How to decide which firmness level is best for you?
Is firmness the same as support?
Many sleepers have a tendency to think of support and firmness as being one and that same. However, this is is not correct. Firmness is the immediate feel when you first lie down, while support refers to how the mattress keeps you spine in alignment. You can have a soft mattress with tons of support or a firm mattress that is supportive, but creates so many pressure points that it’s counter productive.
When shopping for a new mattress try to separate firmness and support in your mind. The firmness is simply how the mattress feels. Does it relieve pressure? Does it feel comfortable to you? Is it warm / cool? Is there lots of hug, push-back, or something in between? When considering the support of the mattress you’ll want to think about how the mattress keeps your spine in alignment. When you’re lying in your preferred sleeping position do you feel like the mattress is helping or hindering your spine from being straight?
The most important thing to remember is to not simply a select a firm / hard mattress because the salesmen is telling you it offers great support. Firmer mattresses do tend to offer good support, but if that hard feel is creating pressure points then you may find you have created new problems for your sleep.
The bottom line question…what firmness level is best for you?
What position do you sleep in? – this is perhaps the most important factor that will determine you ideal firmness. Side sleepers usually need a firmness in the 3-6 range. Stomach in the 5-7 range. And back in the 4-8 range. If you sleep in multiple positions try to find a balanced level of firmness that hits both needs.
How heavy are you and what’s your body type? – your body type and weight is also a major factor. If you’re very large you will generally need a thicker mattress that provides better deep compression support. Additionally, very heavy sleepers may find that softer mattresses create too much sinkage due to the increased weight and pressure. Lighter sleepers typically engage more with the top layers and less with the core and base layers. Look for mattresses that have top layers that meet your firmness desires.
Firmness isn’t support – don’t forget that support and firmness are not the same. You can find a mattress with great support that’s still soft and meets your feel and pressure relief needs.
Majority rules – if you’re not sure what firmness to try I recommend going for something in the 6 out of 10 range. This is by far the most common mattress firmness available and for good reason…80% of sleepers prefer a mattress in the 5-7 out of 10 range. If you’re not sure where to start, try a medium feel.
Be careful with soft mattresses – many times my readers see the word “soft” and gravitate towards that. I would caution against this. Soft mattresses can be perfect if your preference and needs draw you to that. However, these are also the most returned mattress across the industry by far. Many sleepers buy a soft based on the name alone only to find out that soft is actually way too soft. Mattresses in the 3-3.5 range are best for side sleepers. Most other sleeping styles will find them uncomfortable. Additionally, if you’re over 200 pounds you may find that these mattresses create too much hug.