are made to suit the comfort levels of most sleepers. These mattresses are in the range of medium to firm and are made to feel comfortable from all angles.

I hope that this guide helps simplify your search on the right mattress firmness.

Which is best, Latex, Foam, or Innerspring?

Each mattress type has varying levels of firmness. Usually, it depends on the model.