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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.
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 Group||Most 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 Group||Preferred Firmness for Most Side Sleepers||Preferred Firmness for Most Back Sleepers||Preferred 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.
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.
The table below rates Soft, Medium/Medium-Firm, and Firm mattresses based on the performance factors described above:
|Performance Factor||Soft (4 and Lower)||Medium to Medium Firm (5 to 6)||Firm (7 and Higher)|
|Longevity||Poor to Fair||Good||Good to Very Good|
|Average Price||High||Medium to High||Low to Medium|
|Conforming/Pressure Relief||Fair to Good||Very Good||Poor to Fair|
|Heat Retention||Poor to Fair||Good||Very Good|
|Off-gassing||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good|
|Sex||Poor to Fair||Very Good||Fair|
|Easy to Move||Poor to Fair||Fair to Good||Good to Very Good|
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.
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.