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Which Mattress Type Fits You : A Beginner’s Guide to Mattress Firmness

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Forget ‘coronasomnia’.

More than a third of Americans weren’t sleeping well enough before corona ever made that historic and rude entry into our lives.

It made things much worse of course, pushing the stats up from more than a third to 1 in 4 Americans –but these stats make you wonder, is that all there is to our sleeplessness?

Well, there are some other obvious reasons like being ill, an environment that makes your shut eye moments more like a repetitive game of toss and turn and crowning it with a nasty mood in the morning.

Yet, our sleeping problems could be very well about what you sleep on instead of where you sleep. Let’s dig into the underrated topic of your mattress’s softness and firmness and why they’re deal breakers when you’re mattress shopping.

Mattress Firmness

Everybody knows that a sound mattress should be firm but not everyone understands just how much firmness is enough. More importantly what is mattress firmness anyway?

Mattress firmness is simply the feel you get when you lie on it. It may feel stiff and push back or may line up with the contours of your body helping spinal alignment without sagging. These factors may lead you to deem it firm enough based on which of these factors you prefer –but there’s a scale for measuring mattress firmness.

This scale runs from 1 to 10 and categorizes mattress firmness into soft, medium soft, medium firm, and firm. Here’s what you should know about these categories.

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You guessed it. A soft mattress has the least score on the firmness scale, basically between 1 and 2.

If you love plush comfort, and a top layer that almost feels like a hug, curving and rising just as your body does when you lie on it, or are nursing hip pain, the softer mattress category is for you. This level also works great for light-weight side sleepers,, but is not the best for spinal alignment.

It’s made of luxurious materials such as memory foam or latex which also makes them expensive.

Here’s the problem with all the softness –it causes you to sleep hot but if you can’t give it up, opt for a gel-infused memory foam mattress to eliminate the heat.

The latex type is bouncy and cooler than memory foam but relieves pain and offers comfort just as much as the memory foam mattress.

The soft material not only covers the top layer but also the core leading to its second downside –shorter lifespan –unless you’re willing to replace it more often than the much firmer types.  


The medium-soft and medium firmness level mattresses score between 3 and 4 on the firmness scale providing the plush comfort of the soft type but with a stronger core.

If you want relief from joint pain but want stronger support, this mattress makes that possible and will provide better sleep for lightweight side sleepers or couples. This also helps with body weight including heavier people.

The top layer is made of memory foam or latex like the soft mattress but these materials are much firmer.  In other words, you’ll feel the contouring but your weight won’t dig into the mattress like it does with the soft mattress.

You may not be too comfortable though if your personal preference is that of a hot sleeper and you choose the medium soft mattress made with the memory foam material. However, they have a longer lifespan than soft mattresses.


If you want everything balanced between the softness, contouring and push-back support, get the medium-firm mattress. This type falls right in the middle of the firmness scale scoring between 5 and 7.

It also supports different sleepers from heavier individuals who need lots of comfortable support to the chronic position switchers or the combination sleeper and stomach sleepers who need to feel comfortable no matter which side of the mattress or sleep positions they switch to during the night.

They cost less than the soft and medium soft types and last longer because their ingredient materials are much stronger. Further, they offer great support for side sleepers who need it the most on their shoulders and hips. A lot of people consider this the universal comfort sleep quality choice.


Firm level mattresses are just that-firm and obviously score higher than any other type on the scale (between 7 and 10). You couldn’t find a firmer mattress if you tried. While this the the firmest on the scale, there is still a wide range of firm type of mattress.

They are designed to have the sleeper sleeping on the top layer only without sinking into the mattress no matter the body type or sleeping position.  It’s a perfect mattress choice for heavy sleepers or those who love this level of support but others describe the feel as though they slept on something else other than a bed.

Firm mattresses aren’t ideal for side sleepers and you’ll often complain of shoulder or hip discomfort in the morning. However, it’s great for spine support, cooler than other types and reduces back pain. They are more affordable than their softer counterparts but outlast all other mattress types.

What about Matching Pillows to Mattress Firmness?

Your poor sleep, or the need for quiet sleep, may also be about how well you match your pillows to your mattress’s firmness. Ideally, the firmer your mattress is, the higher your pillow’s loft should be.

Pillows can either have a high, medium or low loft.  A high loft pillow prevents your head from sinking in too deep while lying on a firm mattress yet offers enough padding without interfering with your spine’s alignment.

Softer mattresses need lower loft pillows. Using a high loft pillow on a soft mattress elevates your neck higher than it should because a soft mattress sinks deeper than a firm mattress.

Last but not least, choose medium loft pillows for mattresses with medium firmness.

The Key Takeaway

Quick advise the next time you go mattress shopping: First, it’s difficult to find a mattress with firmness levels on the extreme ends of the spectrum. Secondly, don’t be too hung up on buying a mattress online because you can’t try it out. You just may end up paying for frills that don’t matter as much as how you feel while lying on it.  Lastly, look for a mattress company that went out of their way with sleep trials because preferences, body types, and sleeping positions differ widely. Treat yourself to a real smart mattress from No Bull Mattress and stand a chance to save up to 80%. Learn more here.


Mattress firmness refers to how soft or firm a mattress feels when you lie down on it.
Mattress firmness levels range from soft to extra firm, with medium being the most common.
How do you determine the right level of mattress firmness for you?

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