MATTRESS FIRMNESS SCALE (2019 Guide)

One of the most important criteria to consider when mattress shopping is firmness. Mattress firmness often comes off as more complex than it really is, due to the fact that mattress firmness is subjective and, frankly, personal. 

We simplified the mattress firmness scale to make it clear and straightforward, so that you can easily determine which mattress firmness is best for you. We’re going to breakdown the difference between firmness vs. support, different firmness levels, and show you a numerical firmness scale to use as a tool in your mattress shopping experience. 

The Problem With Firmness Extremes

Although some extreme firmness options can be tempting, sometimes it is best for your body to opt out. That’s not to say firmness adjustability is bad–quite the contrary, actually. You want a mattress where you can ideally adjust your firmness to provide optimal comfort and support. 

Firmness options that allow your bed to be hard as a rock–or so soft you sink into a hole– may seem comfortable to some, but it is not necessarily good for you. It is recommended you sleep in a small range of firmness from about 4-8. This will allow you to adjust towards firmer or softer for your comfort, but without straying to extremes that will compromise the amount of support you receive.  

What Is Universal Comfort/Firmness?

You may have heard the phrase “universal comfort” or “universal firmness” during your mattress search. These brands claim to offer a one-size-fits-all firmness. When there are so many firmness options to choose from, that description is often very appealing. But the key to firmness is to remember that it is extremely subjective, and with different varying body types and sleep styles, one mattress firmness will not suit everyone

With brands categorizing their mattresses firmness with confusing terms such as “relaxed firm,” or the “perfect firmness.” These terms beg the question, what is it’s actual firmness? The three firmness descriptions you want to go by are simple: soft, medium, and firm. 

Choosing a Soft, Medium, or Firm Mattress

Firmness is essentially the initial feel when you lay on a mattress. Not to be confused with support, firmness is the amount of pushback you receive from the upper comfort layers of a mattress. 

If you experience stiff push back, the mattress can be categorized as very firm or firm. If the response is cloud-like with immediate cushion and contour, the mattress is typically described as soft. Medium firmness is classified as a balanced level of pushback and cushion. Thankfully, we can break up this pushback sensation into numerical values, called a mattress firmness scale. 

The mattress firmness scale ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being the most soft and 10 being the most firm. 

Mattresses that would be categorized as a 1 or 2 are extremely rare, and you are unlikely to come across a mattress this soft as it most likely yields little support.

Soft (3-4)

You may come across a soft mattress with a value of 3. This ultra soft mattress would exhibit a lot of sinkage, immediate contour and cushion, and feel extremely plush.  A firmness with a value of 4 exhibits the qualities of a plush soft mattress, but gives a little bit of a balanced feel in the contour and cushion. 

Medium (5-6)

A medium firmness is the most common mattress type, as it is estimated about 80% of people prefer a medium firmness feel. This type of mattress will feel very balanced while giving a bit of push back, but also offers moderate hug, contour, and plush comfort feel. These mattresses offer good support while being soft and comfortable. 

Firm (7-8) 

A firm mattress has very good support but with less of a plush contour, hug, or sinking feel. With a lot of pushback, some may feel a floating cloud sensation. 

Extremely Firm (9-10)

A firm mattress in this category would be extremely firm, with a very high pushback. There a few mattresses manufactured that exhibit this extreme level of firmness. 

Is Firmness the Same as Support?

Firmness and support are not the same. Firmness refers to the initial feel of a mattress, and is typically determined by the top comfort layers in a mattress, made up by combining types of memory foam layers, latex, cotton, wool, or whatever else a manufacturer may use.

 The lower layers in a bed make up the support layers, such as an air system, springs, or denser foams. This underlying support system is what properly reduces pressure points on your body and should support proper spinal alignment. Even a plush mattress can have a good support system inside, and vice versa. 

How to Choose Mattress Firmness

In many instances, the sleep surface you currently sleep on greatly influences your perception of firmness. For example, if you sleep on a very plush mattress, laying on a medium firmness mattress for the first time might feel hard as a rock, but someone coming from a firm sleep surface may categorize a medium bed as super plush. Firmness in a sense is very relative and subjective. 

Answering the question “what firmness is best for you?” is not always an easy feat. Aligning some of your needs and preferences can often yield the answer. This exercise is often helpful to explore what firmness level you truly need and will ultimately enjoy. 

Use A Point Of Reference

Use your current mattress as a point of reference. If you know where your current model typically falls on the mattress firmness scale, you can move towards a firmer or softer mattress from there. Here’s how to tell if a mattress is too firm or too soft:

soft or firm

Have there been instances where you slept at a friend’s or in a hotel, and noted a mattress you hated, or one that you loved? If there were times where a bed that was too plush or too firm resulted in a poor night’s sleep, keep that in mind. 

Remember your personal experiences are the most valid. They are the best jumping off point in searching in the large pool of mattress firmness scales. 

Sleep Position 

Depending on your sleep position, you will have pressure points on different parts of your body. For example, if you sleep on your side, you want a lot of support for your shoulders. But if you are a back sleeper, you want a lot of support in your lumbar region. Different firmnesses will support these specific regions of your body differently. 

Many side sleepers prefer a soft mattress, because the plush contours and sinkage support both the hips and shoulders. Side sleepers have an arm that gets tucked underneath them while sleeping, and a mattress that is really firm will cause it to feel crushed, numb, and tingly. 

Back sleepers have a wide range of firmness preference because pressure points in this position are more evenly distributed. So take your pick on firmness, but be sure that you have a good support system nonetheless. For those that experience back pain however, you will most likely want a mattress on the medium/firm side. 

Stomach sleepers often prefer a medium to firmer mattress, because they need additional support in the middle region. Too plush of a mattress will cause the hips to sink lower than the rest of your body, which can cause back pain. If you like a plush feel and you’re a stomach sleeper, opt for high resiliency foam, so that you get the push back coupled with a soft contouring feel. 

mattress firmness scale

Body Weight 

Your mattress responds to the combination of pressure and weight exerted onto it, so therefore weight is a factor in the firmness preference of a mattress. In general, if you have a higher BMI, a firmer mattress will ensure you do not experience extreme sinkage into a mattress. For those with a lower BMI, a softer mattress is often best, as some people report a sensation of too much pushback from firmer mattresses. 

How A Natural Form® Mattress Has Optimal Firmness 

All Natural Form mattresses feature our clinically proven and patented technology, that allow you to adjust your firmness to your ideal firmness preference. We naturally use air in our sophisticated system to properly displace all of your pressure points. These air chambers are highly responsive, and will provide comfort and support to even the slightest movement. 

Our adjustable dial allows you to make a fine tune firmness adjustment, so that you can achieve your comfort without compromising the support that you receive. Our dial provides a range on the mattress firmness scale from 4-8, giving you the entire range of firmness values that are optimal for your health. Not a single spring or foam bed can do that. 

Our adjustable technology has dual-sided chambers, so you and your partner can each choose your ideal level of firmness. You won’t have to compromise on comfort, no matter how different your sleep positions, height, weight, or personal preferences may be.

The difference between us and other air beds, is that our responsive technology operates without pumps or motors. In short, our patented system provides the exact displacement your body needs at whichever firmness you choose. Learn more here about our therapeutic mattresses here. 

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