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The Ultimate Mattress Firmness Guide

The Ultimate Mattress Firmness Guide

When shopping for a mattress, one of the most important factors is how it feels. Even if the mattress is made with organic materials, or you got a great deal because you jumped on a sale, if it’s not comfortable then you won’t be happy with your purchase.

But how do you know which mattress firmness is right for you?

Should your mattress be soft and pillowy, or very firm? This all depends on a multitude of factors, such as sleep position, weight, pain issues, and personal preference.

This article discusses mattress firmness levels, how to soften a firm mattress, how to firm up a mattress, and more.

Ready to sleep comfortably?

Types of Mattress Firmness

There isn’t a distinct mattress firmness scale that all brands use. Some companies may have a 1-10 system with a mattress firmness chart while others may just stick to Soft, Medium, and Firm.

For the purposes of this article, let’s stick to Soft, Medium, and Firm and explain what exactly those labels mean.

A Soft mattress means that you sink into it as it cradles your pressure points (hip and shoulder). It should feel cloudlike and luxurious–the type of bed that you crawl into and immediately feel as if your mattress is giving you a hug.

A Medium mattress has some softness still but is also balancing the line between cushiony comfort and sturdy support. You’ll notice you don’t sink in quite as much yet the mattress isn’t rigid. A Medium mattress should essentially be neutral in feel, the type of mattress that can accommodate a large array of sleepers while Soft and Firm are on either side of the mattress scale and are more specific in feel.

A Firm mattress has no give. You should not sink in at all but insead feel that you are simply lying on top of the mattress. Firm mattresses are beneficial for stomach sleepers who should never have a mattress that is too soft (this is because their stomach will sink into the mattress, leading to their back to bend). Firm mattresses are also popular for those with nerve-related back pain who must rely on a solid mattress for proper support.

Which mattress firmness is best for me?

There are several factors to consider.

  • Sleep position: A side sleeper may benefit more from a softer mattress for pressure point relief, while a stomach sleeper will gravitate towards a firmer mattress. A back sleeper will typically prefer either a medium or firm mattress depending on their weight, if they have any specific back issues, or if they tend to toss and turn at night. 
  • Weight: You want to make sure that your mattress can support your body so that you are getting the best sleep possible. 
  • Pain issues: If you are experiencing hip pain and you sleep on your side, your mattress is probably too firm so you’ll want to purchase a softer mattress. If you are experiencing nerve-related back pain, we typically recommend a firmer mattress to make sure you are getting plenty of support. 
  • Comfort preference: It’s about choosing what feels best to you, which is why it’s important to pick a mattress that has as much customization as possible so you can determine the exact firmness you want.

Mattress Firmness for Side Sleepers

We recommend a softer mattress for side sleepers. When sleeping on your side, you’re putting pressure on your hip and shoulder. If your mattress is too firm, it will start to aggravate those muscles, whereas a softer mattress will gently cradle those pressure points. You may even opt for a pillowtop mattress for the ultimate luxurious comfort.

If you are a larger adult that sleeps on your side, a medium mattress may be more preferable since it is the best of both worlds: slight softness with plenty of support.

Mattress Firmness for Back Sleepers

If you sleep on your back, we recommend either a medium mattress for those who still like some softness, or a firm mattress to those who have back issues and need that sturdy rigidity that a firmer mattress offers. 

Mattress Firmness for Stomach Sleepers

We always recommend a firm mattress for a stomach sleeper because it is imperative their back stays straight while sleeping. When a mattress is too soft, your stomach will sink in, and your back will arch, which will lead to waking up in the morning with pain.

How to Soften a Firm Mattress

An easy way to soften a mattress is simply adding a mattress topper. Mattress toppers are available in a variety of materials such as natural latex and wool. They are typically meant to add a plush feel to your mattress, though customizable toppers can also be made more firm if preferred.

If you are simply looking for subtle softness, we recommend a wool mattress topper.

If you are looking for that cloudlike feel that resembles memory foam but without the synthetic materials, we recommend a natural latex topper.

Mattress toppers can also add a bit more height to your mattress if that is also desired.

How to make a Mattress more Firm

This is when a customizable mattress is so helpful. If you have a latex mattress that includes different density latex layers, you can simply unzip the mattress and swap out soft layers for firmer ones. In some cases, you won’t even need to purchase new latex–just change the order of the layers inside your mattress.

Learn more about latex layers here.

You could also add a customized Dunlop latex mattress topper to firm up your existing mattress a bit.

How to tell if your mattress is too soft or too firm

If you’re waking up in pain every morning, but then the pain goes away within an hour or two, it could be linked to your mattress. 

If you are a side sleeper waking up with hip pain, your mattress may be too firm and could benefit from a plush mattress topper for extra pressure point relief.

If you’re a stomach sleeper and you wake up with back pain, your mattress may be too soft so you need to either purchase a firmer mattress, or add a customized topper with a firmer layer for some relief. Keep in mind though that if your mattress has a dip, a topper will not solve that problem. The entire mattress will need to be replaced. 

If you’re a back sleeper and are waking up with back pain, you may be sinking into your mattress too much, meaning it is too soft. Spinal alignment is key, and this also applies to side and stomach sleepers. If your mattress is not the right fit for your body, it can lead to back discomfort.

Don’t be afraid to start a conversation with the mattress brand you’re interested in. Speak to a customer service rep and tell them the type of mattress you currently have, what you like and don’t like about it, any pain you’re waking up with, and what you desire in a mattress. They will be able to steer you in the right direction.

Why We Recommend Natural Latex Mattresses

We recommend choosing a natural latex mattress for your health and the health of our planet. 

Sap from rubber trees is harvested and baked into cozy layers available in soft, medium, and firm densities. Meanwhile, memory foam and polyurethane foam are synthetic and may offgas harmful chemicals into your home air environment. Some memory foam mattresses also use chemical flame retardants rather than a natural flame barrier, such as wool. This is why when shopping for a mattress, we recommend looking for certifications such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and Greenguard GOLD.

But beyond the natural element of latex mattresses, we also love them because of their level of customization, which is key when searching for the right mattress firmness.

Some latex mattresses include 2-3 layers of latex that you get to select yourself, meaning you create the mattress you are looking for instead of settling for one-size-fits-all.

Shopping for a Latex Mattress

Now it’s time to shop! We recommend starting here for a vast array of organic latex mattress options, most of which are customizable so you can get the exact mattress firmness you’re looking for. Happy shopping!

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