You may wonder which mattress option is best for you: firm vs. medium. After all, you spend about a third of every day in bed, so it’s important to find a mattress that feels comfortable and provides the right level of support.
Getting your mattress firmness right could be just the thing to help you get the most restful sleep. We’ll take a look at how mattress firmness is measured and the pros and cons of each firmness level.
Before we talk about mattress firmness, let’s clarify something: Although they’re closely related, firmness and support aren’t the same thing.
So, a firm mattress can be comfortable and a soft mattress can be supportive. It all depends on you, your sleeping style, and your body type. Sleep Foundation classifies individuals into the following body types:
Notice that we’re not talking about weight in proportion to height, but weight in general for determining whether you’re a lighter-, average-, or heavier-weight sleeper.
Mattress firmness is often measured on a scale of 1-10 — one is the softest and 10 is the firmest. Although the scale can be a useful guideline, it’s not a universal measure of comfort or support. Firmness varies by brand and mattress type (e.g., innerspring, foam, hybrid, etc.).
In general, here’s how mattresses fall on the firmness rating scale:
Almost no mattresses are rated below a three or above an eight on the firmness scale. As Goldilocks said, those are either too soft or just too hard! You’ll want to find a mattress that’s just right.
And there’s another variable: Mattress comfort is subjective. What feels perfectly comfy and supportive to you might feel like sleeping on a rock to someone else. Fortunately, a little guidance can point you toward the right comfort level for you, regardless of the numbers on the firmness rating scale.
The softest mattresses are often referred to as “plush.” When you see “plush” in a mattress’s name or description, it means the mattress is on the soft side.
Medium, medium-firm, and firm mattresses are usually described as just that. You may also see terms like “supportive” or “most supportive” used to refer to mattresses that lean toward the firm and even-more-firm side of the spectrum. Casper blends comfort and support to create mattresses that are well-suited for the widest range of sleepers.
What does it all mean? One way to look at mattress firmness is by considering how much you settle into the mattress when you lie on it. With a softer mattress, you’ll feel as though your body sinks into it. A firmer mattress gives you the feeling of lying on top of it.
A medium mattress responds to pressure with body-cradling give, but it also offers good support. It may also have more responsiveness than a soft mattress, springing back slightly with pressure or movement.
For most sleepers, a firm mattress feels as though you’re lying on top of it rather than settling into it. Heavier-weight sleepers will find they are better able to move on a firm mattress without feeling “stuck.”
The best mattress for you depends on a few variables. Here are some of the advantages of a firm mattress:
If your idea of comfort is sleeping on your stomach, a firm mattress may be the best choice. A firm mattress is less likely to give, which can prevent your torso from sinking and help keep your spine aligned.
Heavier-weight sleepers may want to opt for a firmer mattress. Some find that softer mattresses sink, which can cause uncomfortable spinal misalignment. A too-soft mattress can also restrict circulation for bigger-bodied sleepers.
If you tend to feel hot at night, a firmer mattress may provide more cooling relief over one that tends to hug your body. If you’re looking for a mattress that helps keep you cool and comfortable all night long, check out our cooling collection, complete with mattresses with temperature regulating features, a key dimension of Casper 4D Sleep Technology.
Here are a few reasons that you and a firm mattress may not be the perfect match:
If you’re among the majority of people who sleep mostly on your side, a firm mattress could be uncomfortable. Its lack of give can create pressure points, especially around your hips and shoulders. The good news is that Casper mattress experts have succeeded in creating zoned mattresses that ergonomically align spines and support various sleeping positions.
Lighter- and average-weight sleepers may find a firm mattress too hard. The smaller and lighter you are, the less a firm mattress will contour to your body in a way that feels both supportive and comfortable.
For many, a medium mattress offers the perfect balance between too soft and too hard.
Average-weight people who prefer to sleep on their back or side may find a medium mattress provides just the right amount of give for their hips and shoulders while helping to keep their spine supported and neutrally aligned.
It’s a no-brainer! When one person wants a firm mattress and the other prefers something softer, a medium to medium-firm mattress can satisfy both preferences.
For many, a medium mattress hits the sweet spot between comfort and support, but there are some disadvantages for the lightest- and heaviest-weight sleepers.
Lighter-weight sleepers may need a softer mattress with more give to cushion their pressure points. Medium mattresses are best suited for average-weight sleepers.
A medium mattress may not be quite supportive enough for some heavier-weight sleepers. In general, the heavier you are, the firmer your mattress should be. Consider opting for medium-firm or firm instead.
The best mattress firmness for you depends on your body type and your sleep preferences. The good news is that there’s a perfect firmness for everyone! So let’s recap.
Now that you have a better understanding of the differences between firm and medium mattresses, let’s get some of your other mattress questions answered.
There are many different types of mattresses, and the perfect one for you depends on some of the same factors that affect how firm your mattress should be: your body size, sleep style, and personal preferences.
Here are a few of the differences between mattress types:
There are a few telltale signs that your mattress is too soft to support you:
If your mattress feels too firm, there are a few steps you can take to make it softer without sacrificing support.
First, if your mattress is brand new, just wait awhile. There’s a break-in period for new mattresses, and you may even feel some discomfort on a new mattress at first. It can take at least 30 days for your body to adjust.
If you’d like to soften the surface of your mattress, consider adding a mattress topper. Toppers come in a variety of different materials from wool to down to memory foam. They add a layer of comfort that can help relieve pressure points and promote spinal alignment.
If your new memory foam mattress is too firm, consider raising the thermostat in your room. Foam responds to heat and body temperature, so a slightly warmer room can help a new mattress soften.
Mattresses typically last 7-10 years, but how often you should replace your mattress depends on the type of mattress you have.
Keep in mind that rotating your mattress regularly has a significant impact on how long it lasts. Forgetting to rotate your mattress will cause uneven wear that can create lumps and sagging or “hammocking.”
When it comes to shopping for a new mattress, buying a high-quality mattress for more restful sleep is an investment in your health and happiness.
These are a few considerations that affect the price of a mattress:
A budget foam mattress may cost $450 or less. Higher-end foam mattress options start at $600 and up. Expect to pay $1,200 or less for a budget latex mattress (or latex hybrid) and at least $2,500 for a luxury option.
There’s a longstanding myth that a firm mattress is better for your back, but some research has found that medium to medium-firm mattresses provide more relief for people with chronic, nonspecific lower back pain.
There’s no single ideal option when it comes to mattress firmness. The best mattress for you depends on factors like your sleep position, body size, health needs, and personal preferences.
If you’ve decided that a medium or firm mattress is right for you, our mattress thickness guide will help you take the next step toward finding that just-right fit for a good night’s sleep tonight and every night.
When you’re ready to shop for a new mattress, look for one designed to contour to you instead of forcing your spine and joints into unnatural positions so you can sleep sweetly and wake rejuvenated. Casper’s premium selection offers the perfect blend of comfort and support to ease you off to dreamland.