Best Firm Mattresses

Mattress firmness refers to how the bed’s surface feels underneath a sleeper’s body, and is directly tied to the materials used in the topmost comfort layer of the mattress. At Tuck, we evaluate firmness in mattresses using a 1-to-10 scale, with 1 being the least firm and 10 being the firmest. However, most mattresses sold today fall between a 3 (or ‘Soft’) and an 8 (‘Firm’).

This page will look at mattresses that are rated as a 7 and above. Some sleepers, such as heavier individuals and those who sleep on their back or stomach, tend to prefer firmer mattresses because they provide more comfort and support than less firm options. Firm mattresses are also linked to better durability, lower costs and a relatively cool sleep surface, but there are also drawbacks associated with firmer models.

Who Sleeps Best on Firm Mattresses?

First, let’s look at sleepers who prefer firm mattresses, as well as those who may not feel as comfortable on a firmer surface.

Firmness is often tied to the sleeper’s bodyweight. For the purposes of this page, ‘average weight’ is defined as 130 to 230 pounds. Generally speaking, people who are on the heavier side tend to prefer mattresses that are firmer, while those on the lighter side often choose mattresses with lower firmness ratings.

Pressure relief is a key reason for this trend. Firmer mattress require more weight for sleepers to sink into the mattress and alleviate their pressure points, and people in the below-average and average weight groups may not weigh enough to enjoy these qualities. On the other hand, softer mattresses may sink too deeply beneath heavier sleepers, resulting in added pain and pressure.

The table below lists the most popular firmness ratings for below-average, average, and above-average weight groups.

Weight GroupMost Commonly Preferred Mattress Firmness
Below-average (Less than 130 Pounds)4 (Medium Soft) and Lower
Average (130 to 230 Pounds)5 (Medium) to 6 (Medium Firm)
Above-average (More than 230 Pounds)7 (Firm) and Higher

In addition to bodyweight, firmness may also be linked to the sleeper’s preferred position in bed. People who sleep on their side require mattresses that help align their spine and alleviate pressure points that commonly develop due to this position. Back-sleepers, on the other hand, sleep in a position that naturally aligns the spine and do not require a soft mattress as often. For this reason, back-sleepers tend to feel more comfortable on a firmer mattress than side-sleepers.

Stomach-sleepers in the average and above-average weight groups may also prefer firmer mattresses because they will not sink too deeply. If a mattress is too soft, then heavier stomach-sleepers may sink too far and experience neck and shoulder pain.

The table below represents firmness preference trends among sleepers based on bodyweight and sleep position.

Weight GroupPreferred Firmness for Most Side SleepersPreferred Firmness for Most Back SleepersPreferred Firmness for Most Stomach Sleepers
Below-average (Less than 130 pounds)3 (Soft) to 5 (Medium)4 (Medium Soft) to 6 (Medium Firm)4 (Medium Soft) to 6 (Medium Firm)
Average (130 to 230 Pounds)4 (Medium Soft) to 6 (Medium Firm)5 (Medium) to 7 or 8 (Firm)6 (Medium Firm) to 7 or 8 (Firm)
Above-average (More than 230 Pounds)5 (Medium) to 6 (Medium Firm)6 (Medium Firm) to 7 or 8 (Firm)6 (Medium Firm) to 7 or 8 (Firm)

Ultimately, every sleeper is different when it comes to mattress firmness, and we highly recommend testing out mattresses with different firmness ratings in order to pinpoint the feel that is best for you.

Common Qualities of Firm Mattresses

Next, let’s look at some of the construction and performance qualities shared by most mattresses rated as a 7 or higher on the firmness scale.

  • Longer Lifespan: Softer mattresses are prone to premature sagging or indentations in the sleep surface that can cause back pain and pressure over time. Firm mattresses are less susceptible to sagging and indenting, and typically last much longer.
  • Lower Thickness: One reason mattresses are firm is a lack of additional foams and other cushioning materials in the comfort layer. As a result, they tend to have low profiles compared to soft mattresses.
  • Less Expensive: The cushioning and padding that makes softer mattresses thicker is also the reason why many of these models have higher price-points compared to firmer mattresses.
  • Minimal Conforming and Pressure Relief: Sleepers do not sink as deeply into the surface of a firmer mattress, which may result in less pressure relief compared to softer mattresses.
  • Sleeping Cooler: When sleepers sink into a mattress, this may limit airflow and cause the surface to feel uncomfortably hot or warm. Firmer mattresses have better airflow and sleep cooler — although this also depends on the comfort layer materials, as foam and latex mattresses tend to retain more body heat from sleepers and feel much hotter than innersprings or hybrids.
  • Fewer Odors: Off-gassing smells are a common complaint regarding mattresses with high concentrations of foam. Firmer mattresses tend to have less foam, meaning they produce less off-gassing odor.
  • May Be Too Firm for Sex: When it comes to evaluating mattresses for sex, the top-rated models — usually Medium or Medium-Firm — offer a balance of comfort and responsiveness. Firm mattresses may be responsiveness but many lack the cushioning to accommodate comfortable sex.
  • Lower Weight/Easier to Move: Not surprisingly, mattresses with more layers tend to weigh more than those with fewer layers. For this reason, firmer mattresses tend to be lighter and easier to move than their softer counterparts.

The table below rates Soft, Medium/Medium-Firm, and Firm mattresses based on the performance factors described above:

Performance FactorSoft (4 and Lower)Medium to Medium Firm (5 to 6)Firm (7 and Higher)
LongevityPoor to FairGoodGood to Very Good
ThicknessThickestThickerLeast Thick
Average PriceHighMedium to HighLow to Medium
Conforming/Pressure ReliefFair to GoodVery GoodPoor to Fair
Heat RetentionPoor to FairGoodVery Good
Off-gassingPoor to FairFair to GoodGood to Very Good
SexPoor to FairVery GoodFair
Easy to MovePoor to FairFair to GoodGood to Very Good

Tips for Buying and Maintaining a Firm Mattress

If you have determined that a firmer mattress is right for you, please review the following tips for purchasing a suitable model and keeping it in good shape.

  • Take Advantage of Sleep Trials: Many manufacturers offer mattress sleep trials, which allow customers to test out their mattress for a given length of time (typically 90 to 120 nights). The customer may then return the for a full or partial refund before the sleep trial ends if they are not satisfied. In some cases, they may also be able to exchange their mattress for a model with a different firmness rating. If you are unsure about your specific firmness of choice, then a sleep trial can be highly beneficial.
  • Consider Dual Firmness: Let’s say you prefer a firmer mattress but your partner would rather sleep on a softer surface. Some manufacturers offer ‘dual-firmness’ mattress designs that feature different firmness ratings on each side of the bed to accommodate couples with varying preferences. These options tend to be more expensive than standard, single-firmness mattresses, but dual-firmness can be invaluable for some couples.
  • Shifting Firmness Preferences? A Flippable Model May Be Best: Although they are not common, some manufacturers offer flippable mattresses with different firmness ratings for each comfort layer and a shared support core. This is a suitable option is you prefer sleeping on a firm mattress some — but not all — of the time.
  • Know What’s Covered in the Warranty: Most mattress warranties consider sagging and indentations a defect as long as it measures to a certain depth (1″ to 1 1/2″, in most cases). One thing that is not covered under most mattress warranties: changes in the owner’s firmness and comfort preferences. So if you decide the firmness of your mattress is not right for you after the sleep trial has ended, you may not be able to replace or exchange it at a reduced rate.
  • Additional Layers can Improve Comfort: If your sleep trial has ended and you find your mattress now feels too firm, a topper with a lower firmness rating may be useful. In addition to improved comfort, some toppers can also add support. A wide range of toppers are sold today. These include low-priced options like fabric, fiber, and feather toppers, as well as more expensive memory foam, latex, and wool toppers.
  • Choose Pillows Based on Firmness: Because sleepers don’t sink as deeply into firmer mattresses, they often require thicker, high-loft pillows for cushioning between their heads and the sleep surface. Medium- and low-loft pillows, by comparison, may not provide enough cushioning and can lead to increased neck and shoulder pain.

Conclusion

As we’ve discussed, a firmer mattress may be the best option for certain sleeper groups, such as those who sleep on their back or those who fall into the above-average weight group. If you prefer mattresses that are less firm, feel free to check out our guide to the Best Soft Mattresses. For more information on mattress firmness, please visit our Firmness Guide.