The firmness of the mattress is one of the most important factors to take under consideration when buying your mattress. Even though the concept sounds really easy to get, it’s quite common for customers not to really have a clear idea about it or its importance on the quality of your sleep.
What is firmness?
Firmness is another way to describe how comfortable you really feel on your mattress. If sleeping on concrete is one way to describe the extreme level of firmness, the floating on a cloud expression is going to describe the opposite kind of feel.
Some say that firmness is rather subjective as it counts a lot on the personal take on comfort. This is why the mattresses come with different firmness levels, helping the customer choose easier their favorite level of firmness.
Is firmness the same as support?
Despite of what one may think, firmness isn’t the same as support. Support is about how great is the mattress for providing good spinal alignment.
On the other hand, firmness is related to the level of feel of the mattress and how hard/soft the mattress really is.
The two concepts are connected, but seeing their differences is going to understand their functionality and specifics a lot better.
A mattress that provides pressure point relief and sustains your spine in the right position may be defined as supportive, no matter how firm/soft is. If firmness counts a lot on one’s personal take on comfort, support doesn’t fall under that category at all.
Why is firmness important?
If you like to do your due diligence about your mattress’s firmness, you do need to keep in mind that firmness is always going to be related to comfort.
Using the wrong mattress is one of the most common reasons for your poor sleep at night. If you’re not really digging your mattress, chances are you’re not going to get a good night sleep. Going to bed and enjoying laying in bed is essential for getting a restful sleep, throughout the entire night.
Developing a ritual when going to bed is also going to help you get into a more relaxed mood. Using the most comfortable mattress for your needs sure helps.
Comfort is important as you don’t want to wake up in the morning with pains and aches. When you spend every single night fussing and turning, it’s only a matter of time until you’re going to see that the main reason for that is the wrong firmness of your mattress. The wrong type of mattress isn’t giving you the support you need so you need to go shopping asap.
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What do you know about the firmness scale?
Even though “medium-firm”, “extra-firm” or “plush” are terms typically used by customers, it’s difficult to really make an idea about the true level of firmness.
A firmness scale is the best way to really tell something about the firmness of a mattress. Here are some basic info on the firmness scale:
- 1 (highly soft)- this is the maximum softness that you can find in a mattress. There’s a lot of sink related to this type of firmness, but this type of extra plush mattress isn’t common.
- 2-3 (soft)- a mattress of this level is really soft and plush and presents definite sink
- 4-6 (medium)- this is the most popular firmness level as it ensures middle-ground and some plushness. The sink is rather limited
- 7-9 (firm)- a mattress of this kind is going to be really hard and present only some softness and sink. However, adding a mattress topper may give a softer feel.
- 10 (highly firm)- there is no softness, plushness or sink in the case of this type of mattress. This isn’t a common option to find on the market.
The firmness scale- let’s get through the details!
The more you know about the levels of firmness, the easier is going to be for you to choose when buying.
The mattresses of this level of firmness typically conform closely to the body, so they’re able to relieve pressure points, maintaining your spine aligned. The big downside with this category is that the sink and contouring are simply too much, which leads to excessive curvature in your spine.
This type of mattress is a good option for the side sleepers as they typically present accentuated pressure points at the shoulders and hips. However, for the back and stomach sleepers the amount of sink causes the spine out of alignment, decreasing your comfort at night.
The medium-firm mattresses provide the best overall support most of the time as they present enough contouring to decrease the pressure points, but don’t allow excessive sinking into the mattress. This type of mattress offers the best spinal alignment for most people out there.
In addition, this type of mattress is good for all sleep positions. They’re the ideal choice for the combination sleepers and couples that don’t have the same sleep position.
Many of the mattresses in this particular category are able to provide enough support. Even if they don’t come with the deep contouring abilities of the softer mattresses, they’re still soften enough to reduce the risk for pressure points problems.
The side sleepers may not fancy this type of mattress, even though if it provides enough pressure point relief. On the other hand, the stomach and back sleepers are going to appreciate how this type of firmness prevents the abdomen from sinking too deeply. The higher the level of firmness, the lower the number of customers that are going to find it really comfortable, no matter their sleep position.
Is firmness the only factor to consider when choosing your mattress?
If the firmness level is the first thing to check when shopping, you should keep in mind that some other aspects count for your comfort at night.
Let’s take a closer look at the other things that count when looking for another mattress:
Mattresses are responsive to the weight and pressure of your body therefore your weight counts for the comfort and feel you’re going to have from your mattress.
If your weight is less than 130pounds, you should look for a mattress that is placed closer to the softer end of the firmness scale. A very firm mattress may not provide enough contouring for this type of weight. You’re going to need a plusher mattress in the 2-5 range on the firmness scale as it’s going to offer better pressure point relief.
When you weigh between 130 and 230 pounds,a medium-firs mattress that ranges between 4-6 on the firmness scale is the most appropriate option. This range of firmness offers plenty of cushioning, offering comfort and support for your sleep, without the similar risk that you’d find in a softer or firmer design.
Sleeper who weigh more than 230 pounds are going to need a firmer mattress, ranging from 6-8 on the firmness scale. As heavier people do put more pressure on the mattress, the risk for sinking is higher if using the softer mattresses. Therefore, a firmer model is going to provide enough cushioning, without the risk for sinking or not getting enough support.
It’s common for the side sleepers to experience exaggerated pressure points at the hips and shoulders. This is why a softer mattress for cushioning these areas, while maintaining the spine in the right position, is going to be a better choice.
A soft to medium-firm mattress is going to work for most side sleepers. 3-7 on the scale of firmness is the range to look at when buying.
Even though sleeping on the back is good for your spine, you’re going to need better support around your low back so that the natural curve of your low backdoesn’t get exaggerated in any way. A back sleeper should look in the 4-7 range of the firmness scale.
Stomach sleepers should stay away from the mattresses with excessive sink. As the abdomen and the pelvis typically sink more than other parts of your body, your body is going to create an unhealthy “U” shape. A stomach sleeper is going to get better comfort from the higher end of the firmness scale.
As for the combination sleepers (combining 2 or more positions), they’re going to get a well-rested sleep when using a medium-firm mattress in the 4-6 range. A medium-firm mattress has enough flexibility and gives a good comfort for most sleep positions, which recommends it for the combination sleepers.
Is firmness only important for comfort?
Firmness plays a big part not only for your comfort, but also for some other aspects related to the overall performance of your mattress:
Too much sink or contouring may block the airflow around your body. This is going to make the heat build-up in the mattress and on your skin, which is commonly known as “sleeping hot”.This is a standard problem for the plush mattresses and the mattresses made with specific materials (memory foam is one of them) that contour closer to your body.
If you’re sleeping on the edge of your bed or sleep near the edge, you should always take the edge support under consideration. Most mattresses out there do come with a weak edge and this becomes really important in the case of plush mattresses which are going to provide even less support around the rim of the bed. If you fancy the edge support, you should choose a firmer mattress.
This relates to how much movement is happening on one side of your bed. If your mattress allows a lot of motion transfer, one of the two partners may wake up in the middle of the night because of the movement of their partner. A mattress that provides more contouring to the body is going to present less motion transfer, as contouring and cushioning isolate motion. At the same time, a very firm mattress that doesn’t respond to body movements, isn’t going to present much motion transfer. The level of motion isolation is also connected to the type of material used for the mattress. Don’t forget about the mattress topper which may improve/decrease the motion support.
Some firmness FAQs
There are plenty of questions related to the firmness of your mattress so let’s take a look at some of them:
Does firmness level relate to durability in any way?
The durability of your mattress depends a lot on the quality of the design, materials and the workmanship involved. Therefore, firmness doesn’t typically play a role in the durability of your mattress. In the case of firmer mattress, there is higher margin for error to lose firmness, due to wear in time. A plush mattress is going to become unsupportive a lot faster when its elements begin to wear out. On the other hand, a medium-firm mattress is going to remain firm enough for a good amount of time, even if it’s losing some of its original firmness.
Does firmness play a part in the price of mattress?
Most of the time, firmness has nothing to do with the price of your mattress. Nevertheless, there are some exceptions. For instance, when a mattress is going to feature several layers of foam or latex, you’re going to have to pay more in the end.
Do you and your partner have different opinions when it comes to firmness?
The best thing you can do is to communicate and see what each of you likes in terms of firmness. If the difference is too big on the scale of firmness, you should meet in the middle and look for one that works for both. If you really like totally different things, keep in mind that you can find mattresses that present split firmness levels so each side of the mattress is going to come with a different feel.
Your mattress is too firm. Can you do something about it?
If you think your mattress is too firm for your needs and you’re still within the timeframe of the sleep trial, the best solution is to simply return it. If you don’t have that option, you should look for a mattress topper to use under your sheets. There are plenty of mattress toppers that can really make a change in terms of firmness and comfort.
One last thought for the road
The firmness of your mattress counts only if you care enough about your sleep. The more you look into the problem, the easier is going to be for you to commit. After all, by the time you’re 50, you would have been sleeping almost 20 years of your life. Go figure…