Firm Vs. Soft: How To Choose The Right Mattress

Firm vs. Soft: How to Choose the Right Mattress

September 27, 2018
Healthy SleepIn the Bedroom

People typically spend a third of their lives on their mattress, so choosing the right one is an important decision. A good mattress could mean the difference between a full night’s sleep and one consumed by tossing and turning. But how do you know what type of mattress is best for you? Should you select a firm mattress that doesn’t allow you to sink in, but instead supports your body, or should you instead choose one that offers support along with softness? While the decision is highly personal, here are some tips to help you make the right choice.

Qualities of a Good Mattress

The main factor in choosing the right mattress for you is finding one that effectively supports your spine. The spine is made of 33 individual vertebrates, which stack together to form a column, which – along with muscles, tendons, and ligaments – protect the spinal cord and allow you to stand upright and move. The spine is not straight, but rather, has a natural S-shaped curve which is helpful in maintaining balance, absorbing shocks, and allowing for a full range of motion. It is important that the spine is properly supported at all times, even while lying down.

A quality mattress will hold the body in a neutral position, where your head, shoulders, posterior, and heels are all aligned. You should feel comfortable, with no pressure points – as if you were sleeping on a cloud. A suitable mattress can help relax muscles and improve both posture and quality of sleep. With the wrong mattress, you could awake with back pain and feeling unrested.

Firm vs. Soft

There is an obvious difference between a firm mattress and a soft one. The firm one is more rigid with less flexibility, while a soft one will compress and even mold to your body as you lie on it. Mattresses come in a wide variety of firmness on a scale from completely rigid to incredibly fluffy and supple. This spectrum allows for a range of choices.

Mattresses can be made out of a number of materials, which determine the overall firmness of the completed product. The main consideration is the springs or the overall tension of the mattress. Sometimes, an outer layer of fabric and other material can affect the perceived firmness. For instance, a pillow top mattress may actually be firm, but feel soft to the touch, while a memory foam topper may give the feeling of firmness without the mattress actually offering proper support.

Firm Mattresses


If you are experiencing back pain upon waking, a firmer mattress may be the cure you’ve been seeking. When sleeping on a firm surface, the body is less likely to experience strain on muscles, veins, and arteries. This is because the bones will absorb the pressure rather than allowing the muscles to do so. Blood circulation can also be improved when sleeping on a firm mattress.

The support offered by a firm mattress holds the lower back in place. The reduction in sagging can improve oxygen intake in addition to evenly distributing body weight. The entire body supports one’s frame, meaning that no one area will feel pressure or pain.

Both back and stomach sleepers are thought to enjoy better sleep on a firm mattress, due to the stable, even surface that they supply.


The main drawback to a firm mattress is that it just doesn’t “feel” comfortable. Most people are able to overcome this initial conception, especially once they wake up feeling pain free and refreshed.

Certain back problems, such as scoliosis and arthritis, are aggravated by the solid feel of a firm mattress.

Soft Mattress


Soft mattresses are also effective at supporting the spine and preventing back pain. However, the soft, cushiony surface of these mattresses are recommended for those who sleep on their side, rather than on their stomach or back. Slightly harder mattresses are recommended for lighter individuals who may not be heavy enough to compress the material, which should shape to the body. A softer mattress aligns the spine and supports the hips and shoulders without forming pressure points


Soft mattresses are often perceived as comfortably luxurious, and they can be to the right people. Yet there are some drawbacks to purchasing a soft mattress. While it can relieve back pain for side sleepers, stomach and back sleepers may actually awake with more pain due to spinal misalignment.

Heavier individuals may have particular problems, specifically if they share a bed with a partner. The heavier person may sink in further, making the entire bed surface unbalanced and even causing the lighter individual to roll towards the center inadvertently.

All beds soften with time. Choosing a soft mattress to start means that you may get less use out of your mattress, especially if you require a firmer surface for optimal sleep.

Choosing the Right Mattress

Choosing the right mattress for you comes down to three important factors:

  1. Whether you suffer from back pain or not
  2. Your sleeping position
  3. Your weight

If you experience back pain and sleep on your stomach or back, you should choose a firm mattress. Side sleepers, even those with back pain, may prefer softer surfaces. Your weight may come into play if you are heavy and find that even mattresses on the firmer side of the spectrum feel soft. Lighter individuals may feel as if a softer mattress doesn’t yield enough.

Regardless of these factors, the most important thing is that you find the mattress comfortable. If you don’t feel relaxed on your bed, you most likely won’t have a good night’s sleep, regardless of whether it is good for your back or not.

Remember that there is an entire range of mattresses between the firmest choice and the softest one. Always research your mattress choices and even test out comfort levels prior to making such an important decision. And don’t forget that you can compromise with a firm mattress and a plush topper for added comfort.