When you are shopping for a mattress, there’s a lot of things you want to keep in mind.
It’s gonna be the feel you are looking for, the construction and even price.
One of the first questions you want to answer is firm or soft. You want a firm mattress or a soft mattress.
I’m going to talk about that.
I want to talk about what makes a mattress firm, what makes it soft, the drawbacks and benefits of each, and who should get one over the other.
When I talk about firm and soft, there is a scale of 1 to 10.
6 and a half is about medium, right in the middle of that scale.
Beneath six and a half it’s getting softer, so 5 and a half or 5.
Above that, you’re getting firmer. It’s 7 or 7 and a half, or 8. Sometimes it’s even 9.
So below 6 and a half is soft, above six and a half is going to be firm.
Table of Contents
What makes a mattress firm and what makes it soft?
First off, think about construction. What materials are used in that mattress?
In general, innerspring mattresses are going to be firmer than all-foam mattresses. That’s not all the time, but in general, it’s what you’re looking for.
With innerspring mattresses, a lot of times it’s gonna be coils, with sometimes not a lot of comfort layer above that. That’s gonna be firmer than something with memory foam that’s very soft and let’s you sink in.
At the same time, you want to think about what is the comfort layer. How thick is the comfort layer on that mattress?
An innerspring mattress might have a soft pillow top or a plush pillow top. A thick plush pillow top might be on the softer end.
Also in memory foam mattresses, just because it has memory foam, does not mean it’s going to be a soft mattress.
For instance, the Brooklyn Bedding Aurora has a very thick layer of memory foam on top. That is going to be on the softer end.
Then you have the Brooklyn Bedding Original all-foam mattress. It also have memory foam on top, but much thinner layers. That feels much firmer.
That being said, you also want to think about your body weight.
I am a larger person and a lot of times a mattress is going to feel firmer to me then it feels to a lighter person.
A lot of times when I find a mattress to be 6 out of 10, I find it to be a six and a half or 7 out of 10. That’s because my weight drives me further into the mattress, I’m hitting some firmer layers beneath the comfort layer, feeling some more firmness than a lighter person might.
That’s in general what makes a mattress firm and what makes it soft.
Now I wanna talk about drawbacks and benefits of each type of mattress.
What are the benefits and what are the drawbacks of a firm mattress?
First off in term of benefits.
In general it’s going to be more supportive than a soft mattress. A better match for heavier people and sleeping positions, like back and stomach sleeping.
They are also better for cooling. When you’re on a firm mattress, you’re more on top of it. When you are on the soft mattress, you are sinking in further.
When you are on firmer mattress, there is more room for air to flow around your body versus when you’re on the soft mattress. It definitely makes for a cooler experience in general.
It also makes it easier to move around. Again if you’re on top of the firm mattress, it’s easier to change positions versus on a soft matters, not quite so easy.
Now about the drawbacks of the firm mattresses.
First off, not as good with pressure relief as a soft mattress. Specially for side sleeping, you might feel more pressure on your shoulders and your hips.
They are also not as comfortable as soft mattresses.
Comfort is relative, but in general people thinking comfort are usually thinking of something on the softer end.
The benefits and the drawbacks of soft mattresses.
One of the main benefits is superior pressure relief.
Usually on a soft mattress you gonna find better pressure relief than you find over on a firm mattress.
In general people find soft mattresses feel more comfortable than firm mattresses.
In term of drawbacks, in general soft mattresses are not going to sleep quite as cool as a firm mattress. That’s because you’re sinking further into the mattress, getting this airflow over your body, especially if you are dealing with memory foam that can track heat.
So soft mattresses are not the best with cooling.
They are also not the best with mobility. They are more difficult to move around.
Last but not least, in general soft mattresses are not going to be as supportive, not good with support, especially when compared to a firm mattress.
Most of you probably want to know who should get a firm mattress and who should get a soft mattress.
Who should get a firm mattress?
They gonna be better match for stomach sleepers.
Stomach sleepers require a more supportive mattress, something that will ensure that their hips don’t bow when they’re lying on their stomach.
In general, a firm mattress is definitely a good match for stomach sleepers.
They are also a good match for back sleepers.
Back sleepers want to find something closer to that medium firm, that balance of comfort and support.
If your mattress is way too soft, you’re not getting enough lumbar support, you are gonna drop into the mattress.
So for a lot of back sleepers, a firmer, more supportive mattress is a better option.
It’s also a better option for people who like to sleep on top of their mattress.
With a firm mattress, you are not sinking in so far, so if you feel more like sleeping on top, definitely go for a firm mattress.
Because of that, when you’re on top of a mattress, there is more room for airflow, a better match for hot sleepers.
So if you are a hot sleeper I would definitely lean towards a firmer mattress.
Last but not least, if you have mobility issues, you move around a lot at night, going more towards firmer end is going to be a better option in general than is a softer mattress, better for those who have mobility issues.
Who should get a soft mattress?
First off, in general, a soft mattress is going to be a better match for side sleepers.
Soft mattresses allow you to sink more in the mattress. When you’re on your side, better pressure relief on your shoulders and your hips.
If you just like the feeling of sinking in your mattress, of sleeping more in the mattress vs on top, soft matters in general is better way to go.
Also sometimes a good match for people who have pain issues, specifically for those with joint pain. A softer mattress can relieve that pain a little bit. Talk to your doctor about that but in general soft mattress might be a better match for you.
And then last but not least, a lot of time soft mattresses are better for couples, specifically if they feature memory foam in their construction. That material can absorb motion, so if you and your partner are moving around at night, you shouldn’t disturb one another.
Now I want to answer some frequently asked questions about firm mattresses and soft mattresses.
1. What is better for a person with back pain, a firm mattress or a soft mattress?
In general, you want to look for something right in the middle – a medium firm mattress with a balance of comfort and support. This will make sure that you stay in proper and neutral spine alignment and it will not worsen the back pain.
2. What is better, a firm mattress or a soft mattress?
I will not say one is better than the other. It just depends on what you’re looking for. For example, a firm mattress is going to be a better match for stomach sleepers, some back sleepers and those who like to sleep on top of their mattress. A soft mattress is better for side sleepers, those who prefer to sink more into their mattress.
3. What is better for side sleepers?
In general, a soft mattress is going to be better for side sleepers. That’s because it allows to sink a little bit more and feels less pressure on the shoulders and the hips.
4. Do firm mattresses get softer?
In general, that’s definitely true. Firm mattresses can soften up over time, especially if they have some type of foam in there. That can start to soften over time and start to sag. Even if there are coils in there, it can also start to weaken over time and make the mattress more softer.
Alex P. Davis has a BA in Interior Design from The New York School of Interior Design and 10 years of experience expertly designing sophisticated interiors.