Tips & Hacks For Finding The Right Mattress Firmness For You

how to choose a mattress firmness

This may be one of the most important decisions you make for the sake of your comfort, peace of mind, and overall well-being. The good thing is, you are in the right place because today I will show you how to choose a mattress firmness you will not regret.

It’s a subject with much to learn and do, but this should not scare you. Many people like you have gotten it right the first time they shopped. The same tricks that have worked for them are the same ones I’ll share with you.

I’ll also share some new information and expert tips that have since emerged in this space.

Let’s begin by first understanding what mattress firmness is and how to measure it. Then I’ll show you how to find a firmness level that is best for you.

Mattress Firmness – What Is It?

Even if we all slept or lay on the exact same mattress, if all of us were to describe how the mattress felt, the responses would vary from person to person.

Some will say the mattress felt very plush, while others will say it was extremely firm. In between these two extremes, there are all sorts of comfort levels going by names such as medium-firm, medium-soft, and slightly firm, just to name a few.

That’s how I’d sum up firmness: It’s that feeling you experience while resting on a mattress. The two most important guiding questions that might help you to properly tell the firmness of a mattress include:

  • Does my body rest on top of the mattress or sink into it?
  • Does the mattress conform to my body or does it aggravate pressure points? (These are areas of your body where you feel more pressure while sleeping or just lying down.)

Eventually, you will have to reflect on a long list of factors in order to find a firmness that’s best for you. I’ll walk you through each shortly, but for now, let’s look at how firmness is measured. This will be important as you shop for the most suitable option with the best deal.

How Do You Measure Mattress Firmness? 

Mattress manufacturers rate firmness differently. The good thing is the majority use a firmness scale that ranges from 1 to 10.

Mattresses rated 1/10 are the softest you will ever find while those marked 10/10 are the firmest on the market.

To understand this better, let’s split up the rating into the various mattress firmness levels they represent:

  • Extremely soft -1/10
  • Ultra-soft – 2/10
  • Very soft -3/10
  • Soft – 4/10
  • Medium-soft – 5/10
  • Medium-firm – 6/10
  • Slightly firm – 7/10
  • Firm – 8/10
  • Very firm – 9/10
  • Ultra-firm – 10/10

Let’s go over these mattress firmness types in brief.

How Do You Measure Mattress Firmness? 


Soft mattresses fall between 1/10 and 4/10. Those rated 1 and 2 are rare to find. Even if you land on one, it’s likely to be unsleepable because of too much sinkage.

However, the 3/10 – 4/10 range is filled with so many options. Sinkage and comfort layers go down as you move up the scale.

Most mattresses in this category are either quilted or characterized by dense sections of memory foam in their comfort layers. As a result, they conform to the body, offer very little pushback, and can relieve your pressure points. That explains why they are a favorite for side sleepers and those in need of pressure points relief.


Medium mattresses are found in the 5/10 – 6/10 zone. They are actually the most popular options. Most brands have long used 6.5 as a medium firm standard.

Their distinguishing feature is that they strike a perfect balance between comfort and support. Expect to sink a little, but the pushback will be greater. Most back and combination sleepers find them ideal for their sleeping style.

The majority of options come with a plush comfort layer supported by a base of either pocketed coils, springs, or poly foam (high density). Some models, however, are purely made of foam.


This is the last category on the scale, taking the range between 7/10 and 10/10. As you can guess, these mattresses offer more support than comfort.

In fact, the majority only have a thin layer of memory foam. The rest of the sections will be filled with either springs, coils, or high-density poly foam.

Expect a lot of pushback and almost zero sinkage as you move toward the 10/10 mark. Your body will rest on top of the mattress with little to no body contouring.  These mattresses are best suited for back, stomach, and combo sleepers.

Armed with this knowledge, it should be easier to find a firmness that’s ideal for you. But as I told you earlier, your homework is not done until you look at the rest of the factors. Now’s the time to do just that.

How To Choose A Mattress Firmness 

No matter how overwhelmed you are with the mattress firmness types, do not make the mistake of falling for the one-size-fits-all mattresses that claim to be universally acceptable.

Our sleeping habits, styles, and needs are as different as night and day. It’s therefore not possible to have a mattress that’s so flexible as to adapt to the needs of everyone.  As you digest the factors below, this will make more sense.

Sleeping Position

Let’s go over this again to make the selection process much easier. You don’t want a mattress that hurts your pressure points, but this could easily happen if you get a mattress that doesn’t support proper sleeping posture.

For instance, if you are a side sleeper, a proper mattress would be the kind that adapts to your shoulders, hips, and arms while keeping your spine in line with the bed. Soft mattresses do this so well, helping you not to bend up or down too much.

How To Choose A Mattress Firmness: Sleeping Position

For back and stomach sleepers, a firmer mattress fits the bill because it keeps the back in its natural position. It prevents your hips and pelvis from descending lower than your shoulders, which could curve your spine. Also, If your upper body were to sink into the mattress, this would cause back and neck pain.

As a combo sleeper, you will want an option that can suit multiple positions. Medium-firm mattresses fill this gap pretty nicely because they have a good balance of comfort and support. Some combo sleepers find firmer models just as suitable for them. I guess it’s up to you to test the two and figure out the best option.

If you find yourself unsure of which mattress suits your sleeping style, a safe bet to begin with would be medium-firm.

Back And Related Complications 

Such conditions need you to pay extra attention to how the mattress supports your body and spine. There’s no one-size-fits-all mattress that cures back pain.

While some people would advise you to get a firmer mattress, there’s still no solid research to support that.

The best mattress for lower back pain is one that keeps your spine aligned, conforms to your body, and feels most comfortable. Try different mattresses as you shop around until you find one that ticks all the boxes.


If a lighter and heavier person were both to use a 4/10 mattress, one would sink too deep into it while the other would feel as if the pushback is too much. That’s how important weight is.

As you filter your options, think about your BMI, especially if you fall outside the range of 18.5 – 24.9.  For those within this range, a medium option should achieve the desired results. But if you exceed the 24.9 limit, it would be best to go for a firmer mattress or mattresses for heavy people. Anyone below 18.5, on the other hand, needs a very soft model.

Age & Mobility Issues

I combined these two factors because both can make it hard for you to get out of bed. An older person or a person with mobility issues will definitely have trouble getting out of bed if they sink too deep into the mattress.

An appropriate option would be medium or medium firm models. And remember to consider the bed base as well. You don’t want to end up with a higher or lower bed that makes things worse.

Sleeping Partner

If you plan to share the mattress with a loved one, you will have to consider their needs as well. It can be tough for either of you to sacrifice some features so the best way forward would be to reach a middle ground.

For many, a medium-firm mattress does the trick., especially if it’s one of those best mattresses for couples.

Other equally important factors to consider include:

  • Your body type. For example, if your midsection is heavier, a zoned support core mattress would be more appropriate because it will keep your spine in proper shape.
  • Is the brand reputable and trusted by users? If not, it would be best to stay away from it.
  • Personal preferences such as design and color

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is A Mattress Made Of?

You will have a better understanding of firmness if you take the time to understand what a mattress is made up of.

Most quality models have two main parts: the comfort layers and supporting layers at the bottom.  Comfort layers sit at the top and are mostly made of memory foam, latex, or poly foam. Their purpose is to provide comfort by relieving your pressure points.

Bottom layers, on the other hand, are made up of either pocketed coils, springs, rebonded foam,  firm latex, or high-density poly foam. This part supports your body, especially the spine.

What Does Support Mean In A Mattress?

You’ve seen me mention this term countless times and maybe wondered what it really means. This term has a lot to do with the mattress’s capacity to hold your body in place for the entire time you’ll be lying on it. It could also be summed up as proper spinal alignment.

What’s The Difference Between A Tufted And Quilted Mattress?

It would be unfair to wind up this topic without explaining what these two terms mean since you might come across them a lot in your efforts to find proper firmness.

Both types of mattresses offer great support and comfort, but they are made differently. Quilted models use long pieces of thread to hold everything together, while tufted mattresses are made with thick straps.

Some people find tufts too uncomfortable, especially the hard plastic ends, and prefer quilted models because they have a smoother surface.

A Parting Shot On Mattress Firmness

We have finally come to the part where you take over. More due diligence will have to be done if you are buying your mattress online since you won’t be able to test how it exactly feels until it’s shipped to your residence.

But if you choose to go shopping in-store, spend time trying your desired mattresses. Lie on them for at least a couple of minutes and also try different mattress firmness levels below and beyond what you think you need.

For example, if you want a medium-firm, you can also try a medium soft and slightly firm to see how they feel. And when all is said and done, go for what feels most comfortable.


About SCdoron