Does Mattress Firmness Affect Sleep?

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According to a consumer reports survey, nearly 68 percent of us struggle to fall asleep at least once a week, and about 27 percent of those people say they struggle to fall asleep most nights.

The cause of this issue is likely to be mattress firmness. Trying to get comfortable enough to doze off can be difficult on a mattress that isn’t firm enough, or is too firm, to properly support your body. In this article, you will learn about the different levels of mattress firmness and which firmness level is best for different types of sleepers.

It is important to know that mattress firmness can operate on a spectrum. While you will read about soft, medium, and firm mattresses, there are also mattress firmness levels between these main levels.

Before diving in to the various levels of firmness and who they benefit, start by pondering a few of the questions in the next section.


Chances are, you’ve come to this article with questions about firmness. Identifying the best firmness levels, however, starts with identifying the issues you struggle with as well as your body type and other factors. Here are a few of the questions you should ask yourself before you start reading about firmness levels:

  1. Why aren’t you sleeping well at night? Eliminate any external factors like the sounds of the city, heavy rain, or other issues that could lead to sleepless nights.
  2. Do you struggle with chronic pain? Firmness levels can help address issues related to the support of various areas of your body.
  3. What is your weight? Believe it or not, certain mattress firmness levels can be bad for you if you weigh over or under a certain amount.
  4. In what position do you sleep? Your firmness level needs will vary if you tend to sleep in a specific position.
  5. Do you get too warm at night? We all have varying body heat, and certain mattresses may make it more difficult for sleepers who get hot at night to get comfortable and enjoy their sleep.

Have you answered all of these questions? Great! Let’s move on to discuss the various levels of mattress firmness and who they will benefit the most.


Who benefits: Side-sleepers, those with chronic back pain, and sleepers who get chilly at night!

A mattress with a soft firmness level is usually made of a soft material, like memory foam, as well as supportive coils that support the softness! Because of its fluffiness, and the fact that it usually rates between a 3 and 5 on the firmness scale, a soft firmness mattress is best for those who struggle with back issues.

This is because a soft mattress is able to envelope the body and hug the curves in order to provide maximum support to the areas which need it most.

While this type of firmness is said to be beneficial for those struggling with chronic back aches, it may not be the best choice for plus-sized sleepers. This is because the weight of your body may put an increased amount of pressure onto the mattress, which will result in you sinking into the mattress. Since softer mattresses are usually made with a soft memory foam, the mattress will be unable to properly “hug” your curves and act as a support system.

Lastly, if you tend to find yourself getting a bit chilly at night, a soft mattress can help keep you warm. Because the material soft firmness mattresses are made out of is think and hugs your curves, you can bet you will warm up while sleeping on one of them!

With all of these positives, there are bound to be a few negative aspects that need to be considered. Firstly, a soft mattress might not be the best for those sharing a bed. It will only work out if both of the sleepers sleep in a similar form and have similar issues to address. This can cause issues. Also, because of the sinkage, soft mattresses tend to need replacing sooner than medium or firm mattresses.

Now that you know what a soft mattress firmness is and who could benefit from it, you’re probably looking forward to learning what the other extreme, firm, is and who it is best for. But first, let’s talk about medium mattress firmness.


Who benefits: Stomach sleepers, side sleepers, and back sleepers!

A happy medium indeed, medium mattresses tend to work out for a number of sleepers. This mattress firmness level usually sits between 6 and 7 out of 10 on the firmness scale.

If you have a medium mattress, you may have very little complaints. Because pretty much anyone can sleep on this mattress firmness level and be comfortable enough to fall asleep, it tends to be the type of mattress most default to.

However, just because you can get comfortable on a mattress of this firmness level doesn’t mean it is the best mattress type for you. It is, however, a great mattress for stomach, side, and back sleepers, especially heavier people.

This is because there will be less sinkage than you’ll experience when sleeping on a soft mattress, but less rigid support than that of a firm mattress. It allows you to be comfortable and supported at the same time without much room for discomfort.


Who benefits: Stomach sleepers and, back sleepers!

Finally, firm mattresses range between 7.5 to 9 on the firmness scale. When slept on, these mattresses cause very little sinkage. The goal of a firm mattress is to keep the sleeper floating on top of it.

A huge myth is that a firm mattress is the only mattress that can support your body while you sleep. While this may have been true decades and decades ago, technology has improved so that soft and medium firmness mattresses can provide adequate support and comfort!

Firm mattresses can be tricky, but are necessary for some who are seeking a good night’s rest. The key to sleeping on a firm mattress is bodily alignment. So, if you’re a pillow lover, you may want to go with a less firm option. In order to get proper support, your back should be aligned. Adding pillows under your head can result in poor alignment and neck pain.

When you sleep on your stomach, however, your spine is not having to be aligned and rests pretty naturally if you’re on a firmer mattress. Because of this, you’ll want a good amount of support on your stomach so that your spine doesn’t sink.

As for the drawbacks, switching immediately from a softer mattress to a firm mattress can be difficult and uncomfortable. But, if a firm mattress is right for you, the issues will go away over time. Another drawback is that specific back and joint issues can worsen when using a firm mattress. It is essential to take this in mind when you start the buying process.


Now that you know some of the questions you need to ask yourself before looking into mattress firmness, and you understand the varying levels of firmness, you can be an informed buyer. The average mattress needs to be replaced every eight to 10 years. Mattresses can cost between $200 and $1,000. This is a pretty penny to pay, and you should make sure you are well informed before dishing out that kind of cash!

The key takeaways from this article you should remember are:

  • When in doubt, choose a medium firm mattress. This is considered a universal comfort firmness type, as it usually works out for everyone. At the very least, you could try it during a mattress trial period and send it back for a softer or firmer one if you need to.
  • Everything from body type to illnesses can impact the firmness level you choose. It is important to understand your body fully before purchasing a mattress in a certain firmness level. This way, you will not waste your money on an uncomfortable mattress.
  • Back and side sleepers should go for a softer mattress, while stomach sleepers should go for a firmer one. The key to healthy and restorative sleep lies in spinal alignment. These mattress types have been proven to positively impact those who sleep in these varying positions.
  • Use a reputable company. Make sure the mattresses you’re purchasing are from a quality manufacturer. You won’t want to replace your mattress early because of manufacturing issues.
  • The more sinkage, the faster you’ll need to replace it. Remember that sinkage can leave a lasting imprint (literally) in softer mattresses. You’ll have to replace them sooner, but that may be a financial sacrifice you need to make to assure you get enough comfortable rest.

As long as you remember these key pieces of advice, you’ll be sure to purchase a mattress with an adequate firmness level for your body type and physical concerns. Happy sleeping!