- How Sleep Works
- Sleep Disorders
- Sleep Resources
- Sleep Health
- Sleep Medicine
Firmness is one of the most important considerations when selecting a new mattress. The optimal firmness for an individual sleeper depends on multiple factors, including his or her height, weight, and preferred sleep position. Firmness is usually measured using a 1-10 scale, with 1 being the least firm and 10 being the firmest. Most mattresses made today range from 3 (or ‘Soft’) to 8 (or ‘Extra Firm’).
A softer mattress may be more suitable for people who are lighter than average (less than 130 pounds), as well as those in the average weight group (130 to 230 pounds). Firmer mattresses do not conform as closely for these individuals, which can result in discomfort in the neck, shoulders, lower back, and other sensitive areas. Side sleepers also tend to prefer softer mattresses; this sleep position requires cushioning in the shoulders and hips in order to align the sleeper’s neck, spine, and pelvis. Improper alignment can lead to aches and pains.
It’s also important to note that people in the heavy weight group (more than 230 pounds) often do not feel as comfortable on softer mattresses because they tend to sink too deeply, which compromises mattress support and typically causes discomfort.
Read on to learn more about guidelines for choosing a softer mattress, as well as our top picks for the best soft mattresses sold today. Our picks are based on verified customer and owner reviews, as well as intensive product research and analysis.
Best Soft Mattresses
Editor’s Pick – Nest Alexander Signature Hybrid
Best Value – Layla
Best Value – The New Purple
Best for Side Sleepers – Saatva
Best for Cool Sleep – Tomorrow Sleep Hybrid
Best Organic Mattress – Zenhaven
The Alexander Signature Hybrid from Nest Bedding is available in three firmness options, including ‘Soft’ (3 out of 10) and Medium (5.5 out of 10). Both options are suitable for light and average weight sleepers, as well as side sleepers who need a little extra cushioning.
The Alexander Signature Hybrid is designed with comfort layers of gel memory foam and copper-infused polyfoam. These components allow the mattress to conform closely to the sleeper’s body and alleviate pressure points. The copper element also helps improve circulation in sleepers, and both materials sleep cooler than conventional foam. The mattress has a phase-change material cover to further bolster its temperature neutrality.
According to owners, the Alexander Signature Hybrid has a responsive surface that makes it good for sex. The pocketed coil support core is also well-reinforced, giving the bed strong edge support and minimizing sinkage where people tend to sit when they get up.
The Alexander Signature Hybrid comes with a lifetime comfort guarantee, meaning customers can return it at any point. The mattress is backed by a lifetime warranty, as well.
The Layla Mattress is a flippable memory foam model with one side that is ‘Soft’ (4) and another side that is Firm (7). This design is optimal for sleepers who want a softer surface both nights but also have fluctuating preferences. The Layla Mattress is also fairly inexpensive, priced nearly $200 below the average memory foam bed.
Both sides of the mattress have layers of copper-infused memory foam, which helps the bed maintain temperature neutrality and improves circulation in sleepers. The ‘Soft’ side also has a layer of convoluted polyfoam for additional cushioning. The shared support core made of high-density polyfoam helps the mattress maintain an even surface.
Many Layla Mattress owners say their bed isolates a significant amount of motion transfer and produces virtually no noise. For these reasons, the mattress is well-suited for couples – particularly if one or both of the sleepers awakens easily due to noise. The mattress is also very light, making it easy for most people to flip when firmness adjustment is needed.
Customers who order the Layla Mattress will receive a 120-night sleep trial. The mattress is also backed by a lifetime warranty.
Introduced in 2018, the New Purple is a hybrid mattress that features the same innovating comfort layers as Purple’s flagship mattress model. The New Purple is sold in three firmness settings, including ‘Medium Soft’ (4.5) and ‘Medium’ (5.5).
The comfort system of the New Purple features buckling-column gel in a polymer ‘Smart Grid.’ The ‘Medium Soft’ model has a four-inch comfort layer, and the ‘Medium’ model has a three-inch comfort layer. The ‘Smart Grid’ is highly durable, ensuring a longer-than-average mattress lifespan, while owners say the buckling-column gel conforms closely and effectively alleviates pressure points.
The mattress has a pocketed coil support core, which provides robust edge support and produces less noise than other coil types. Many sleepers claim the New Purple also sleeps fairly cool and isolates motion well.
The bed’s price-point – which varies by selected thickness – is above-average, making the bed suitable for shoppers with a bigger budget. Purple offers free shipping for the New Purple mattress to customers in the contiguous U.S., which offsets some of the costs.
Many sleepers find innerspring mattresses to be uncomfortable due to excessive firmness. Saatva addresses this problem by offering an innerspring in three firmness settings, including ‘Medium Soft’ (4) to accommodate those who prefer less firm surfaces.
The Saatva’s comfort system includes memory foam, polyfoam, and pocketed coil layers, as well as a Euro-top layer for extra cushioning. Owners generally experience closer conforming and more pressure relief with the Saatva than those who own other innerspring models. The mattress also isolates motion well, which is uncommon in coil-based models.
The bed has a support core made of low-gauge bonnell coils, which provide strong support for sleepers and help reinforce the edges to minimize sinkage. The Saatva also sleeps fairly cool, as is typical of innersprings. And due to the thick comfort layer, the mattress is also fairly quiet.
Saatva customers in the contiguous U.S. qualify for free White Glove delivery, which includes in-home mattress assembly and old mattress removal. The mattress comes with a 120-night sleep trial and a 15-year warranty.
This hybrid from Tomorrow Sleep, a subsidiary of Serta Simmons, is offered in two firmness settings, including a ‘Medium Soft’ (4) option for those who prefer less firm surfaces.
The mattress is constructed with gel memory foam and standard memory foam comfort layers. These layers conform closely to most sleepers and alleviate aches and pains in sensitive areas. The Tomorrow Sleep Mattress also sleeps exceptionally cool thanks to its phase-change material cover; this makes the mattress well-suited for people who tend to sleep hot.
The Tomorrow Sleep Mattress is also highly supportive. The pocketed coil support core is encased in foam to reinforce the edges and minimize sinkage in places where people sit. The mattress also isolates motion better than many other hybrids and produces very little noise, making it a good option for couples. Its price-point is much lower than the cost of the average hybrid, as well.
Tomorrow Sleep offers free mattress shipping in the contiguous U.S., and customers may select White Glove delivery for an additional charge. The mattress is backed by a 365-night sleep trial, which is one of the longest trials offered by any brand.
The Zenhaven by Saatva is a flippable latex mattress. One side is ‘Medium Soft’ (4), and the other side is ‘Firm’ (7).
The mattress is made of materials that make it a suitable choice for eco-friendly shoppers. Both comfort layers and the support core are constructed from natural Talalay latex. The mattress also features a cover woven from organic cotton.
Zenhaven owners report close conforming and targeted pressure relief. The mattress also isolates motion effectively and produces very little noise. The mattress is also fairly responsive, which makes it better for sex according to couples who own one. And because it is made from latex, the Zenhaven sleeps cooler than most foam-based mattresses.
Like other Saatva mattresses, the Zenhaven qualifies for free White Glove delivery, including in-home assembly and old mattress removal. The mattress is backed by a 120-night sleep trial and a 20-year warranty.
Mattress firmness indicates how the surface of a bed feels beneath the sleeper’s body. The cover and comfort (or topmost) layer of a mattress affects firmness to the greatest extent. At Tuck, we measure mattress firmness using a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the firmest and 1 being the least firm — although the vast majority of mattresses sold today fall between a 3 (‘Soft’) and an 8 (‘Firm’).
This page will discuss mattresses that rate as a 4 (‘Medium Soft’) and lower. Soft mattresses are generally most popular among side-sleepers due to improved spinal alignment and pressure relief, as well as lighter individuals who do not experience as much conforming on firmer models. However, softer mattresses have also been linked to certain disadvantages, such as high body heat retention, more off-gassing odor, and shorter overall lifespan.
This section will discuss various physiological factors — such as bodyweight and sleep position — that often indicate a sleeper will prefer a softer mattress. But first, a disclaimer: every sleeper is different, and this information applies to most — but not all — mattress owners. We highly recommend testing out a wide range of mattress firmnesses in order to determine your preferred rating before finalizing your purchase.
Let’s begin by talking about bodyweight. For the purposes of this page, the average sleeper weighs between 130 and 230 pounds; ‘below-average weight’ signifies anything less than 130 pounds, and ‘above-average weight’ applies to anything greater than 230 pounds. Bodyweight is one physical factor that generally correlates to firmness: people who weigh less tend to prefer softer mattresses, whereas heavier people often feel most comfortable on a firmer mattress.
Reasons for this correlation include conforming and pressure relief. Mattresses that are softer tend to sink more deeply beneath sleeper’s bodies; in contrast, firmer mattresses will not sink much (if at all) unless the sleeper weighs enough. For this reason, people in the below-average and average weight groups often feel most comfortable on softer mattresses because they can experience the full sinking effects, which can alleviate pressure points along the body, and less comfortable on firmer mattresses that do not sink as much or relieve pressure to the same extent. Alternatively, people in the above-average weight class may sink too deeply into a softer mattress, and this can lead to more pain and pressure. For this reason, heavier individuals tend to feel most comfortable on firmer mattresses. The table below includes the most popular firmness ratings for each of the three 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|
Sleep position also affects firmness preferences, since softer mattresses that conform more closely can also improve the sleeper’s spinal alignment. The back-sleeping position naturally aligns the spine on its own, and sleepers who choose this position may not need their mattress to aid spinal alignment. Side-sleepers, on the other hand, sleep in a position that creates an unnatural curvature in the spine. Those who sleep on their side require enhanced support in the neck, shoulders, lower back (lumbar), and hips in order to reduce pain and pressure. For this reason, side-sleepers often prefer Soft or Medium mattresses.
Most stomach-sleepers find soft mattresses somewhat uncomfortable. This is because they sink too deeply, causing them to turn their heads in order to avoid lying face-down on the sleep surface, and this can increase pain and pressure in the neck and shoulders. For heavier people who sleep on their stomachs, a softer mattress can be especially problematic because a high percentage of their weight may be located in their stomach. Stomach-sleepers in the below-average weight group, on the other hand, may feel comfortable on mattresses rated as Medium Soft because they provide some conforming without too much sinking.
The next table lists preferred firmness levels for different 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)|
Next, let’s discuss some of the different construction and performance factors shared by many mattresses that rate as a 4 or below on the firmness scale.
The table below evaluates Soft, Medium/Medium-Firm, and Firm mattresses based on these performance factors:
|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|
Now that you have determined that a softer mattress is most suitable for your sleep needs and preferences, let’s go over a few tips for buying the right model and maintaining it for years to come.