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Firm vs. Soft Mattress: Which One Is Best for You?

A suitable mattress is crucial for a restorative night’s sleep. If you continuously wake up with aches and pains in the morning, robably your bed cannot offer you proper support. So, according to your weight and sleeping position, you need to choose the right mattress firmness in order to allow your muscles to fully relax for an easy, tension-free sleep experience. But a firm mattress compared to a soft one, which is the best? In this comparison guide, the pros and cons for either and some tips will be listed to help you make a perfect purchase. 

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The Difference Between a Firm and Soft Mattress

Perhaps you already know that firmness is used to describe the feeling you get when you lie on a mattress. To make it easier to distinguish, we usually use a 10-point scale to show it - with 1 being the softest level and 10 being the firmest. At Novilla, relatively soft mattresses are graded 1-5, which can be divided into extra soft, soft and medium soft levels, while relatively firm mattresses are graded 6-10, which can be divided into medium firm, slightly firm, firm and extra firm levels. And for more details, here is Novilla mattress firmness scale.

Advantages & Disadvantages

Firmness LevelFeelCharacteristics
10Extra firmExtra firm beds have virtually no conforming and no perceptible sinkage.
9FirmFirm mattresses provide minimal conforming and sinkage.
8Slightly firm
Slightly firm mattresses still conform comparatively but sink less.
6-7Medium firmMedium firm mattresses conform moderately, but do not sink much.
4-5Medium softMedium soft mattresses conform fairly closely and sink some.
2-3SoftSoft mattresses conform and sink considerably.
1Extra SoftExtra soft mattresses closely conform to your body and sink significantly.

Pros and Cons of Soft Mattresses

Soft mattresses tend to conform to your body considerably, ensuring that most of your body parts are protected or supported. However, it also means that you will sink a lot into the bed, make it undue for some situations. And here are the pros & cons of the soft mattresses:

  √ Best for side sleepers - When sleeping on side, your hips and shoulders are subjected to excessive pressure buildup. This tension may lead to hip pain or shoulder pain and force you to keep changing positions, reducing the duration of deep sleep. So with proper support, soft mattresses are perfect for side sleepers, gently cradling the sharper pressure points, conforming to the body curves and edges.

 √ Best for lightweight people - Compared to plus-sized groups, lightweight people may feel firmer and sink less in the same bed. Therefore, lightweight sleepers need a soft mattress that does better in reducing the pressure buildup than a firm mattress and relieving pain and stiffness.   

  √ Best for those with arthritis and joint pain - Softer mattresses provide more cushioning to chronically sore bodies. Especially, those with arthritis or joint pain, are likely to need relief and comfortable sleep surface to alleviate pain and tension. So if you are struggling with arthritis or pain, a medium soft mattress is friendly to you.     

 × Difficult to ensure spinal alignment and cooling effect - The softer the mattress, the more your body sinks. In particular, some of the heavier body parts will sink much more than the lighter parts, and then the natural curve of the spine will be damaged. In addition, when your body sinks into the bed, the body heat is more easily trapped in the mattress, making you sleep hot at night. When buying a soft mattress, remember to choose one with a responsive support layer and cooling properties, such as cooling gel memory foam mattresses, bouncy hybrid mattresses, or copper-infused mattresses, etc. 

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Pros and Cons of Firm Mattresses

Although mattress firmness is not equal to support, to some extent, a firmer sleep surface means more support and less sinkage. And there are some pros and cons of firm mattresses: 

√ Best for back and stomach sleepers - When sleeping on back, the buttocks and hips tend to sink excessively on a very soft mattress. So back sleepers rest better on a firmer mattress that help to lift the spine neutrally and fully relax the tense muscles. And for stomach sleepers, their spinal curve will easily become exaggerated like a w-shape. Day by day, they may suffer from chronic pain on the back and neck. So we do not encourage you to sleep on stomach. But if you find it difficult to avoid this position, the best mattresses for stomach sleeping are medium firm or slight firm ones. A firmer bed will provide better lower back support and promote natural spinal alignment.  

√ Friendly to heavy people - Best firm mattresses could reduce the possibility of poor blood circulation and getting trapped in the bed for too heavy, so you can change positions freely and sleep comfortably. Plus, firmer beds promote even distribution of body weight, which is friendly to heavy people.  

× Not ideal for side sleepers and lightweight people - With a firm surface, it is not good at pressure relief for side sleepers and lightweight people. Typically, for those with arthritis and joint pain, a firm mattress without comfort layer may intensify the pain. This is why they need a softer mattress to cradle these sensitive body areas. 

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Generally speaking, it is a relatively subjective matter to define the best mattress firmness - if you enjoy the soft, cloud-like feel, a soft mattress would suit you better, while if you prefer the supportive rigidity of a bed, a firmer mattress would do better. With this guide, you may pick a perfect mattress per your body weight and sleeping positions.      

You may also like:
Mattress Firmness Selection Guide
How to Make a Mattress Firmer?

This guide/article is for informational purposes only and should not replace the professional advice from your doctors and medical consultants. 

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