Firm or Plush (Soft) Mattress: Which Should You Choose?

August 27, 2021 | Casper Editorial Team

Squishy and soft or solid and firm? That’s the question that every sleeper has to answer for themselves when it comes to selecting the right mattress.  

Mattresses differ just as much as sleepers do and there is no singular degree of firmness or plushness that earns the top spot for sound sleep. It’s all about personal preference—those who want to sink into their mattress the way they sink into a warm, welcoming hug will prefer the plush qualities of a soft mattress, while those who want to rest comfortably atop their mattress will love the supportive rigidity of a firmer bed. 

So, which is the right mattress for you? 

Whether you want the plush softness of our Nova Hybrid or the unwavered firmness of the Wave Hybrid, your mattresses got your back, literally.

Beyond identifying your sleeping preferences, you’ll want to understand the nuances of both firm and soft mattresses, and how both can be plenty supportive regardless of how squishy the materials are. In this blog, we’ll cover the differences between a plush vs. firm mattress, the benefits of each, and what to consider when making a purchase. 

What is the Difference Between Plush and Firm Mattresses? 

There’s more to the plush vs. firm mattress debate than simply how they feel to the touch. Much like running shoes, which provide different kinds of support based on your stride and the shape of your foot, mattresses can suit people differently depending on body type and sleeping position.

First, let’s think of the firmness level as how much or how little a sleeper sinks into a mattress. But the exact amount of sinking depends on both the mattress firmness and the weight distribution of the person sleeping on it. 

If you sink less into a mattress, you’re either relatively light or have chosen a mattress with a more solid structure. Alternatively, sinking more deeply into a mattress might suggest that a sleeper is heavier or has opted for a softer mattress that conforms around the body as they sink into it.

Let’s have a look now at the benefits that each type of mattress brings to the table—or bed, in this case. 

Benefits of Firm Mattresses

Although neither one is more or less equipped to provide support, here are the unique benefits that a firm mattress can offer, though it depends on the exact construction of the bed:

  • Even weight distribution – Sleepers with a tendency to roll around throughout the night will likely enjoy a mattress that ranks higher on the firmness scale. Rather than sinking into a plush mattress and getting stuck in one spot, they’ll be able to find a comfortable position no matter where they toss and turn to because the firm sleep surface supports their body weight evenly across the mattress. 
  • Motion transfer prevention – Ever wondered how to keep mattress from sliding around as you reposition your body throughout the night? If you’re concerned about disrupting a partner by tossing and turning while you sleep, a firm mattress can help minimize the transfer of disruptive movement from one side of the bed to the other. However, this also has a lot to do with how the internal layers are constructed and assembled.
  • Lower back support – Back and stomach sleepers especially can benefit from a firmer mattress because it lifts the hips and aligns the spine, which allows the muscles to fully relax. Sinking too deeply into a mattress can put excess pressure on the back, neck, and spine, which adds to rather than alleviates the tension.
  • Improved circulation – If you sink too deeply into a mattress, especially one that’s inherently unsupportive, your body may not be able to move freely while you’re asleep. Sleeping on a firm mattress, on the other hand, makes it easy to roll around on the surface, which improves blood flow throughout the body.

Benefits of Plush Mattresses

Considering what we know about firmness level, a plush mattress simply means that it will conform more to the shape of the sleeper rather than holding a more solid, rigid state. Though they may not be the right choice for some sleepers, well-constructed soft mattresses are still able to deliver more than enough spinal support for most. 

Here’s an overview of the benefits some sleepers can enjoy from a plush mattress:

  • Peak comfort – You can’t ignore how plush and luxurious a soft mattress feels. Cushioning and cloud-like, they seem to hug you as you sleep. As long as you’re not syncing too deeply into an unsupportive mattress, chances are you’ll love a plush pillowtop layer.
  • Physical relief – Soft mattresses have a more forgiving surface for chronically sore bodies, especially joint pain, aching muscles, and aging populations.
  • Shape-conforming support – Well-designed mattresses are able to encompass both adequate support from the base up and a plush upper layer for top-down softness. When laying on softer memory foam, the parts of your body that aren’t necessarily flush with the mattress—hips, shoulders, and so on—can sink into the foam as it conforms around your curves and edges.

Plush vs. Firm Mattress: What is Better for You? 

The firm vs. soft mattress debate has been going on practically since the beginning of time, or at least since the invention of high-quality mattresses, and will likely remain unresolved due to the subjective nature of sleep. So if you’re asking yourself, “Do I need a firm or soft mattress?” the answer is neither. 

It’s not entirely about what you need, but what you want.

There is no universal need for a plush or firm sleep surface. There are, however, special considerations to be made according to what a sleeper wants based on their body type, sleep position, and individual characteristics. Below you’ll find some general recommendations based on the science of sleep and mattress construction.1 

Consider choosing a firm mattress if: 

  • You’re a back or stomach sleeper—or like to switch it up just about every night. 
  • You suffer regularly from lower back pain. 
  • You need some added mattress thickness to avoid sinking too deeply 
  • You run hot at night and are prone to night sweats. 

Consider choosing a plush mattress if:

  • You’re a side sleeper who will benefit from the cushion and support of a softer surface.
  • You’re a petite sleeper who won’t sink too deeply into a softer mattress. 
  • You suffer from chronic joint pain and need help alleviating pressure and soreness.

Regardless of what seems to suit your preferences “on paper,” look for a company that offers a trial period so that you can test out a new mattress properly before committing to it long-term. 

Other Factors to Consider When Choosing a New Mattress

In addition to plushness or firmness, there are other factors you’ll need to consider when finding the mattress that’s best suited to you. Every mattress manufacturer has its own unique method of achieving different degrees of firmness, but there are few specific strategies you’ll want to be familiar with. 

  • What kinds of materials are being used to build each mattress? 
  • How has the mattress design been optimized for maximum comfort and support? 

Let’s take a look at mattress materials and zoning designs to help you make a more informed purchasing decision.

Construction Materials

Mattress assembly goes hand-in-hand with how sturdy or how soft your sleeping experience will be. The materials used in the construction process play a significant part in not only the mattress cost, but also in determining the type of support you receive from your mattress. 

Take a look now at a few of the most common mattress materials and how they alter the final product:

  • Foam – Many mattresses on the market today are constructed with layers of soft, supportive foam. Perhaps you’re familiar with memory foam or gel memory foam, a design that conforms to your body as you sleep. Some, such as Casper’s unique AirScape™ technology, are constructed to hug your spine and keep you cool by increasing air circulation with a top layer of perforated, breathable foam. Other categories of foam on the market include polyurethane foam, open-cell memory foam, latex rubber foam, and viscoelastic foam. If not designed properly, all-foam mattresses can be too soft for some, resulting in what would be referred to as a bad bed.
  • Innerspring – On the firmer side, innerspring mattresses are known for their durability and breathability. Advancements in the field have quelled the notion that these mattresses are categorically creaky and uncomfortable. Now with an array of coil counts and coil types (hourglass coils, pocketed coils, continuous coils), mattresses can be tailored to meet each individual’s preferences for support and firmness. 
  • Hybrid – Boasting both individually wrapped coils and soft foam, hybrid mattresses are an appealing option for sleepers looking to find a balance between an ultra plush bed and super firm mattress. Casper’s Hybrid technology, for example, provides a sturdy base of encased springs at the bottom. On the top are layers of memory foam, polyurethane foam, and gel pods to keep you from sinking too deeply into the mattress.

Zoned Support 

While it’s a total myth that soft mattresses are unequivocally unsupportive, it still holds true that they can be—that is, if they’re made without proper zoning. Rather than offering uniform cushioning from one corner to the other, a zoned mattress uses different degrees of firmness to support the three divisions of your spine (cervical, thoracic, and lumbar). 

Casper’s Zoned Support™ system separates mattresses into three ergonomic zones that cradle hips and shoulders with varying degrees of plushness while providing more firm support to the lower back.

Find Your Mattress Match With Casper

Whether you prefer plush, firm, or something in between, knowing your body and how you sleep is the first step to getting matched with the perfect mattress. The second step? 

Trying out a mattress with Casper. But where to start?

  • Fall asleep on the Nova Hybrid if you’d rather opt for something cloud-like and plush. 
  • Soothe body aches with the Wave Hybrid, a firm mattress equipped with gel pods to support spinal alignment. 
  • Opt for our most popular mattress, an all-foam or hybrid Original, with a built-in layer of AirScape™ foam designed to regulate body temperature while you sleep. 

No matter your preferences, you can sleep soundly knowing that all Casper mattresses are designed with support in mind. Consult with a Casper Sleep Specialist today and let the mattress matchmaking begin. 

Sources: 

  1. Good Housekeeping. The Definitive Guide to Buying a Mattress. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/home-products/a25695/mattress-buying-guide/