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How Firm Should a Mattress Be For a Side Sleeper?

You can never go wrong with investing in your sleep quality. So if you’re moving to a new apartment, or you decided to invest in a new bed, the mattress should be among the first considerations to make. Nevertheless, if you have a sleep partner with different sleep preferences, you might find yourself a bit lost when choosing a mattress that will suit both of you.

Sleeping on the side, whether left or right, doesn’t seem like the most comfortable position to everyone, but you’d be surprised how many people do sleep on the side, even unconsciously as they toss and turn in their sleep.

Nevertheless, mattress firmness plays a great role in what side you’ll sleep on, as well as whether you’ll sleep on the back or side. For certain types of mattresses, sleeping in some positions can be hell, which is why choosing the right mattress for your needs is of utmost importance.

A lot of people spend most of their lives waking up tired and groggy thinking that they did have a good quality sleep and that their bed is perfect, and when they invest in the right mattress they feel rejuvenated to learn that they could’ve slept better all this time without knowing what they were missing on.

For side sleepers, choosing the right mattress can be difficult, because mattresses are often either too firm or too soft. Side sleepers simply can’t afford to sink deep into the bed and not receive the right support for their joints, hip, spine, and other pressure points.

That’s why we decided to help you learn how a firm should a mattress be for a side sleeper. Of course, many people have their sleeping preferences but in the great matter, they align with our vision and knowledge of how firm or how soft you should go for.

Continue reading through our guide and get a better understanding of different mattress firmness levels and how they affect your joints as you sleep. Once you’re through with reading this article, you’ll be able to choose a mattress for sleeping on the side.

If you’re shopping for a mattress that you share with your partners, it’s important to choose the option that will suit both of your preferences, so make sure to communicate your preferences and choose the option that is medically suitable for both of you.

Mattress Firmness for Side Sleepers

To answer your question, the best mattress firmness for people who choose to sleep on their side is somewhere in the middle. That’s why we’ll refer to this firmness level as the medium.

Even studies show that medium-firm mattresses are the best for back pain reduction, regardless of sleep position. Medium firmness on a mattress is a quite broad term, which is why we’ll explain to you what kind of medium mattresses there are.

Before that, let’s talk about other firmness levels. There are plush and firm mattresses besides the medium ones. Depending on the manufacturer, some mattress companies will often introduce extra firm mattresses with the highest firmness scale, but they are not suitable for the side.

Plush mattresses are mattresses with a firmness scale of 1-3. They are most suitable for back sleepers who are lightweight, and generally people who like to sink into the mattress. They are also suitable for side sleepers who are lightweight.

On the other hand, firm mattresses are those with firmness levels of 7 and higher. Those with mattress firmness 10, are often considered the extra firm mattresses suitable for heavier sleepers and people with chronic back problems who sleep on their backs and stomach.

Mattresses rated 7 or higher are also for heavier people and although sometimes they can be used to sleep on the side, they are most suitable for back and stomach sleepers. They may take some time to get used to but can be quite comfortable.

Still, here we talk about side sleepers and if sleeping on a soft mattress is not your cup of tea or you’re heavier and need more support, then a medium mattress is for you. Now, let’s split the medium mattress into two parts which you can choose depending on your preferences.

What you need to know is that medium-firm mattresses are rated from 4 to 6, and in some companies, you may find that some medium mattresses are rated at seven, but they’re more firm than medium as you may be able to feel. All in all, medium mattresses consist of:

  • Medium plush (soft) mattresses with ratings from 4 to 5. Some companies will also refer to medium-soft mattresses as from 3 to 5 but that also depends on the manufacturer. While these mattresses are cloud-like and have that hugging sensation, they are also balanced and more supportive.
  • Medium-firm mattresses with ratings of 5 to 7. Most often, you’ll find them as 6 on the firmness scale. They have some softness for them, enough conforming sensation and bounciness to support your hips, sciatic nerve, and other joints, yet more balance to make you feel like you’re sleeping on a mattress instead inside of it. These mattresses are ideal for people who swap between side and back or side and stomach.

Which option is the best? In our humble opinion general medium mattress is the best because it has both of the benefits – conforming and cradling effects as you’re sailing into sleep, as well as balance and support that nourishes your joints and keeps your back in an aligned position.

Whether you will choose a medium soft or medium-firm mattress solely depends on your sleep preferences, but also consult your partner on what they’d like to invest in and which option feels more feasible for their sleeping positions.

The best way to get the right medium mattress would be to visit a mattress store or feel it for yourself. A lot of mattress companies also offer 90 to 180 days of sleep trial which you can use to test the quality of your new mattress for a given sleeping position.

Don’t forget, that studies have shown that sleeping posture also determines the level of back pain experienced at night. The sleep position, as well as mattress type, dictate that.

Also Read: Best Mattress for Side Sleepers in 2023: Ultimate Buying Guide

How to Adjust Your Mattress for Sleeping on the Side

Of course, buying a new mattress when you already own a decent mattress that your sleeping partner likes is not always necessary. The good news is that you can often adjust your mattress to your preferences and get hugging comfort and convenience while sleeping.

Below, we listed some tips that will help you adjust your bed so that it’s suitable for sleeping on the side. Read on if you can’t afford to buy a new mattress.

Use a Mattress Pad or Topper

When we said that you don’t have to buy a new mattress, we also meant that you can make some other kinds of investments that will give your hips rejuvenation when you sleep on your current bed, especially if your mattress is too firm or is slowly decaying.

Mattress pads should make sleeping on any kind of mattress more convenient and are usually around 1-inch high to relieve pressure from your hips and other pressure points. On the other hand, mattress toppers can be anywhere from 2 to 4 inches high, and they help soften your otherwise firm mattress.

They are mostly made out of memory foam because of their conforming abilities to mold into the shape of your body. However, they can be made out of latex, wool, cotton, and other materials. They should make your mattress feel plusher and allow your bed to hug you to sleep in the process.

Editor’s notes: Keep in mind that a mattress topper won’t make your existing mattress firmer. Many people who have a problem with sinking mattresses buy mattress toppers thinking it will make their mattress firmer. It might be for a time, but the topper should primarily be used to soften your bed. Sinking mattresses will resurface even with a mattress topper that will start sinking too in some time.

Use Pillows

Pillows can solve 90% of your sleep problems, depending on the purpose you use them for. Sometimes, it’s good to just stack up pillows together with your sleeping pillow and just rest elevated. This will give support to your spine and keep it in the optimal position. You can also place a pillow under your hip.

The other solution, which is often considered the salvation when sleeping on a plush bed that started sinking after some time is to lift your mattress and place pillows, blankets, and other pieces of bedding that can firm up your mattress and align it for sleeping on the side.

It often works and is considered a good solution until you save up for a new mattress that will be more suitable for sleeping on the side.

Editor’s notes: If your mattress lost its firmness and sank too much, it’d be the best to either try to claim a warranty for your mattress or look for a new one. Many companies often have as many as 25 to 30 years of warranty for your mattress, so it’s always worth a shot if you have a proof of purchase.

Use a Firm Pillow Between Your Knees

Something that can make your sleep on the side more comfortable is using firm pillows that you place between your knees, between your calves, or between your thighs. That will align your spine and make it look like you’re sleeping in a neutral position, which can make sleeping more comfortable.

Editor’s notes: It’s worth noting that wedge pillows are an ideal choice for sleeping like this. There are a lot of models and shapes to choose from, so make sure to check wedge pillows out. This Wedge Pillow is suitable for both the neck and legs.

How to Choose Mattress for Side Sleepers

This section of the article will help you choose a mattress for side sleepers. There are many ways that you can go, so make sure to read all the tips and choose what seems more feasible for you.

1. Consider Your Weight

If you decide to buy a new mattress instead of tagging along with your current mattress, there are things that you can do, like considering whether you will go with a medium-firm or medium-soft. If you’re a lighter sleeper, as well as your partner if you have one, then medium-soft is the best option for you.

If you want to feel like you’re sleeping on the mattress instead of snuggled into the mattress, then you should go for the firmer option.

Editor’s notes: You should also consider the preferences of your partner and their weight. Plush mattresses are also great for side sleepers, but not if the sleeper is overweight and sleeps on stomach or back.

2. Test The Mattress You’ll Sleep On

Buying a mattress regardless of the sleeping position you want to lay on is an important decision that you can’t make on a whim. It involves a lot of research, so sometimes it’s recommended to even visit the store that sells this mattress and a lot of back and forth communication with the sellers via customer service.

If you go to the mattress street store, make sure to lay on the mattress to test it out on your favorite sleeping positions and see how does it fare for you to sleep on the side and whether there’s enough padding that can reduce the pressure points.

Editor’s notes: If you feel confident enough in some option, you can ask the seller whether they offer a sleep trial so that you can spend a few nights on it before you ultimately decide this is the mattress for you. Even Amazon offers a 30-day return policy which is more than enough to test the mattress out.

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3. Research On Your Own

Finally, you don’t have to believe the advertisement, we all know they’re made for marketing and written for certain targets. Do some research of your own, like reading customer reviews, getting in touch with other customers and asking them questions about the mattress, or visiting forums like Reddit and Quora to estimate whether that option is good for you or not.

4. Choose the Right Material

As you may know, mattresses are made of different materials. If you’re restricted on budget, going for a memory foam or hybrid mattress (memory foam + coils or springs) is your best bet. Mattresses with pocketed springs are the best medium firm options and are suitable for people who swap between back and side sleeping.

If you’re looking for more premium options, the best one out there is a latex mattress, especially organic latex that naturally conforms to your body as memory foam would. Latex mattresses also have additional materials like cotton and wool which make the mattress feel more natural for your pressure points.

Editor’s notes: Avoid spring and hybrid mattresses that are too firm. Alternatively, you can consider mattresses with luxurious pillowtop but they can be quite pricey. Make sure to avoid inflatable air mattresses and waterbeds as they can appear too unbalanced and firm and lack padding which can relieve your hip pressure, resulting in leg and back pain during the day.

Also Read: Do Pillow-Top Mattresses Wear Out Faster: The Ultimate Guide To Pillow-Top Mattresses

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