We all have our ideal mattresses in mind. It can be a hotel-like, plush comfort for some; while an extra firm and supportive surface would be perfect for others. The thing is, what we want isn’t always what’s best for us. You may get the nice soft mattress you’ve been eyeing, but your posture could possibly be at stake. On the other hand, you might have an extremely firm mattress that doesn’t feel comfortable at all.
Determining the right mattress doesn’t end with a satisfying mattress feel. Instead, you should be focusing on what your body really needs for a good night’s sleep – a soft or a firm mattress?
In this article, we discuss the differences between softer and firmer mattresses to make choosing the best type of mattress for you and/or your partner’s needs.
The Firmness Scale
Before we delve deeper, it’s good to remember what soft and firm mattresses are by definition.
- Soft mattresses are mattresses whose firmness levels range from 1-5 on the scale shown above (very soft – medium).
- Firm mattresses are mattresses whose firmness levels range from 6-10 (medium-firm to very firm).
What We Already Know: The Advantages & Disadvantages
- Best for lighter individuals to allow them to sink into the mattress better
- Recommended for side-sleepers to better align their spine in the position
- Provides more shoulder and hip support and cushioning for those who sleep on their side
- Curves the back and may cause it to collapse. This may hinder the entrance of oxygen leading to a night of poor-quality sleep.
- For a heavier person, there can be a tendency to sink into the mattress.
- Not the most comfortable mattress for stomach sleepers
- Softer mattresses have less motion isolation, which can be a concern for partners sharing beds
- Makes the bones absorb most of the pressure that lessens stress on the muscles. This can lead to improved circulation and hence a better sleep quality.
- Prevents your lower back (lumbar area) from collapsing paving the way for more oxygen to enter, which makes it a better choice for back sleepers
- Evenly distributes body weight. This proves great for heavier persons so they don’t sink too deeply into the mattress.
- Provides better support for stomach sleeping or lying face down.
- Chronic back pain sufferers might exacerbate their pain on a firm mattress.
- The transition and adjustment period from a soft to a firm mattress may be quite difficult.
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What to Look for in a Mattress
The Goal: Keep the Spine’s Natural Curvature
In all our judgements, we always have this goal in mind: to keep the spine in a neutral position with its natural curvature. Always remember this even when thinking about comfort. Never. Sacrifice. Your. Alignment.
No Pressure Points
One of the easiest ways to find the perfect mattress is for you to lie down on it and try it out for yourself in your own preferred sleeping positions. Be mindful of how it feels on your hips, and your shoulders, and make sure it doesn’t feel like it can cause lower back pain. Observe how the top layer of the mattress conforms to your body when in your usual sleeping position.
Opt for reputable brands that offer trial periods when purchasing a new mattress (Ecosa offers a 100-night trial), this is a way for you to secure that your new mattress feels right, offers superior pressure relief, and is perfect for your body type and sleeping positions.
Existing Research Votes Firmer Mattress
We know that mattress firmness is not a black-and-white situation. It is rather a spectrum of firmness options to suit people of different weights, body types, sleeping positions, and ailments. So in saying firmer mattresses – we’re referring to those in the 6-10 firmness levels.
Existing research vouches for mattresses on the firmer side of the scale – mainly medium-firm – in their ability to relieve chronic back pain, sleep quality, comfort, and efficiency. This was according to a study by Professor Ahmed Radwan, PhD and his colleagues for the National Sleep Foundation’s journal called Sleep Health. They combined and assessed all available clinical trials to find out that mattress firmness is best for back pain, sleep quality, and spinal alignment.
Here are some more interesting data they found:
- Medium mattresses and firm mattresses were generally more comfortable than soft mattresses.
- Average shoulder pressure was higher on softer mattresses. Specific research found that firmness levels had to be upped to increase comfort in patients.
- Soft mattresses decrease ‘excessive compressive forces’ on joints, while firm mattresses help maintain appropriate sleeping posture, especially for side sleepers to avoid the pelvis from sagging.
- The most liked mattresses were ones where the spinal curvature was similar to that of a standing position.
Looking for Something Softer?
As mentioned earlier, some people do sleep better with softer mattresses, and that’s perfectly fine. If you already have a firm mattress and think that you need something softer, consider using a mattress topper.
Mattress toppers serve as a top layer that you can add to your existing mattress, whether it’s an innerspring or a memory foam bed, you can use a mattress topper to make your bed feel softer.
Using a mattress topper is also a great way to bring new life to your old mattresses, so if firm beds aren’t for you, then toppers are definitely an option to consider.
Your Mattress, Your Call
In the end, the purpose of this article is not to impose buying a medium-firm mattress, but to open your options to what is good for your body and sleep quality that’s backed by research.
The right mattress is always the best mattress, it’s not always just about personal preference, but also seeking high-quality options that address your needs for comfort and body support.
While you do your research, keep our 3-in-1 adjustable memory foam mattress in mind – you get medium, medium-firm, and firm mattresses all in one. A quick flip of the mattress or swapping the internal foam layers would get you to the right mattress firmness that your body needs.