Is it better to sleep on a hard or soft mattress?

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Mattresses are the bases, foundations, and the overall support system of the beds we sleep on every night. It is not only the user themselves, but credit is given to the mattress that makes or breaks the quality in how we sleep. Selecting the right mattress is essential whether it be the materials on the inside and out that make up the overall comfort of a mattress.

As many are well aware, the average person spends about a third of their life sleeping on a mattress; make your mattress worthwhile, and never sacrifice the quality of sleep for an unaffordable mattress. With so many mattress options ranging from different inner fillings or springs to the various layers inside the bed, these all play a role in the overarching question of decision making: is it comfortable?

Depending on its user, a mattress is given the final inspection which determines how hard or soft it is on the person. Many are divided over this personal preference over mattresses; after all, how will it affect the body after long term nights of rest?

What is the Difference Between Firm and Soft Mattresses?

While the connotations of the terms “firm” and “soft” clearly show a difference in the feeling that someone will experience when lying down on the mattress, there is a more technical aspect to what makes mattresses more “firm” or the “softer beyond compare” maxim that many mattress companies promote to buyers.

A firmer mattress is less resistant to sinking down and being compressed under the user’s body weight. Even to the touch, a firmer mattress appears stiffer to the hand and will be less likely to give under a gentle amount of pressure. On the other side of the spectrum, a soft mattress will sink down like a marshmallow when given even the smallest amount of applied pressure. In plain terms, a soft mattress compresses more easily than a firm mattress.

The important thing to remember is that there is not an extreme divide between the two. There is no strict way to make a firm mattress or a soft one. Like any general scale of comparison, the mattress spectrum ranges from 1-10. 1 is the light and airy cloud-like mattress that many promote as the cushion that envelops its user like a warm hug. The middle range is a mattress with enough cushion to be more supportive than a mattress with on the very soft end of the spectrum, but it’s less likely to be categorized as a very firm mattress. This mattress is very resilient to being compressed and provides a sturdy solid base for sleeping.

What makes a mattress so different on the outside is the amount of material located inside of it. Mattresses come in all shapes, sizes, and styles. The different materials that make each mattress type different is what also provides the amount of firmness or softness that each one provides to the user. For example, pocket coil or pocket spring mattresses are often promoted as a firmer mattress because of the number of coils each mattress contains. Springs are what make a mattress more firm and supportive because of the amount of tension and resistance a coil has naturally.

On the other side of things, mattresses with gels or memory foam are often promoted as the mattresses for gentle pressure and will take long to revert back to its normal form after it’s pressed down upon over the span of several hours. These softer mattresses are meant to be fluid and can spread out easily. They are designed to further improve the comfort and cushion of the mattress. These softer mattresses are good for those who sleep in certain positions or are currently experiencing back pain.

Why Do People Sleep on Hard Surfaces?

There’s been no scientific proof that sleeping on any hard surface whether it be a firmer mattress or even the floor is bad for you or will ever negatively impact your body. The general reason most people choose to sleep on a firmer mattress is for the support and body aligning properties that is given with a firmer mattress.

If anything, if someone does enjoy sleeping on a hard surface such as the floor, first commend them for that, as it sounds painful, but also realize that sleeping on a harder surface has its benefits, especially during a time when their body can handle more resistant pressure. This method of sleeping which is used in some cultures or ways of living can help things in the long run.

Benefits of Sleeping on a Hard Mattress: Firmness Can be Good For You

People who have turned to using firmer mattresses often give medical reasons or use health as their main reason for doing so. Medical professionals such as doctors or especially chiropractors have praised the benefits of sleeping on a mattress with less cushion and more support to it. Resting on a firm mattress for the typical sleep schedule of seven to eight hours is beneficial for the following reasons:

Support v. No Support

Most issues with mattress firmness are the fact that the mattress often feels too cushioned to the point of not giving the body the structural support that it needs. A firm mattress is more likely to be made more pliable and will rise up to meet its user’s weight after a short period of time over making a mattress that is too soft into a more durable and supportive base. The amount of body support a firm mattress offers is great for those currently experiencing little to no back pain.

A firmer type of mattress absorbs more of the pressure and lessens stress on the muscles and skeletal structure of its user. This leads to improvements in the circulation of blood flow throughout the body during the night.

Proper Spine Alignment

Proper posture matters, even during the sleeping hours of the day. If your spine is all bent and out of form for the eight or so hours during nighttime, it can be harder to function normally the next day. As many chiropractors agree, a firm mattress does a better job of keeping the entire body nicely aligned, even in most sleeping positions which can help people get through the stresses of their everyday routines without feelings of extreme discomfort from the night before.

Deep Sleep

The human body can’t fully relax when its rested on a mattress that is too soft or especially when it’s sagging from so much use. Tossing and turning and the feeling of restlessness can be the body’s response to it always trying to compensate for the unusual positions its placed under from the lack of support. It’s not only the spine that ends up benefiting from a firm support structure. The neck and shoulders can stay aligned as well, reducing the stiff neck people often feel after waking.

Even Weight Distribution

Not enough support all throughout the mattress can mean that the body will eventually sag at some point and will be angled more so in one direction. This is often the leading cause of misalignment in joints and muscles. Especially in the case of more than one person sleeping on the same mattress, it is important that there is no imbalance of weight distribution between the two partners.

Long Term Health Benefits

The quality of sleep one gets is just as important as the amount of sleep experienced. Over time the lasting effects of the firm mattress in aiding position and support can encourage a healthier body. Sleep is the restorative phase of the day both mentally and physically. The stresses of the day are temporarily forgotten, the body rejuvenates its cells, and other physical processes all work together to keep the body functioning properly.

Benefits of Sleeping on a Soft Mattress

No mattress type should never be discouraged entirely as there are many benefits to having a softer resting surface on as well. Many enjoy the soft material surface that a softer mattress provides after a long day of stress.

  1. Soft mattresses can reduce back pain being experienced currently and also helps especially with the youthful with their development or ageing individuals who suffer from joint pain.
  2. Smaller or lighter people can sleep on a softer or medium-firm mattress and enjoy the plushness without sacrificing spinal support.
  3. Soft mattresses can be a better option for people who sleep on their side, especially in a fetal position as most of the pressure is placed on the hips and shoulders in this position. The softer mattress can cushion and soften the impact into the surface that a firmer mattress wouldn’t provide as easily.
  4. Softness can be also added through the addition of pillow-top layers. This thinner layer can allow for having a firm primary base with a small layer of cushioned comfort.

Researchers and mattress companies are working tirelessly to improve the quality of sleep through the mattress as well as continuing to work on ways to support the body even when softer mattresses are being used.

Cons of Sleeping on a Soft Mattress

Softer mattresses while feeling lightweight and airy in the moment can cause problems with the back or with those who have a larger frame. Additionally, when more than one person is sharing the bed, the weight difference between the two can lead to an extreme imbalance in weight distribution. Some can feel like they’re being pressed down too much into the surface of their mattress while others can feel a slight rising sensation.

In some cases, softer mattresses are the ones that need more rotations or end up lasting a shorter period of time than their firmer counterparts. Weight and pressure overtime degrades the supportive strength of an already softened surface, so keep in mind that a softer mattress can require changing more often than a firmer mattress.

How to Choose the Right Mattress Firmness

While mattresses are definitely chosen with personal preference in mind, there are suggestions that can be made in the selection of a mattress that will satisfy both parties.

With a sleeping position in mind, those who sleep on their back or stomach will be more likely to want a firmer mattress. Those who place more pressure on certain parts of the body like side sleepers will want something that protects those parts of the body.

Of course, the element of health and physical condition is what matters when choosing the right firmness for a mattress. Physical form and stature also fall into this category as a heavier person will find a soft mattress may give them a sinking feeling whereas a lighter person wouldn’t cause the soft material to sink as much.

In the end, it all comes down to the user’s choice and how they feel when lying down on the mattress. A good quality mattress regardless of how soft it may be can have different materials inside or a blend of materials that all provide cushion but can balance out the softness with more supportive framework.