Do you need a firm or soft mattress
Bed Basics

How to Know If You Need a Firm or Soft Mattress

Today, mattresses come in all comfort levels and sizes to fit your sleep needs. From a firm twin size bed to a soft California king, finding the mattress that is best for you is an essential part of your health and getting the best sleep every night.

One of the keys to finding the best mattress for you is to determine if you need a firm vs. soft mattress or something in-between. (The answer might surprise you.)

Mattress Comfort vs Support

All mattresses have comfort layers and support layers. The support layers in a mattress are designed to keep your body in an ideal sleep position that provides proper spinal alignment and supports the natural curvature of the back. Comfort layers are added on top of the support core to provide a more comfortable sleeping surface. Firm mattresses often have fewer or thinner layers for comfort while soft, or plush, mattresses often have multiple and thicker layers of foam for added comfort.

A common mattress myth is that you need a firm mattress to provide proper support—which is false. It is possible to have a soft-feeling mattress that provides the body with proper support as well as a firm-feeling mattress that offers improper support. The right support and comfort layers depend your individual sleep needs.

Your preference on a soft or firm mattress is often rooted in your sleeping position—with stomach sleepers often preferring a firmer mattress, side sleepers enjoying a soft mattress and back sleepers opting for medium firmness.

Even if you prefer a medium, firm or soft mattress, your body is programmed to automatically adjust itself to counter any misalignment during sleep. But, if you sleep on the wrong mattress, it may cause your body to have to adapt too much throughout the night, leaving you with aches and pains during the day.

To determine whether you need a firm or soft mattress, here are a few things you should consider:

How to Determine If You Need a Firm vs Soft Mattress​​

Spinal Alignment is Key to a Good Night's Sleep

When our spine is in its natural position, the neck, middle back and lower back are in alignment. This means that your lungs are able to take in more oxygen, increasing circulation and relieving joint and muscle pains.

On the contrary, poor alignment during sleep prevents the body from relaxing, therefore causing you to not only get less sleep but feel poorly when you wake up the next morning. To ensure you're getting your best sleep every night, choosing a mattress that is not too firm or too soft for your personal sleep style is key.

So, what's the deal with firm mattresses?

Although there are schools of thought providing support for both a soft or firm mattress, science generally accepts the following as the best answer: when it comes to your body relaxing during sleep, it is necessary that your bones have some resistance.

With a firmer mattress, your bones are forced to support your body during sleep, rather than relying on your muscles. This allows your muscles to relax, improving circulation. Additionally, your lower back is unable to sink in and collapse into the mattress, which can help prevent back pain.

What are the benefits of a soft mattress?

While having a firmer mattress provides your bones with more resistance and support, a softer mattress can give you the comfort and cushion you need to sleep happy throughout the night.
Generally, softer mattresses are best for back and side sleepers, as they conform to joints and the spine, providing you with enough cushion and support.

Best Firm Mattresses

Serta Perfect Sleeper Express 10” Luxury Firm Gel Memory Foam Mattress

Perfect Sleeper Express 10" Luxury Firm Gel Memory Foam Mattress

TEMUR-ProAdapt® 12” Firm Mattress

Tempur-Pedic TEMPUR-ProAdapt® 12" Firm Mattress

Beautyrest PressureSmart 11.5” Firm Mattress

Beautyrest PressureSmart 11.5" Firm Mattress

tulo Firm Mattress

tulo firm mattress

Best Soft Mattresses

TEMPUR-LUXEbreeze 13” Soft Mattress

TEMPUR-LUXEbreeze° 13" Soft Mattress

iComfort CF3000 Plush Mattress

iComfort mattress

Sleepy's Hush 11″ Pillow Top Encased Coil Mattress


12 Park 13" Ultra Deluxe Gel Memory Foam Mattress

13" Ultra Deluxe Gel Memory Foam Mattress

Find Your Happy Medium

Ultimately, your choice in a firm mattress vs. soft mattress really boils down to personal preference and sleep style. And, if you're really struggling to choose, you can even find a mattress that's somewhere in between, like a medium comfort level.

At the end of the day, everyone should be able to find the best mattress that makes them comfortable. As the nation's largest specialty mattress retailer, Mattress Firm has plenty of options that you can test out—stop by your nearest Mattress Firm today and consult one of our sleep experts or shop your favorite comfort level at! Happy snoozing!

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