Which Mattress Is Good, Soft Or Firm? A Detailed Guide

28th January , 2024

We spend almost one-third of our lives in our beds, and sleep is crucial to our overall well-being. A good mattress is the foundation of a good night’s sleep, and choosing one that is right for your body and sleeping position is a big decision that will affect your long-term health.

However, given the variety of options available today, making a smart decision with regard to the best mattress option is trickier than ever. Mattress stores and manufacturers believe there are many factors that influence the efficacy of your decision, and firmness stands out as an instrumental one.

Although often overlooked, deciding whether you need a soft or firm sleeping surface makes a significant difference in your sleep experience and overall satisfaction with your purchase.

However, one’s preference for sleep is an extremely personal choice. What is comfortable for one may not be for another. Sleeping positions and any other health concerns also influence what type of firmness a sleeper appreciates.

With that background set up, here is a simple breakdown of soft vs. firm mattresses, along with insights of manufacturers on which is the best for different sleeping positions and preferences.

How to Measure The Firmness

Generally, the firmness of a mattress is rated on a scale of 1-10. On average, many manufacturers go for firmness between 4-7, as this is what is more comfortable for many sleepers.

Note – This scale is only a common standard. Keep in mind that the firmness of a sleeping surface is subjective, and what is comfortable can vary from one to another.

Soft vs Firm Mattresses: Key Features Compared

A soft, also known as a “plush” mattress, offers additional comfort layers above the support layers of the bed, making it feel softer. You will be able to feel yourself sinking into a soft mattress. The top or surface layer of this type of mattress can conform to your body, creating a hug-like feel.

Anything rated below 5 on a firmness scale is considered soft. However, it is important to emphasise that a soft mattress refers only to the upper comfort layers. The structure that offers support is on the lower layers, so not to be mistaken, soft bedding can offer strong support.

Some mattress stores and manufacturers consider anything below a 4 rating on the scale to have minimal to no support for healthy sleep. This statement is subjective to brands and manufacturers.

On the other hand, a “firm” mattress, as the word says, is one which provides a firm feel on the upper layers of the sleeping surface. However, with recent technology, the term firm doesn’t always mean more support. This means that you can get both firm and soft bedding with great support. You can also have a firm and soft mattress with no support.

Based on the general firmness scale, a firm sleeping surface is anything rated 7 or above.

When you lie on a firm bedding layer, you will feel like you are on top of the mattress, with little to no body conforming or contouring feeling for you to sink into. In other words, unlike a memory foam material that hugs the body, a firm sleeping surface will give you the feeling of floating on top of the bed’s upper layer.

Benefits of Soft and Firm Mattresses

Soft Mattress

  • Offers great pressure relief for side sleepers in the shoulders and hips

  • Excellent at motion isolation properties

  • Provides a conforming/ body-contouring feel

  • Provides good spinal support for back sleepers

Firm Mattress

  • Helps with spinal alignment for stomach sleepers

  • A high-quality, firm sleeping surface can offer great support for heavier bodies.

  • The bed surface feels easier to move around and change sleeping positions

  • Gives the option and versatility to add a topper for a more plush comfort layer

Considerations To Make When Buying A Soft And Firm Mattress

Soft Mattress

  • Stomach sleepers can sometimes find their hips dip too far into the bedding.

  • Depending on the materials, additional comfort layers can trap heat, making it difficult for hot sleepers.

  • The soft, bouncy surface makes it more difficult to change sleeping positions.

  • Depending on the sleeping positions, it can cause spinal alignment issues for some sleepers.

Firm Mattress

  • It can cause pressure points in the shoulders and hips, especially for side sleepers.

  • Lightweight sleepers might find the sleeping surface uncomfortable

  • It can aggravate the pain for those with muscle and joint aches

Who Should Choose a Soft Mattress?

Side sleepers

Those sleeping on their sides, wanting to relieve pressure on their shoulders and hips, can find the soft upper layer comfortable.

People with pain issues

Soft bedding can be a good match for sleepers with joint or hip pain.

For those who like to sink into their mattress with a body-hugging feeling

A soft sleeping surface really allows sleepers to sink into it with a body-contouring feel.


Soft mattresses, especially those made of memory foam, have excellent motion isolation properties. This feature makes them ideal for couples, as they are less likely to get awakened or disturbed when their partner moves around.

Who Is A Firm Mattress For?

Stomach sleepers

Those who sleep on their stomachs will require a surface that provides enough support across their body for a comfortable sleep. A firm sleeping surface offers just the right amount of support under the hips so that the spine can stay in a proper, healthy alignment.

Some back sleepers

While most back sleepers prefer a medium-firm mattress, some find a greater firmness to strike the ideal balance between support and comfort. If the bedding allows the hips to sink in just a bit, it can perfectly work for back sleeping.

Larger people

Sleepers who are on the heavier side will require more support than a soft surface for healthy spine alignment and comfortable sleep. This is because firmer mattresses usually offer more support and should be able to handle heavier body weights.

People who like to sleep on top of their mattress

Firm sleeping surfaces don’t allow people to sink in too far. This property can make a firm mattress the best match for people who feel they are on top of the bed when sleeping.

People with mobility issues

Anyone who has trouble moving around due to injury or health problems might find firm bedding more convenient for routine use. A firm sleeping surface will make it much easier to change positions and get in and out of bed without feeling stuck.

Making The Right Choice between Soft or Firm Mattress

Not all mattresses are designed equally, and they are not targeted to suit a specific population. Humans have unique needs and preferences, and this is no different when it comes to sleeping.

Only you can decide whether a soft or firm sleeping surface is the ideal fit.

Considering key factors like personal preferences, weight, sleeping position, health concerns, and couple preferences can make this choice easier. For more personalised advice, always talk to reliable mattress stores or manufacturers before making a final call.

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