Understanding Mattress Firmness for Ultimate Comfort & Support



Mattress firmness is a key factor in achieving a restful night’s sleep. The right firmness can help promote spinal alignment, alleviate pressure points, and ensure that you wake up refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead. However, the journey to discovering the perfect mattress firmness is far from one-size-fits-all. It's a dynamic interplay between personal preferences, sleep positions, and even specific health conditions.

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What is Mattress Firmness?

Mattress firmness refers to how soft or firm a mattress feels when you lie down on it. It's one of the essential factors to consider when choosing a mattress because it directly affects your comfort and support while sleeping.

Mattresses come in a range of firmness levels, from very soft to very firm. Each level of firmness caters to different sleeping preferences, body types, and health needs. Here's a brief overview of each level:

Soft Mattress

A soft mattress offers you a plush and cushioned feel. It contours closely to your body, providing excellent pressure relief and comfort, especially if you're a side sleeper. You might find that a soft mattress gives you that desirable "sink-in" sensation, helping to minimize pressure points.

However, it's important to note that if you're a stomach or back sleeper or if you experience back pain, a soft mattress might not offer you as much support. It can potentially lead to improper spinal alignment, which may affect your overall comfort and quality of sleep.

Medium-Firm Mattress

A medium-firm mattress offers a well-balanced blend of support and comfort. It manages to strike a sweet spot between the two. With a medium-firm mattress, you'll experience a degree of contouring that conforms to your body's natural curves. This helps alleviate pressure points, enhancing overall comfort.

At the same time, the mattress maintains a supportive surface that promotes proper spinal alignment and reduces the risk of discomfort or pain. According to research, medium-firm mattress enhances sleep quality by 55% and reduce back pain by 48% in people with chronic low back pain. Medium-firm mattresses are versatile and can accommodate various sleeping positions including back, stomach, side, or even combo sleepers. This adaptability makes it a popular choice for many individuals. 

Firm Mattress

A firm mattress offers a solid and unyielding surface. It has minimal give, providing a stable sleeping platform. If you're a back or stomach sleeper, you might find a firm mattress particularly appealing. It assists you in preserving the correct alignment of your spine throughout the night, which is crucial for a comfortable sleep experience.

Firm mattresses excel at preventing excessive sinking, allowing your body to rest in a more neutral position. One of the benefits of a firm mattress is its ability to distribute your body weight evenly. In turn, this minimizes the potential for misalignment and discomfort.

If you often struggle with discomfort or pain due to improper sleep posture, a firm mattress can offer relief. But the unyielding nature of a firm mattress puts pressure on your hips and shoulders and could result in discomfort for side sleepers.

Understanding the Firmness Scale

Man testing mattress firmness for comfort and support on a white orthopedic mattress

The firmness scale quantifies how soft or firm a mattress feels, helping you identify the level of comfort and support it offers. Here's a breakdown of the firmness scale and its different levels:

Extremely Soft

Mattresses in this range are exceptionally plush and offer a deep sink-in feeling. They provide minimal support and are suitable for those who prefer to feel enveloped by their mattress. However, these mattresses may not provide adequate spinal alignment and support for most sleepers.

Very Soft 

Very soft mattresses are still quite plush and contour closely to the body. They offer a comfortable cradling sensation and are often preferred by side sleepers who need extra pressure relief for hips and shoulders.


Soft mattresses provide a balance between cushioning and support. They contour to the body to relieve pressure points, making them suitable for a variety of sleep positions. However, a higher firmness level is best for strict side sleepers. 


This level of firmness strikes a balance between cushioning comfort and adequate support, making it a popular choice for a variety of sleepers. 


This firmness level strikes a balance between pressure relief and support. Medium-firm mattresses are suitable for a wide range of sleepers and are made from foam or a blend of coils and foam.

Slightly Firm 

Slightly firm mattresses provide a firmer surface while still allowing for some give. They are often preferred by back, stomach, and combo sleepers who want to enjoy the extra lift of these beds. 


Firm mattresses offer solid support with minimal contouring. They are favored by back and stomach sleepers as they help maintain proper spinal alignment and prevent excessive sinking. Traditional folks and heavier sleepers also prefer the feel of this firmness level.

Ultra Firm 

You are highly unlikely to come across mattresses at this firmness level, but if you do, you should know that they won’t offer any pressure relief at all.

Does Firmness Level Matter?

Woman evaluating mattress firmness for comfort and support on a soft white bed indoors

The level of firmness you choose can impact several aspects of your sleep experience:

  • Comfort: Firmness affects how comfortable you feel while lying on the mattress. Some people prefer a plush, soft mattress that conforms closely to their body's contours, while others prefer a firmer surface that provides more support.
  • Support: The right level of firmness provides proper support for your body. A mattress that's too soft might not offer enough support, leading to improper spinal alignment and discomfort. On the other hand, a mattress that's too firm might not provide enough contouring and pressure relief, causing discomfort in pressure points.
  • Back Health: A mattress with the appropriate firmness can help maintain the natural curve of your spine, which is crucial for spinal health. Poor support and alignment can lead to back pain and discomfort.
  • Motion Isolation: The firmness level can impact how much motion is transferred across the mattress. A mattress with good motion isolation is beneficial if you sleep with a partner, as it reduces disturbances caused by their movements.
  • Durability: The firmness level can also influence how well the mattress holds up over time. A mattress that's too soft might develop sagging more quickly, while a very firm mattress might be less prone to this issue.

What’s the Best Firmness for a Mattress?

The magic of mattress firmness lies in its ability to balance comfort and support seamlessly. It's the Goldilocks principle – not too soft, not too firm, but just right. 

Here are some guidelines to help you determine the best firmness level for your mattress:

Sleeping Position

  • Side Sleepers: If you're a side sleeper, you'll likely benefit from a mattress with medium-soft to medium firmness (around 4 to 6.5 on the scale). This range provides the necessary cushioning for your hips and shoulders while maintaining proper spinal alignment.
  • Back Sleepers: Back sleepers often prefer medium-firm to firm mattresses (around 6.5 to 8 on the scale) as they offer good support for the spine and prevent lower back strain.
  • Stomach Sleepers: Stomach sleepers generally need a firm mattress (around 7.5 to 9 on the scale) to keep their hips from sinking too much and causing an unnatural curvature in the spine.

Body Type

  • Lighter individuals may find medium-firm mattresses comfortable as they provide enough cushioning without excessive sinking.
  • Heavier individuals might require a firmer mattress (8 to 9 on the scale) to ensure proper support and prevent sagging.

Health Considerations

  • If you have specific health concerns, such as chronic back pain, you might need a mattress with a firmness level that promotes better spinal alignment and support.
  • Pressure relief is crucial for individuals with joint issues, so opting for a mattress that balances contouring with support can be beneficial.

Combination Sleepers

If you change positions frequently during the night, a medium-firm mattress (around 6.5 on the scale) often works well, providing a compromise between cushioning and support.

Partner Considerations

If you share the bed with a partner and they have different firmness preferences, you might consider a mattress with customizable firmness levels or good motion isolation.

To find the right mattress firmness, consider trying out different mattresses in person if possible, or carefully read reviews and descriptions if purchasing online. The Bedding Mart is a comprehensive source for various bedding solutions, catering to different firmness needs. We offer a variety of options, from memory foam to innerspring and hybrid mattresses.

Each mattress type has its unique feel and characteristics. Our diverse selection can help you narrow down your choices based on your desired firmness level.

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