Which Firmness Level Is Right For You?
Whatever type of mattress you choose—innerspring, memory foam, or latex—you'll want to make sure you pick the right firmness level for your preferences.
In this article, we lay out everything you need to know to determine which firmness level suits you best: medium-firm or firm.
What is mattress firmness?
Mattress firmness is measured on a scale of 1 to 10 and refers to how soft or hard a mattress feels. On the mattress firmness scale, a soft is a 3-4, medium-firm is a 5-7 (with medium being a true 5), and firm is 8-10.
Key differences between firm and medium-firm mattresses
Whether you need a firm or medium-firm mattress depends on your typical sleeping position, body weight, body type, and personal preference.
Here’s a breakdown:
Type of Mattress
-Memory foam mattresses
- Hybrid mattresses
- Innerspring mattresses
Best Sleeping Position
- Side sleepers
- Combination sleepers
- Back sleepers
- Stomach sleepers
- Good for lighter or mid-sized people
- Good for any body weight but especially heavier bodies
- Good for people with smaller body types, but also has enough support to work well for people with slightly larger bodies
- Good for any body type—will provide well-rounded support throughout
The difference between mattress support and firmness levels
It's important to keep in mind that mattress firmness and mattress support are not the same things.
Mattress firmness levels mainly determine the softness of a mattress, while support determines how well a mattress can support your pressure points throughout the night.
To be supportive, a mattress doesn't need to be firm. A medium-firm mattress can still be supportive enough if its bottom layers provide enough support for your specific body type.
A mattress with low support may cause lower back pain, sinkage, and a lower level of durability. On the other hand, a mattress with higher support levels can help with pressure relief and overall benefit the quality of your sleep.
Major benefits of a firm mattress
Depending on your sleep style, you may be able to benefit from a firm mattress. Let's take a look at the major benefits of using a firm bed.
- You sleep on your stomach. If you prefer stomach sleeping, a mattress that's too soft will pull your spine downward, exaggerating the curve of the lower back. This is especially true if you carry extra weight around your midsection. To promote healthy spinal alignment, stomach sleepers should snooze on a firm mattress.
- You have a bigger body. Generally, the heavier you are, the firmer your mattress should be. If you weigh 230 pounds or more, you'll be more comfortable on a firm mattress as it will help keep your spine aligned without sagging. This, in turn, will help prevent low back pain—something heavier sleepers are at higher risk of suffering from.
- You suffer from back pain. If you have back pain, you should be particularly careful when choosing the firmness level of your mattress. Your choice should depend to some extent on your sleeping position, but generally, softer mattresses will make your backache worse. You want your mattress to be firm enough to help you maintain the natural S-curve of your spine. Be careful not to go too firm, though, because if the mattress does not have any give it also won't provide sufficient comfort for your back.
- You sleep hot. A firm mattress may have better air circulation and keep you cool throughout the night. According to Sleep Foundation, because of the lack of thick comfort layers made of foam in a firm mattress, you'll be less likely to overheat throughout the night.
Major benefits of a medium-firm mattress
Here are some cases when you might want to go with a medium-firm mattress:
- You move around while you sleep. If you tend to switch positions during the night between sleeping on your side and your back, a medium-firm mattress might work well for you. Side sleepers require a soft to medium mattress that provides enough contouring for their hips and shoulders, while back sleepers need a firmer surface. If you're one of those people who switch between the two positions often, a medium-firm mattress will provide an optimal middle ground.
- You're of light to average body weight. Lighter people generally need softer sleeping surfaces than heavier people to ensure their bodies are properly supported. If your sleeping position calls for a medium-firm to firm mattress and you're a light to average weight, go with a medium-firm mattress.
- You sleep with a partner. Sleeping with a partner who has different comfort preferences than you comes with its own challenges. If you want to go firmer and they want to go softer (or vice versa), a medium-firm mattress can provide a middle ground and keep you both reasonably comfortable—and happy.
- You need pressure relief. Medium-firm mattresses will contour to your body more than a firm mattress, which means that you’ll get some pressure relief at night. A medium-firm mattress is the perfect blend of soft and firm. It can also help reduce back and neck pain.
Frequently asked questions
We're answering the most commonly asked questions about mattress firmness to help you choose the right mattress for you.
Are there mattresses with adjustable firmness levels?
Yes, there are several mattresses on the market with adjustable firmness levels. Most commonly, you’ll use a remote to adjust the air pressure distributed through the bed. You can also consider split beds if you and your sleeping partner have different sleeping preferences.
Does mattress material impact firmness levels?
Mattress material can help determine comfort level, firmness level, and the overall durability of the mattress. For example, innerspring mattresses tend to be on the firmer side and latex mattresses tend to be on the medium-firm side.
Can you make a mattress softer?
While the firmness level of a mattress typically can't change, you can always add a memory foam mattress topper on your bed to make it feel a little softer.
What if I don't like the firmness level I choose?
Most mattress companies will offer a warranty or sleep trial with all of their mattress products. At Saatva, we offer a 180-night trial period and an industry-leading warranty on all of our mattresses, meaning that if you don't like the firmness level you chose, you can return it with ease.
Take Saatva's online mattress quiz to find out which mattress firmness level is right for you
Buying a new mattress can be incredibly stressful. There are so many different firmness levels and mattress types on the market that it can be hard to decide which is right for you. Try Saatva’s online mattress quiz to get a better idea of your needs, and check out Saatva's wide range of comfortable mattresses, bedding sets, and more.