We spend a third of our life sleeping, and how we spend two other thirds depends much on the quality of our sleep. When it comes to the arrangement of your restful sleep, everything matters - light, noise, bedroom’ temperature, ergonomic pillows, and bedsheets made of high-quality natural materials. However, a mattress rightfully plays a key role in your physical and emotional well-being, and it’s crucial to take choosing the proper one seriously.
One of the essential things you should decide on is mattress firmness. With plenty of options on the market, finding what you need may be tricky, but as soon as you’re clear about how firm or soft your mattress should be, you’re halfway there.
We’ll cover the benefits and drawbacks of soft and firm mattresses and give you some tips to understand which firmness will work best for you.
What is Mattress Firmness?
The mattress's firmness is the level of its resilience and give. It’s pretty subjective, but it’s usually defined as a value between 1-10, where soft mattresses fall between the 1-4 range, and firm mattresses are at a seven and above. A soft bed squeezes easier under the body’s weight, providing the feeling of sinking into the mattress, whereas a firm mattress doesn’t compress that much, keeping you “on top” of the bed and giving your back enough support.
To a large extent, firmness refers to the feeling you have lying on a bed, making the mattress’s choice even more complex. On one side, it’s crucial your hips and shoulders don’t sink too deep into the mattress, depriving the spine of the proper support, which can result in stiffness and pain. But on the other side, you’ll want the bed to cushion the pressure points so your muscles can completely relax.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Mattress
Although the feeling of comfort is subjective, there are still some factors you should consider looking for your best mattress.
When lying, our body inevitably contacts a mattress with the buttocks, hips, shoulders, and back, which creates some pressure at these points. One study investigated pressure points and found the mattress’s firmness levels and materials that help relieve the pressure. For example, if you experience hip pain, a softer mattress can help reduce pressure on your hips, allowing you to sleep in a more comfortable posture.
Firmer mattresses will generally be more comfortable for heavier people since they’re capable of providing adequate body support and are resilient enough to resist compression. On the contrary, lightweight sleepers may feel pretty comfortable on soft and medium-firm mattresses since their bodies won’t sink too much in extra softness either way.
Whereas The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends firm mattresses for infants, young children and teenagers can move to a softer mattress as they grow. Also, if adults experience some health issues such as shoulders, back, or neck pain, waking them up at night, they may need to experiment with different firmness levels to find the one to provide them with a more comfortable feeling and help improve sleep quality.
More likely, soft mattresses won’t fit those who prefer sleeping on the back or stomach as they may experience the unusual feeling of sinking into a bed. Conversely, side sleepers may benefit from a softer mattress that relieves pressure on shoulders and hips.
Ideally, a pillow and a mattress should complement each other to provide the best support for your back and neck. Whereas a thicker pillow works well with a firm mattress, a thinner pillow might be a better choice for a soft bed as it won’t be a significant height difference between the pillow and the mattress when the latter compresses under body weight.
Sharing the bed with your partner, who has different sleeping preferences, you may want to search for some compromise to ensure you both feel comfortable. One option is a medium-firm or medium-soft mattress that would be a golden mean. Another way may be to get an adjustable split king bed frame made up of two twin beds and have a separate mattress for each partner, matching their individual needs.
And now, let’s look into the firm and soft mattress benefits and touch upon some drawbacks.
Firm Mattress Benefits
One obvious benefit is the support a firm mattress provides to the body, holding the body “on top” of the bed rather than squeezing under its weight. Also, since the mattress doesn’t wrap you from the sides, you feel a bit cooler, and your body can ‘breathe” more than sleeping on a soft bed.
Here are some more advantages you’ll find in the firm mattress.
1. Weight distribution
The smooth and bouncy surface of the firm mattress allows you to toss and turn during the night rather than get stuck in one spot, being sunk into the mattress's softness. In addition, the firm surface supports body weight evenly, allowing you to roll over the bed until you find a comfortable sleeping pose.
2. Stable position
The materials a firm mattress is made of are generally rigid enough to keep the mattress in place, preventing it from sliding off the bed. However, this also depends much on the mattress layers and how they’re assembled.
3. Back support
This benefit is valued more by back and stomach sleepers because a firmer mattress keeps the body straight, aligning the spine, which helps the back muscles relax. A soft bed doesn’t provide this level of support, letting the body immerse into the mattress, which can put extra tension on the back and neck. Despite all advantages, firm mattresses are not that helpful in pressure relief, making side sleepers go for soft beds.
Advantages of a Soft Mattress
Soft mattresses are undoubtedly leaders in pressure relief, conforming to the body shape. A soft mattress cushions the pressure points on shoulders and hips and thus is a good choice for those who sleep on the side.
Among the benefits of a soft mattress are:
1. Exceptional comfort
A soft mattress hugs you when you lie on it thanks to its cloud-like squeezable structure. Its malleable top layer lets you sink into the bed and reduce pressure on the points that come into contact with the surface.
2. Pain relief
If you suffer from chronic pain or have age-related conditions, such as joint stiffness, soft mattresses with pliable surfaces help relieve the uncomfortable feeling.
3. Gentle support
Soft mattresses that combine several layers, including memory foam and latex, can provide adequate support for lightweight sleepers. Whereas the top layer is usually the softest, the inner layers provide the mattress with a bouncy and resilient structure.
On the flip side of the coin, soft mattresses are unlikely to be comfortable for heavyweight users and cannot ensure proper support for back and stomach sleepers. Also, it can be challenging for partners to share the soft bed as a heavier person, which sinks more into the mattress, will make the sleeping surface uneven.
If you still feel it hard to figure out which mattress is best for you, you can use the list below to check what type of sleeper you are and go from there.
Choose a Firm Mattress If:
You are a stomach sleeper.
Sleeping in this position requires firm support across the body, especially in the lower part. A firm mattress offers enough support under the hips so the spine is properly aligned.
You prefer to sleep on the back.
It largely depends on individual preferences, but back sleepers usually choose firm or medium-firm mattresses to feel a stable surface under the back, keeping the spine aligned.
You are on the heavier side.
Larger people require more support that they can’t get from soft mattresses. A softer mattress compresses too much under the heavy body weight, so it may feel like falling into the bed.
You are a hot sleeper.
Soft memory foam mattresses can trap body heat and make you feel hot, hugging you from the sides. Conversely, on top of the firm mattress, the body is exposed to the bedroom air more, so you will feel cooler.
You toss and turn a lot.
A firm mattress allows you to change sleeping positions easier as you don’t feel stuck in one spot, having sunk into the bed. The even mattress surface lets you roll over from side to side until you find a comfortable pose.
Consider a Soft Mattress If:
You prefer to sleep on the side.
Sleeping on the side generates significant pressure on the hips and shoulders. Thanks to its malleable structure, a soft mattress offers excellent pressure relief, conforming to body shape.
You face some pain.
Soft mattresses can be helpful to combat chronic pain, especially related to hips and joints. Flexible memory foam minimizes the pressure caused on these parts, reducing the pain.
You like to sink into the mattress.
Some people think this is where the luxurious comfort is - to sink into the cloud-like soft mattress at the end of the long day. If this idea of ultimate comfort resonates with you, a soft bed may be a good choice!
As a Summary
Wrapping up this article, we offer you to get into some FAQs you may find helpful when deciding on the mattress purchase.
- Is a soft or firm mattress better for hip pain?
It’s a soft mattress that can help relieve pressure on the hips thanks to its flexible and malleable structure.
- How do I know if I need a firm or soft mattress?
Whether you’ll feel more comfortable on a firm or soft mattress depends much on your weight, preferable sleeping pose, and whether you have back, hips, or joint pain. Generally, firm mattresses are better for back and stomach sleepers and people with heavy weights. In case you like sleeping on the side or suffer from hips or joint pain, a softer mattress may be the best fit.
- Is it better to sleep on a firm or soft mattress?
A firm mattress will generally be more comfortable, providing proper support for your spine regardless of weight.
- Can a firm mattress cause back pain?
In fact, firm mattresses are better for your back since their resilient structure ensures your spine is aligned and your back has enough support.
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