Firm vs. Soft Mattress

Firm vs. Soft Mattress: Facts Behind The Comfort Level

As a mattress shopper and prospective mattress buyer, one of the issues you’ll grapple with is whether to choose a firm or soft mattress. Well, each of these options brings with them their pros and cons. In addition to that, each of them is ideal for certain sleepers and inappropriate for others.

Firm vs. Soft Mattress: Which Works Better For Me?

heavy sleeper
Image Source: Terry Cralle

1. Body Shape and Weight

Bodyweight and shape are essential factors that should inform your choice of a firm or soft mattress. Let us delve into the relationship between body shape and weight and firm/soft mattress;

In summary, lighter than average folks need a soft and thin comfort layer whereas heavier individuals require a firm and thick comfort layer to enjoy more support. For those with flatter profiles, a firm and thin comfort layer works best. For their curvier counterparts, a mattress featuring a soft and thick comfort layer is an excellent choice.

Read Also: Mattress Firmness Guide: What’s Your Best Comfort Level?

Lightweight and/or Smaller Sleepers

Do you have a body that is below average in terms of bodyweight? Chances are high that a too firm mattress will be disappointing. If you have a thinner body type, settle for a soft mattress.

For lightweight or smaller sleepers, firm ones might cause shoulder pain or create some form of pin-and-needle sensation. Softer options are a good choice for lightweight folks as their body weights do not sink deeper thus they find the mattress comfortable. Lighter sleepers also enjoy adequate support that guarantees proper spine alignment from a softer mattress.

Lighter sleepers, stomach sleepers, or back sleepers can find a thinner comfort layer in a soft mattress to be more comfortable compared to those that sleep on the sides. Dense top layers might not sink appropriately for lightweight or smaller sleepers.

Heavy sleepers

As a heavyweight sleeper, your perception of soft mattresses will be different. If you weigh over 230 lbs., you must maintain the right balance between softness and firmness. Thicker mattresses bring with them additional cushioning between a sleeper and coils.

However, if the mattress is too soft, it might exert to much pressure on the shoulders and hips thus precipitating spine curvature resulting in muscle and joint pain. In terms of thickness, settle for a 12 – 13” thick mattress featuring high-density foam.

Heavy sleepers should settle for a mattress that boasts a compatible support layer that ensures the spine is aligned properly. Avoid soft mattresses with thin layers as these will not offer support to the core areas of your heavyweight body.

Having looked at the relationship between body weight and soft/firm mattress, let us now look at the relationship between body shape and soft/firm mattress.

Related: 5 Best Mattress for Big and Tall in 2023

Curvy Shape

In most instances, curvy bodies feature pronounced gaps that need filling. The shoulders and hips of individuals who are plump descend deeper in a mattress compared to the less curvaceous ones.

It simply means that thicker comfort layers are the best for filling the pronounced gaps in curvy folks. They stop the spine from getting skewed. Firmer support and comfort layers help curvy people to achieve even weight distribution.

Straight/Flat Shape

if you have a flat or straight body shape, a thin comfort layer would suffice. This is because your body type does not need a mattress that is good at weight distribution as your pressure points are not heavy.

Average Shape

Of great importance to note is the fact that folks with an average body shape have heavier pressure points compared to those with a straight body. However, while that might be the case, they need lesser weight distribution capabilities compared to their curvy body shaped counterparts.

So which mattress is ideal for them? Average body shaped individuals need the support core of a medium-firm mattress coupled with the comfort layer of the same mattress.

If you belong in the below/above average category in terms of body weight, medium-sized mattresses make excellent choices.

2. Sleeping Position

Sleeping Position
Image Source: Terry Cralle

A sleeping position is another important factor that can inform your choice of a soft or firm mattress. Here’s a breakdown:

  • Side sleeper – Soft mattresses are great choices for side sleepers. They feature thick comfort layers to facilitate body-contouring properties.
  • Back sleeper – Back sleepers can find solace on firm, medium-firm, and even some soft mattresses.
  • Stomach sleeper – Firm mattresses tend to offer the desired comfort to stomach sleepers. These mattresses feature a flat sleeping surface for the pelvis and hips to rest on.
  • All-around sleeper – If you are constantly switching positions through the night, then a ”universal comfort” or medium-firm mattress should work for you. Almost any sleeper can find a universal comfort mattress comfortable.
Related: 5 Best Medium Firm Mattress 2022 on Different Price Level

3. Physical Needs (Conditions)

back pain on old man
Image Source: Terry Cralle

Your physical needs or conditions can help you make the right decision when it comes to firm vs soft mattress. Soft mattresses are ideal for some conditions while firm mattresses work well for others. Let us look at some of the common conditions and which of these two options is the ideal one:

Back pain

Over 65 million Americans report episodes of back pain at some point in their lives. It is a stubborn condition affecting many individuals, not in the country, but overseas too. One effective way of managing the condition is through the right mattress choice.

Sleeping on the wrong mattress can either worsen or cause back pain. Mattresses that provide inadequate support not only reinforce poor sleeping postures but also strain muscles. They hardly offer the much-desired spine alignment which contributes to back pain.

If you are grappling with back pain, you should settle for a mattress that is both comfortable and offers support to your spine. So, between a firm and soft mattress which does this the best? Well, back pain sufferers need a mattress that is neither too firm nor too soft. It must strike a balance.

A too-soft mattress causes your hips or back to sag as well as the spine to fall out of alignment. This can result to agonizing pain to the back. On the flip side, a too firm mattress puts too much pressure on the joints and back

Therefore, a mattress that provides support but also conforms to your body is the best choice.

Read More: 8 Best Mattress for Back Pain in 2023

Joint Issues

Although some quarters recommend firmer mattresses for those suffering from joint pain, the truth is that individuals grappling with inflammation, arthritis or other forms of joint pain might find a firm mattress to be uncomfortable as they cause too much pressure on the affected parts. Too much pressure can make joint pain worse.

While that is the case, settling on a soft mattress is also not recommended for joint pain. This is because its sinking feeling can mess the areas in the joint with pain. If you are having any joint issues, you should seek a mattress that is between the firm and soft range. It should have some balance of both support and comfort.

A medium-firm mattress can be handy for guys with joint pain.

4. Cost

Because of the additional padding layers, soft mattresses tend to be costlier than their firmer counterparts.

5. Durability

Durability of mattress
Image Source: Terry Cralle

Softer mattresses are less durable than firmer ones. This is mainly because of indentations and sagging that comes too early on their soft surfaces. On average, firmer mattresses have a tougher surface meaning they are less prone to any form of degradation hence enjoying a longer average lifespan.

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