Not Too Soft, Not Too Hard: How to Choose the Right Mattress Firmness

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If you’re in the market for a new mattress, it’s important to know how to choose the correct mattress firmness for your needs. Learn more here.

You can’t listen to the radio, a podcast, or watch a set of YouTube videos now without hearing about a new mattress. There’s the squishy purple grid mattress, cloud-like mattresses, ones that ship for free overnight…

And that’s all great. But randomly choosing a mattress online isn’t going to turn out great for you. Unless you know what mattress firmness to choose, it’ll be a shot in the dark.

Obviously, we all want to be comfortable, but did you know that things like your weight and your sleeping position play into the type of mattress you need?

You do now. Don’t change your nights in the dark on a shot in the dark. Learn which texture you need below.

Levels of Firmness

One way to tell if you’re getting a quality mattress or not is to look at the firmness rating. “Soft” isn’t an official rating. It’s soft compared to what? A slab of concrete, a patch of grass?

Make sure you buy a mattress that not only tells you the support that you’re getting but gives you details about it (and hopefully a range of choices).

Here are the four main ratings and what they mean.


Your run of the mill mattress will be “firm”. It’s like the default setting for mattresses. It doesn’t feel like you’re going to sink down so deep you can’t get up, and you don’t feel like you’re lying on a hard surface either.

Some mattress brands will have a setting below firm, or even two. This is for people who like really soft mattresses, like those who are used to memory firm. We’ll talk about how to know the rankings of each brand later.


Medium mattresses are a little harder than firm mattresses, but if you’re not picky, you won’t notice a difference. Think of it as the firm mattresses’ bigger brother.


Going towards the firmer mattresses now, we have a medium firm. If you went from medium to a medium firm bed, you may not notice anything at first. But if you went from a firm to a medium firm bed – you’d know something was very different.

These mattresses are still not hard – none of them are – but they’re better for heavier people and those that like to sleep in positions where sinking in is uncomfortable.

Extra Firm

Finally, we have extra firm mattresses. They’re great for back sleepers and those with high BMI’s. If you get hot a lot while you sleep, you may prefer a firmer bed.

On firm beds, you won’t sink in and create little pockets of heat.

Of course, if you get hot while you sleep, you can buy special temperature regulating mattresses, in any firmness level you need. But that’s another article.

Choosing What You Like

If you can’t go into a mattress store and lie on different beds (which is the best way to do it), then you’ll have to get creative. You may need to check out these bed in a box reviews.

If you think you like firmer mattresses, think to yourself, what would I say if someone told me I have to sleep on the floor? Obviously, that’s uncomfortable, but some people hate it less than others.

If you can take a night on the floor or would be comfortable on a hard surface with a sleeping pad – you like firmer mattresses.

On the other hand, if you got into a bed and you sunk down so deep you felt stuck – how would you feel? Some people really like that, and if you’re one of those people, the lowest firmness level is for you.

If you still have no idea, go for a medium mattress. If you’re heavier than the average person your size, go one firmness up.

Heavier people make more of a dent (literally) in mattresses and if you get a mattress that’s too soft, it’s going to lose its support more quickly than a firmer one.

Lifestyle Considerations

Some people have to buy mattresses with health conditions in mind. For example, if it’s an elderly person who has to spend a lot of time in bed, the firmer the better. In very soft beds they’ll get bedsores more quickly.

Some people think that sleep apnea is made worse by overly soft mattresses. If you have a condition that affects the way you sleep or have chronic pain, ask your doctor for a recommendation.

They might not have one, but hey- at least you asked!

Take Notes from Your Current Mattress

What is it that’s leading you to buy another mattress? Is it time? Do you wake up with back pain? Any physical symptoms could tell you what your next mattress needs.

It’s counterintuitive, but if you have back problems, firmer mattresses are better.

What did you love about your mattress when you first bought it? How long ago was that? An average mattress should be thrown out every ten years.

After 10 years they’re full of dust and dead skin, plus the support features are worn down.

Finally, before you do anything – make sure you read at least one review of the mattress you’re going to buy. Notice what the person said they wanted from a mattress, and check if their wants matched yours.

Mattress Firmness: Harder Is Usually Better

If you’re going to spend a big chunk of your money on a mattress, it’s worth getting one with a guarantee. Many mattress companies (online ones) will take yours back within 90 days if it’s not the right choice.

You can always exchange it for something with a different mattress firmness.

Whatever you choose, we hope you have sweet dreams and you get it right on the first try. The better the sleep you get, the more energy you’ll have to do things in the yard, and finally get through your honey-do list.