What Firmness of Mattress is Best for You?

December 18, 2023 · Silverback Strategies

Mattress Firmness Guide: How to Choose a Mattress Firmness

When mattress shopping, there are a number of factors to consider including durability, preferred features, and comfort. Comfort is often top of mind. The level of firmness in your mattress plays a vital role in determining how comfortable it will be for you to sleep on every night. 

Understanding how to choose a mattress firmness for your mattress is essential when researching for a new bed. Whether you prefer a soft or firm feel, the level of firmness of your mattress can significantly impact your sleep quality and long-term health. By considering the right firmness level that suits your body type and sleeping preferences, you can make an informed decision to ensure a comfortable and restful sleep every night.

What is Mattress Firmness?

Mattress firmness refers to the initial feel of the mattress when you lie down on it, or how much it compresses under your weight. Consumers sometimes think of mattress firmness and support as the same thing, but they’re two different concepts.

Mattresses consist of multiple layers, including the foundation, core, and top comfort layers. The firmness of a mattress is primarily determined by the comfort layers on top. Meanwhile, the core of the mattress is what provides support. By understanding the relationship between these components, you can choose a mattress that offers the right balance of support and comfort for your sleeping preferences.

Because these are two different concepts, a soft mattress may be supportive for some sleepers, while a firmer mattress will be more supportive for others. You can find a mattress that provides you with both your desired feel as well as the support your body needs.

The materials and methods of construction used to make a mattress are the biggest determining factors of mattress firmness levels.

While some mattress manufacturers may claim that “one firmness fits all,” that’s far from the truth. Every sleeper has a unique firmness preference, and there are various factors that contribute to the ideal mattress firmness for you. To help you find your perfect match, you can consider using resources such as BedMATCH, our patented technology that analyzes your body and provides a list of mattress options that match your needs. By taking the time to research and consider your options, you can find a mattress that offers the right balance of support and comfort for a restful night's sleep.

Mattress Firmness Levels

Each mattress manufacturer may have their own method for measuring mattress firmness, but it’s common to see mattresses sorted into the categories ultra plush, plush, medium, firm, and extra firm. 

Let’s take a closer look.

Ultra Plush

An ultra plush or “extra soft” mattress will be the most conforming when you lie down on it. They also tend to absorb a fair amount of motion, making them good choices for light sleepers or those who sleep with a partner

Ultra plush beds can also be more comfortable for side sleepers. The conforming nature of extra soft mattresses can help provide relief to certain pressure points throughout the body, but some sleepers find that these mattresses conform to their bodies too much.


Plush or “soft” mattresses are generally able to offer more support for those who need back, shoulder, or neck support while still providing the other advantages of a soft mattress.

These mattresses strike a good balance between offering support and conforming comfort to relieve pressure. This makes them great options for side sleepers who may find there’s more pressure on their shoulder and hip joints when they sleep on firmer mattresses.


Medium mattresses will still conform to your body, but not as much as those with a softer feel. They offer a solid middle ground between plush comfort and stable support. For a frame of reference, hotel beds tend to be in the medium range. 

As we move into firmer categories, we find that these mattresses offer better support for those who sleep on their stomachs or backs and need more support across the body. The support you find in medium mattresses can be a good starting point for these sleepers who tend to require firmer options to promote proper alignment of the spine.


Firm mattresses offer a supportive sleeping surface. The use of “firm” to describe these mattresses means the surface of the mattress will conform less to the body.

Similar to medium mattresses, firm mattresses are good choices for back and stomach sleepers, who need more support to keep their spines in alignment throughout the night.

Extra Firm

Extra firm mattresses are the most supportive of the different firmness levels, and they’re the least conforming to the body. These mattresses are an ideal choice for stomach sleepers, who tend to need less conforming surfaces for the right amount of support throughout the night.

How to Choose a Mattress Firmness  

If you’re unsure which level of mattress firmness is right for you, there are a few crucial factors to consider. It’s important to think about the type of mattress you’d like as well as what mattress is best suited to your sleeping position.

You can also start by thinking about how you feel about your current mattress (is it too soft or too hard?), or any mattresses you might have tried out recently. Did you have the best night’s sleep on your last vacation, or when you stayed in the guest bedroom at your friend’s house? Try to keep these in mind as a frame of reference. 

Knowing how to choose a mattress firmness for your new mattress can be tricky, so it’s good to do some research ahead of time to have a grasp on the type of mattress you may want.

You can always visit your local Mattress Warehouse to try before you buy. It’s also a great idea to take advantage of bedMATCH, our diagnostic sleep system that uses scientific data to put together a list of mattresses that will meet your body’s needs. From there, you can start testing out mattresses. When testing, make sure to lie on the mattress for at least 10 minutes to evaluate how comfortable you are. 

Now that you have an idea of what firmness is and what you may be interested in, take the following factors into consideration to make sure you are meeting both your comfort and preference needs.

Type of Mattress

Innerspring mattresses use a support system made of steel coils. They usually have a supportive and sometimes a bouncy feel. Since they don’t usually have thick comfort layers above the coil support system, they tend to have a firmer feel. 

Memory foam mattresses, on the other hand, are usually made of materials that conform closely to the body. They provide extensive pressure relief and so tend to feel softer than other mattress types (even though it’s possible to find memory foam mattresses that score as “firm” on the mattress firmness scale).

Hybrid mattresses can fall anywhere along the scale. They’re constructed using a combination of traditional, innerspring coil support and thicker, more extensive comfort layers. These comfort layers sometimes include memory foam or other conforming materials, so hybrid mattresses are known for being durable and supportive while still providing relief for pressure points. 

Because there’s a wide range of construction methods and variety in how the coil support system and comfort layers work together, you’ll find hybrid mattresses in a wide range of firmness levels. 

Some mattresses might surprise you, so if comfort is your top priority, you should stay open to all types of mattresses while shopping. If you have a specific type of mattress in mind, however, you can conduct your search for a new mattress by shopping by type

Sleep Position

The position that you find the most comfortable to sleep in every night has a large impact on the best mattress firmness for you. It all comes down to what mattress firmness level can best support your spring by keeping it in proper alignment throughout the night. 

Side sleepers place a fair amount of pressure on their hips and shoulders, so softer mattresses are better choices for those who prefer this sleeping position. Mattresses that are too firm can cause pain at those pressure points or even push the spine out of alignment because there isn’t enough give. 

Stomach sleepers usually benefit from a firmer mattress. When lying on your stomach, it’s very easy for your midsection to sag, which creates an unnatural arch in the lower back and pulls your spine out of alignment. A firmer mattress can help support your body from head to toe and avoid that “U” shape when the middle of your body starts to sink.

Similar to stomach sleepers, back sleepers also tend to do better with slightly firmer mattresses. Back sleepers may find that their bodies start to sag around their midsection, which can inhibit the natural arch of the spine and lead to pain. A firmer mattress will help cradle and support your spine in a neutral position to maintain alignment. For back sleepers, though, it’s also important to make sure you don’t go too firm — this could also put too much pressure on the lower back.

Combination sleepers, or those who switch and sleep in multiple positions throughout the night, usually have a harder time choosing a mattress firmness. You might feel a bit like Goldilocks, looking for that mattress that feels just right. Sticking with an option in the medium range is usually the best choice.

Choosing Your Mattress Firmness Made Easy, with bedMATCH®

Every night when we crawl into bed, it’s important that we’re comfortable and properly supported so that we can start every day refreshed and energized. Choosing your mattress firmness is an important part of picking the right bed for you.

With so many different levels of firmness and additional factors to consider, it can be difficult to know where to start. With bedMATCH®, you can take the guesswork out of mattress shopping and put your trust in science.

bedMATCH® is our diagnostic sleep system that scientifically analyzes your sleeping preferences and needs by taking measurements like your weight, height, and accounting for your preferred sleeping position. It will match you with your perfect mattress — that has the perfect firmness level for you.

Stop by one of our stores to try out our bedMATCH® system today and test out this leading technology in person.