Whats The Difference Between A Soft Mattress And A Firm Mattress
Soft mattresses feel plush to the touch and sink beneath the sleepers body. They tend to have more comfort layers like memory foam, latex, and soft mattress covers, like a pillow top. Firmer mattresses are just that: more firm to the touch. They tend to contour to the body less on initial touch and typically provide a more even sleeping surface.
While the types of materials used in a mattress impact firmness, how the materials are created and then combined is what ultimately determines firmness level. For example, two all-foam mattresses could have entirely different firmness levels depending on how the foams are layered, the types of foam used, and the mattress cover material.
Comparison Between Firm And Medium Firm
Mattress firmness is a function of the amount and type of material in the top, or comfort, layer of the mattress, which determines how the mattress feels when you lie down on it.
Keep in mind that mattress firmness and mattress support are not the same things. To be supportive, a mattress does not need to be firm. A medium firm mattress can still be supportive enough if its bottom layers provide enough support for the person’s specific body type.
A firm mattress will have firmer foams in the comfort layers. Thanks to these firmer foams in the upper layers of the mattress, you’ll feel more like you are lying on top of the mattress rather than sinking into it.
While a firm mattress typically falls around an 8 on a scale of 1-10, a medium firm mattress is generally in the 5-7 range, giving it a slightly softer, more cushiony feel.
Not surprisingly, most people tend to prefer medium firm mattressesbut your choice between a firm vs. medium firm mattress will depend on your sleeping position, body type, existing health issues, and personal preferences.
Individual And Cultural Habits
Youd think, wouldnt you, that manufacturers would be able to take all these variables, enter them into an app, and give you a clear result for your ideal level of firmness, right? Unfortunately thats not really possible, for two main reasons.
Firstly, because everyones body is unique. And secondly, because weve all spent a lifetime learning mattress habits that are very difficult to unlearn.
Quite simply, if youve spend your entire life sleeping on a soft mattress, then your body may not be able to cope with suddenly switching to a firm one, however logical it may seem based on the factors discussed above.
There are also regional, national and cultural differences at play here. Europeans, for example, tend to go for mattresses on the firmer side, while North Americans tend towards to softer ones. Most Japanese people, meanwhile, sleep on the floor on futons: 3in-thick mattresses that are in truth are more like mats. Sadly, Westerners who gamely spend months trying to conform to said social norm usually end up with nothing but back pain and misery as a result.
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How To Fix A Too Soft Or Too Firm Mattress
If your mattress is too firm or too soft, it can be difficult to get comfortable. Luckily, there are a few ways you can hack your mattress to make it better, without necessarily spending a lot or buying a new one.
Your options will depend on the shape of your existing mattress and on how firm or soft youd prefer it to be.
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When youre getting ready to buy a new bed, one of the first decisions you must make is whether you prefer a firm or soft mattress.
But whats the difference between the two?
Mattresses described as plush or soft feel softer on the sleeping surface, cushioning and cradling you while you sleep. One of the primary benefits of a soft mattress is pressure point relief.
However, if you need more support from your mattress, youll be better off with a firm bed. While sleepers who prefer plush mattresses sometimes describe them as stiff and uncomfortable, firm beds create more neutral spinal alignment for stomach and back sleepers. Within this guide, well highlight firm vs. soft mattress differences and discuss various mattress firmness levels on the market, revealing the pros and cons of each one.
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Is Your Current Mattress Causing You Pain
If you are currently suffering from neck or back pain, make note of when youre experiencing the pain the most. Is your pain worse at night or in the morning? If your pain is worse when you wake up, your mattress is likely the cause. Getting a new mattress with the proper support and comfort for your body will greatly alleviate this for you. Certain mattress features can provide relief and additional support depending on where your pain is.
If you are suffering from lower back pain, it is recommended that you find a mattress that provides solid support, with just enough cushion. This is usually found in a medium or medium-firm mattress.
If you are suffering from shoulder or hip pain, find a mattress that provides a happy combination of comfort layers and support features. Look for a plush, medium, or medium-soft mattress to help provide pressure relief.
If you are suffering from restless leg syndrome, nighttime heartburn, or GERD, you may want to look into an adjustable mattress base in addition to a new mattress. Sleeping on an incline helps to alleviate these nasty pains.
As always, we recommend you consult a physician if you have any further issues or questions concerning choosing a mattress and your health.
How Can I Test Out A Mattress To See If It Is The Right Firmness Level For Me
If you are shopping for a mattress in stores, you can lie down on a mattress to see how it feels. If you do this, we recommend that you stay on the mattress for at least 10-15 minutes to truly gauge how comfortable it is for you. Also, make sure that when you test the mattress that you lie down in the sleeping position that you normally use so that you can get an accurate representation of its comfort in your specific case.
If you are shopping online, you generally are not able to see how the mattress feels before you buy it. Instead, most online retailers offer an in-home sleep trial. This means that you get to sleep on the mattress for a period of time with an opportunity to return the mattress for a full refund if it isnt to your liking. For more about sleep trials, check out our guide, How to Buy A Mattress Online.
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When In Doubt Go Medium
Research is limited, but in one study, researchers assigned new mattresses to more than 300 people with low back pain. They used either “medium-firm” or “firm” mattresses for 90 days. Those in the medium group reported the least amount of discomfort.
You might consider getting a memory foam mattress . The foam molds to your body. The downside: Some memory foam mattresses keep in heat and the material might have more chemicals.
Firmness Guide For Different Sleepers
The numerical mattress firmness scale gives a more objective approach to describing what each firmness level feels like. Now that you have an idea of what each level is like, lets look at what kind of sleepers are best suited to each. Choosing the best mattress firmness doesnt work by simply testing out different ones and saying, Ouch! Too hard! Yuck! Too soft! Oh! Just right! When shopping for a mattress, you have to take into consideration long-term factors such as your body weight, whether you sleep with a partner, and if you frequently experience back pain.
Lighter people dont put as much pressure on a mattress. This means that they tend to stay on the upper comfort layers of a mattress when they lie down they dont sink down into the layers of the support core. Many lighter sleepers do well with a softer mattress. In fact, extremely light people should shop around for a mattress thats a bit softer than what would typically be recommended for their preferred sleep position.
Because softer mattresses tend to be composed of plush, contouring materials such as memory foam, its a good idea to take your average sleep temperature into consideration. If you tend to sleep hot, look for a mattress with comfort layers that are designed to maximize airflow and direct heat away from the body.
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Best Mattress For Sleep Apnea
Research has shown that mattresses with a mild degree of head-of-bed elevation , otherwise known as adjustable mattresses, may be particularly beneficial for people with sleep apnea. This type of mattress allows the person to elevate their head enough to improve airflow and prevent obstruction without interfering with sleep.
For people with hip or shoulder pain from osteoarthritis, a mattress that provides proper support and cushioning for your joints may be best. Research suggests that people with generalized back pain may want to choose a medium-firm or self-adjustable mattress that helps with spinal alignment.
If you have questions about which mattress would be best for your condition, talk to your healthcare provider or physiotherapist.
Do Firm Mattresses Get Softer
If your mattress is firmer than you expected, it may soften up over time. Some mattress materials, such as memory foam, respond to pressure and body heat so they can soften up a little. However, innerspring beds are made of spring coils and have very little foam, so they will not become softer with use.
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What Does One Firmness Fits All Mean
One firmness fits all is a phrase used to describe the type of firmness which is going to suit the wide majority of sleepers. The truth is that about 80% of sleepers would prefer a bed which ranges between 5 and 7 on the firmness scale.
With this in mind, it would be appropriate to assume that 6 out of 10 is the metric that the majority of people would be looking forward to.
Some would argue that there is no such thing and that the one size fits all approach is particularly inappropriate in this regard. This might actually be true, but the wide majority of people truly prefer a medium feel brought by their mattress.
There are a few different examples on the market which would target this particular firmness level only to accommodate the ever so growing market.
However, we strongly suggest that you check the bed first and make sure that it is integral and reliable. The firmness is undoubtedly a critical characteristic, but there are other important considerations that youd have to account for.
While people tie firmness with support immediately, there are different types of beds. Those who use lower-quality materials, for instance, might be firm and yet fail to deliver the necessary support. Thats definitely something that you ought to consider when youre making the decision.
What Type Of Mattress Is Best For People With Low Back Pain
Back pain is one of the top reasons that people begin to lose mobility in middle age. Pain can keep people from engaging in physical activity, making it more difficult for them to maintain a healthy weight and keep up their strength, stamina, and balance as they age. So treating and managing back pain that results from injuries or health problems is crucial for staying on the path of a healthy and active life.
Considering that most people spend roughly a third of their lives lying in bed, choosing the right mattress is essential for managing low back pain. It can make the difference in whether you can sleep at night and function the next day.
In the past, doctors often recommended very firm mattresses. But one survey of 268 people with low back pain found that those who slept on very hard mattresses had the poorest sleep quality. There was no difference in sleep quality between those who used medium-firm and firm mattresses.
Soft mattresses, on the other hand, can also be problematic. While a soft mattress that conforms to your body’s natural curves may help the joints align favorably, you might also sink in so deeply that your joints twist and become painful during the night.
If you want to find out whether a firmer mattress would feel better than the one you’re currently using, try putting a plywood board under your mattress to dampen the movement from the bedsprings, or try placing your mattress on the floor.
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Firmness And Sleeper Type
Body weight and sleep position are arguably the two most important factors for determining the right mattress firmness.
People with below-average weights generally feel more on mattress with lower firmness settings if the mattress is too firm, then they may not weigh enough to feel any conforming or pressure relief. On the other hand, people who weigh more than 230 pounds may experience uncomfortable sinking on mattresses with low firmness settings.
Sleep position is key because it determines which areas of the body need more cushioning and support.
- Back sleepers require more spinal and lower back support to maintain proper spinal alignment and prevent pain and discomfort from developing.
- Side sleepers have vulnerable pressure points at the shoulders and hips, and also require neck support for proper spinal alignment.
- Stomach sleepers generally need firmer mattresses to adequately support their hips and prevent uncomfortable sinking most physicians do not recommend stomach sleeping due to the high risk of discomfort and pressure.
As a result, a side sleeping individual who weighs 150 pounds will react quite differently to the feel of a mattress than a back or stomach sleeper who weighs 300 pounds. Additional factors include the sleepers shoulder, waist, and hip measurements.
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The Firm Mattress Myth
The most common myth about mattresses is that firmer equals more supportive. Firm mattresses do feel stiffer it doesn’t mean that they’re more supportive. Firm mattresses are designed to prevent you from sinking into the mattress. It’s important to remember that there isn’t one mattress that’s perfect for everybody.
Everyone has different body shapes, sizes, and preferred sleep positions. As an example, a person who sleeps on their back could benefit well from sleeping on a firm mattress. A side sleeper would not benefit from a firm mattress because of the excess pressure on their hips and shoulders.
If you compare two mattresses in the same collection they typically have the same coil system. One mattress can be a very soft model while the other can be a very firm one. Since the coil system provides support to the mattress, both the very firm and very soft models can adequately support your body.
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Who Should Buy A Soft Mattress
- Side sleepers. Side sleepers put pressure on the shoulder, elbow, hips and sometimes the knees. In these cases, a firmer mattress creates more pressure while a softer mattress relieves the pressure.
- Petite and average-sized sleepers. People in the small or average-sized weight category wont put too much pressure on a soft mattress. In a soft bed, they should feel comfortable, but not like theyre sinking.
- Couples. Softer beds are better at motion isolation, so one partner wont be disturbed if the other tends to toss and turn or gets out of bed frequently.
- People with arthritis or joint pain. Since soft mattresses are excellent for pressure relief, theyre usually the right choice for people struggling with aches and pains.
Making The Right Choice For You:
No matter who is going to sleep with you, investing in the right sized mattress is one of the most important factors. Size is a key determiner of the quality of the sleep youll have. So dont rush into picking a certain size mattress because thats what youve always had.
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All About Mattress Firmness
When purchasing a mattress, one of the first steps is choosing a mattress firmness level that suits your needs. Mattress firmness can be confusing, however. What one person feels is luxuriously soft may feel uncomfortably firm to someone else. While mattress firmness is somewhat subjective and dependent on personal preference, it is important to choose a firmness level thats suited to your sleeping style and personal preference. Otherwise, youll suffer from more than interrupted sleep you could develop problems such as back pain.
In short, mattress firmness refers to how the mattress feels when you first lie down on it. Does it push back and feel stiff, or contour and cushion your body? Even though individual preference is subjective, there is a numerical mattress firmness scale to help you understand what to expect when you lay on a particular mattress. The scale runs from 1 to 10 and covers the three common mattress firmnesses: soft, medium, and firm.
In this guide, well discuss the mattress firmness scale, mattress firmness levels, and what firmness rating works best for different sleep preferences and body types.
To learn even more about what to look for in a mattress, check out our comprehensive Best Mattress guide.
How Mattress Firmness Is Measured
Firmness levels are typically rated on a scale of 1-10, and the vast majority of beds offer a firmness level between a 4 and a 7, as this is what tends to be comfortable for most individuals. You can find products softer or firmer than these ratings however, they often require a special order.
When you’re reading reviews, keep in mind that firmness is subjective, and the plush nature of a bed can feel unique to various individuals. However, at Sleep Advisor, we try our best to keep our ratings consistent to help our readers can dream in comfort.
Interested in learning more? Check out our mattress firmness guide here.
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