Buying a new mattress is overwhelming, let alone finding one that’s the right firmness. While a soft, plush bed is the image we conjure up in our minds when we think of a comfortable mattress, some prefer a firmer surface to rest on at night. Firm mattresses can be ideal for heavier sleepers, those with certain health conditions, and stomach or back sleepers.
A 2011 study found that sleeping on a mattress that’s too firm or too soft for you can lead to poorer sleep, less energy during the day, and even increased pain. If you’re dealing with any one of these problems, your mattress may be to blame. Your ideal mattress firmness depends on your body weight, sleeping position, and even if you sleep with a partner.
Amerisleep Firm Mattresses: AS2 & AS1
We carry five different mattresses, all of which range in firmness, so if you’re looking for a firmer mattress you’re best suited on an AS2 or AS1.
If you’re looking for a firmer bed, consider the AS2, our medium-firm model. It’s a bit softer than our AS1 and most comfortable for stomach and back sleepers.
Our AS2 stands 12 inches tall and has three layers. The AS1 is the only mattress of ours with two layers, as the AS2, AS3, and AS4 all contain three layers, and the AS5 has four. Like all of our mattresses, the AS2 features a soft, breathable cover.
The AS2 has two inches of Bio-Pur® foam to offer cushioning comfort and relieve pressure points. Below the layer of Bio-Pur® is a 2-inch transition layer—the Affinity layer with HIVE® technology. HIVE® promotes healthy spinal alignment by offering firm support under your midsection, head, and feet while allowing for deeper compression under your shoulders and hips.
The AS2 has a 7-inch Bio-Core® base layer to reinforce the two layers and sleeper above.
The AS1 is our firmest mattress and fit for back and stomach sleepers, side sleepers will likely find our AS1 too firm to properly cushion the shoulders and hips.
On top of being the firmest, the AS1 is also our shortest mattress— it has only two layers and stands 10 inches tall. Our AS1 has 2 inches of Bio-Pur® and 8 inches of Bio-Core®.
Bio-Pur® is our plant-based, pressure-relieving memory foam. When you lay on the AS1, this layer contours to your body to alleviate pressure, but because it’s so thin, it doesn’t allow for too much sinkage. The Bio-Core® layer directly below is firm and sturdy, so it keeps you lifted on top of the mattress and prevents premature sagging or deterioration.
Like all Amerisleep mattresses, our AS1 and AS2 come with a 100-night sleep trial and a 20-year warranty.
Who should sleep on a firm mattress?
Soft mattresses with thick comfort layers and deep contouring sound luxurious, but they can actually lead to aches and pains in certain people. In general, firm mattresses work best for the following groups:
- Heavy individuals: Heavier sleepers weighing more than 230 pounds need a mattress with more support than cushioning. A firmer mattress is less likely to sink down under pressure, putting the sleeper at risk for misalignment.
- Stomach sleepers: Stomach sleepers, though rare (only 7% of the population sleeps belly-down), still need a mattress that will not bow under their hips and spine, leading to pain. For this reason, stomach sleepers should avoid soft mattresses and choose firmer models instead.
- Back sleepers: Back sleepers are in the best position for spinal alignment, but if they sleep on a mattress that’s too soft, their hips could sink down, leading to an uncomfortable “stuck” feeling and pain.
- Those with back pain: If you suffer from back pain or another chronic pain illness, a soft mattress could make that pain worse. In fact, a 2015 study examining back pain patients and best mattress firmness learned that a medium-firm mattress worked best to alleviate back pain.
How is mattress firmness measured?
It’s pretty easy to try out a mattress in the store for a few minutes and decide right then and there to buy it, but you won’t know how it really feels until you sleep on it for a few nights or even weeks. That’s one hurdle that bed in a box mattress brands have tried to overcome by introducing the sleep trial— these allow you to try out the mattress risk-free for 90-120 nights with the opportunity to return it within that time frame. Most of us buy a new mattress long after we’ve begun to experience aches and pains, and our bodies actually get used to sleeping a certain, albeit uncomfortable, way. That means when you finally get a new one, you need some time to adjust to the firmness.
Your dominant sleeping position can help you choose the right mattress, but other factors influence how the bed feels as well. Many companies use a firmness scale to relate to their customers just how firm or soft the mattress feels, but you can explore the density and ILD ratings for an even more comprehensive view.
The firmness scale is simple and straightforward— it runs from 1-10, with 1 being extremely soft and 10 being very firm (comparable to a futon bed). Most mattresses for sale today fall between 3-7 with a few exceptions.
A medium mattress falls right in the middle, between 5.5-6.5. Again, the feel depends on the brand, but most medium beds are within this firmness range. The medium-feel mattress is the most popular, probably because it appeals to side sleepers, combination sleepers, and couples; however, if you need something firmer, you should look for a mattress rated at 7 or above on the firmness scale.
Mattress ILD ratings are a bit more complex than the firmness scale, and while companies use them to measure mattress firmness, they don’t often advertise them for customers, simply because the firmness scale is easier to understand.
ILD stands for Indentation Load Deflection, and it refers to the amount of pressure needed to compress a layer of foam up to 25% of the mattress’ thickness (or 1 inch). This is done with a small, spherical weight. The heavier the weight needed to indent the mattress, the higher the ILD rating.
Most mattresses fall between 8-50 in terms of ILD measurement. However, since ILD ratings measure the firmness of the top foam layers, referring to the simpler firmness scale to understand the firmness of the mattress as a whole is easier.
Density and firmness are related, but they are not the same; these two mattress characteristics are often conflated because we assume a denser foam feels firmer. This is not necessarily the case.
A foam’s density is measured by how much it weighs (usually done by weighing one cubic foot of foam, or PCF). Foam density is either low, medium or high. High-density memory foam weighs more than 5 PCF and is usually found in the bottom base layers of a foam mattress.
Low-density memory foam is between 4-5 PCF, while low-density foam (usually in the top layers of the mattress), weighs less than 4 PCF. Low and medium-density foams are usually placed in the top layers, either as comfort layers or transition layers.
The thickness and placement of these varied-density foams determine the overall firmness of the mattress. For instance, a soft mattress typically uses 2-3 inches of low and medium-density foam in the top layers followed by 6-8 inches of high-density foam in the bottom. A firm mattress contains only 1-2 inches of softer foams in the top and 8 inches of high-density foam beneath that.
So, how do I know if a mattress is truly firm? Check the firmness scale and read up on all the layers of the mattress. Note that firmer beds are thinner because they incorporate fewer layers. Read customer reviews to get a realistic perspective of how firm the mattress feels.
Best and Worst Sleeping Positions for Firm Mattresses
We discussed earlier that sleep position has a huge impact on how your mattress feels— in fact, it may be the most important thing you consider when you shop around for a new bed.
A side sleeper will most likely be uncomfortable on a firm bed because their hips will not sink down at all, leaving their spine susceptible to misalignment.
Side sleeping is one of the most common ways to sleep, second only to combination sleeping (when the sleeper switches between two positions all night). There are a few variations of this position, but most side sleepers choose the fetal position— with their arms under their head and legs tucked slightly upward with knees bent.
If side sleepers are on a firm mattress, their arms may fall asleep, leading to that familiar “pins and needles” feeling. Their spines may also bow upwards, an unnatural and uncomfortable position for the back that leads to— you guessed it— back pain.
If I’m a side sleeper, should I choose a firm mattress? No, we do not recommend firm mattresses for side-sleepers. The best mattresses for side sleepers are medium or medium-soft— like the best-selling medium Amerisleep AS3 or medium-soft AS4.
Back sleeping is probably the healthiest way to sleep for spinal alignment. However, it can cause issues if you suffer from snoring or sleep apnea. Sleeping flat on your back closes off the airways, leading to obstruction. Those who suffer from these or similar conditions may find relief with a wedge pillow or high-loft pillow, which keeps the airways open.
As for mattresses, back sleepers typically find the most support and comfort on a medium or medium-firm bed. In particular, they should look out for a mattress with even support across the entire surface, since their backs will lie flat on the mattress. Avoid a mattress with thick comfort layers (more than 3 inches), since they can cause the hips to sink down too far, throwing things out of alignment.
If I’m a back sleeper, should I choose a firm mattress? Yes, back sleepers can be quite comfortable on a firm mattress, like the Amerisleep AS1. If you sleep on your back but you need a little more cushioning, choose a medium-firm mattress like the Amerisleep AS2, which Business Insider called the “best mattress for back pain.”
We do not recommend sleeping on the stomach because it leads to neck pain, back pain, and other issues that can develop into something more serious if left untreated. Your mattress should alleviate, not cause more pain issues, so if you are a die-hard stomach sleeper, choose your mattress carefully.
If a stomach sleeper uses a soft mattress, their entire body weight will press down on the comfort layers, potentially leading to sagging, which in turn leads to misalignment. What’s more, gravity will create painful pressure points and you might even wake up with pins and needles in your limbs!
If I’m a stomach-sleeper, should I choose a firm mattress? Yes. Stomach sleepers should sleep on a firm mattress allowing for very little give so as to avoid sinking too far and misaligning their spine, hips, or shoulders. Choose the AS1 or AS2, Amerisleep’s firm and medium-firm models.
Best Firm Mattress Types
Almost any mattress type— innerspring, foam, or hybrid— comes in varying firmness options to accommodate customers’ different needs. However, not all mattress types feel the same; if they did, we wouldn’t need so many!
Some mattresses feel naturally firmer than others and are also more responsive. That means they bounce back quickly with applied pressure, which can be a benefit or a downside depending on who is sleeping on them.
Memory Foam Mattresses
Memory foam is one of the most popular mattress types, largely thanks to the pressure relief it grants to anyone who chooses to sleep on it. A basic memory foam mattress has a layer of soft foam on the top, often referred to as the “comfort layer,” followed by a thick, stiff foam layer on the bottom. This foundational layer is the core of the mattress and it ensures the softer foam on top won’t sag.
Memory foam is popular with back pain-sufferers because it relieves pressure points and offers a balanced amount of cushioning and support. However, those with back pain should not choose a foam mattress softer than medium or firmer than medium-firm.
Typically, memory foam does not feel as firm as a basic innerspring mattress, but it’s still possible to find a very firm memory foam bed. Look for one that’s between 10-12 inches tall; a thinner mattress uses fewer materials, so the comfort layers will be thinner in a shorter bed.
Latex is another type of foam mattress; it feels similar to memory foam, but the way it’s produced is much different. It also has a slightly bouncier feel. Natural latex is eco-friendly because it comes from the sap of a rubber tree, which can be harvested for up to 20 years. Its manufacturing process is also very eco-friendly.
Synthetic latex feels similar to natural latex, but it does not last as long and its manufacturing process is not environmentally friendly. Both natural and synthetic latex feel slightly more firm than viscoelastic memory foam. Natural latex is available in two different types: Talalay and Dunlop. Talalay is softer and more often used in the comfort layers, while Dunlop is firm, dense, and goes in the bottom layers. A firm latex mattress may incorporate Dunlop in the upper layers as well.
Hybrid mattresses combine the pressure-relieving benefits of memory foam with the springy responsiveness of innersprings. They are available in various firmness levels, but the softest hybrid isn’t going to feel as soft as the softest memory foam mattress. That’s because a hybrid will always have a steel coil system at its base.
A basic hybrid mattress contains 2-3 inches of memory, latex, or poly-foam in the top comfort layer. Sometimes this comfort layer is covered in a thick pillow top or Euro top layer for extra edge support and aesthetic appeal. Then the base is made up of steel coils, which are sometimes wrapped in fabric for better motion isolation.
Hybrids have better temperature regulation than memory foam mattresses because of the coils in the base; however, these same coils are not as pressure-relieving as memory foam. The top comfort layers help, but may not be enough for someone with back pain or other illnesses.
Hybrid mattresses are bouncier than memory foam, and if you suffer from back pain, shoulder pain, or a related issue, a bouncy mattress can make sleep uncomfortable.
Innersprings have been around since the late 1800s and they’re still the most readily available and popular mattress type today. Like the other mattress types, innersprings are available in different firmness levels, but they have a much different feel than memory foam or hybrids.
A basic innerspring mattress has a relatively thin comfort layer or pillow top (1-2 inches), and directly underneath that is the coil base. Some innersprings have a thin layer of fabric or even plywood between the foam and coils, but not all. In short, innersprings are quite firm thanks to the nature and composition of their layers.
Other Considerations When Choosing a Firm Mattress
Your weight will obviously affect how a mattress feels because it accounts for all the pressure on the mattress; essentially, your body type determines which layers you will feel and how comfortable they feel, too.
For example, a heavier person shouldn’t choose a thin mattress (less than 12 inches thick) because their weight will compress the top layers to the point that they feel the stiff foam foundation or metal coils. If you’re heavier and you would like a firm mattress, choose a medium-firm model like the Amerisleep AS2. It’s 12 inches thick and it has three layers to provide plenty of stability and cushioning where you need it most.
Lightweight sleepers typically need extra cushioning because they don’t press down very far into the mattress, and so the medium AS3 might be a better fit for them.
Sleepers who suffer from chronic conditions such as lower back pain, scoliosis, arthritis, osteoporosis, Restless Leg Syndrome, sleep apnea and more have a little bit more to think about before they buy a new mattress. Some of these illnesses are exacerbated by poor sleep while others cause it. Either way, investing in a high-quality mattress can make sleeping with these conditions much easier.
If you suffer from a degenerative disease such as osteoporosis, arthritis, or scoliosis, you need a mattress with plenty of support and cushioning. A mattress deficient of either or both of these can result in even more pain every morning as you wake up.
According to a 2017 study published in the Pain Research and Treatment journal, at least 25% of chronic pain sufferers also deal with insomnia. Untreated sleep deprivation can lead to even more serious issues, such as obesity, heart disease, psychiatric diseases, and even higher mortality rates.
Recent studies suggest a medium-firm or even a firm mattress is best for chronic pain-sufferers because it allows for very little sinkage, which can throw things out of alignment. We recommend the Amerisleep AS2 or AS3 for those with degenerative, painful diseases. Additionally, think about using an adjustable base with your mattress; these give you the option to customize your posture, improve circulation, and decrease the risk of stiffness or pain.
Restless Leg Syndrome
Restless Leg Syndrome is characterized by uncontrollable twitching and muscle spasms, often concentrated in the legs but occurring in other limbs as well. RLS is especially disruptive to sleep since the only way to relieve the painful twitching is to move around.
If you suffer from this condition, a mattress with pressure relief is key to getting a good night’s sleep. While it certainly won’t cure your RLS, it can ease those pressure points causing your legs to tense up. A firm mattress with at least 2 inches of comfort foam in the top can help you avoid sinking down too far while offering cushioning. We recommend the medium AS3 for those with RLS or other muscle pains.
Sleep Apnea and Snoring
Next to insomnia, sleep-disordered breathing (SBD) is the most common sleep disorder affecting adults. SBD encompasses a few breathing problems, including snoring and sleep apnea. Both of these conditions disrupt sleep and can even lead to impaired cognitive function. Sufferers of SBD should look for a mattress with plenty of support— a mattress that sinks down too far causes the soft tissue in the throat to collapse, obstructing the airways.
With this in mind, choose a medium or medium-firm mattress with minimal cushioning. Your pillow loft (thickness) affects your breathing, too, so choose one with a medium to high loft to keep your head elevated.
Sleep trials, returns, and warranties
If the mattress you choose ends up being incompatible with your sleep preferences, you’ll most likely want to return it easily without any risk of losing your investment. Sleep trials are an effective way to try out the mattress at home and return it within a certain time frame for a refund.
Most online companies offer sleep trials with their mattresses— if a company does not offer a sleep trial, they usually have some kind of 30-day guarantee in its place. We always recommend a sleep trial over a customer guarantee, since one has more risk than the other.
Returns are typically offered in conjunction with the sleep trial periods; some companies will come and pick up the unwanted mattress for free and either recycle or donate it. Others charge you for this service (so you do lose some money in the end). Always read the return policy so you know about any extra charges a return may incur.
Finally, warranties show you exactly what the company will cover as far as damages and defects. A 10-year warranty is the mattress standard, but longer warranties do exist. Sometimes companies even offer lifetime warranties, although these aren’t necessary and usually serve as a marketing tactic more than a quality guarantee.
A basic mattress warranty usually covers the following things:
- Sagging or indentations below a certain depth (usually 1 inch)
- Rips or tears in the cover, pillow top, or foam
- Burst or broken coils
- Broken zippers
What is the best warranty, sleep trial, and warranty? Your mattress should come with a 10-year warranty, a sleep trial that lasts at least 90 days, and a warranty that covers sagging. Keep in mind that some warranties only cover deeper sags greater than one inch, and by that point, your mattress is probably unusable.
You’ve thought about all the logistics that go into replacing your old mattress, but now you need to consider how much you’ll spend on a new one. A few things will affect the cost of a mattress, and firm mattresses, in particular, are available in a range of budget options.
What makes a firm mattress more expensive?
- Cooling technologies: If the mattress incorporates gel memory foam, copper-infused foam, advanced open-cell foam, or other cooling properties, it may cost more than a basic foam or innerspring mattress.
- Hybrid construction: Hybrids, in general, are more expensive because they incorporate more materials than foam or innerspring beds.
- Wrapped coils instead of non-wrapped coils.
- Longer sleep trials or a more generous warranty (longer than 10 years).
- Eco-friendly materials: If a mattress is made with certified organic cotton, CertiPUR-US® foam, or plant-based materials, it may cost more than a basic model. For some, the lessened environmental impact is worth the extra cost.
What makes a firm mattress more budget-friendly?
- Fewer materials: In general, firm beds are thinner and thus, incorporate fewer materials (usually less foam). Firm mattresses are typically cheaper than softer mattresses.
The average queen-size mattress costs about $800-$1200, with some variation depending on the brand, materials, and so on. In general, high-quality firm mattresses will fall within the lower end of this price range because they don’t contain as many materials as softer beds. Be careful of super cheap beds costing $300 or less— they might seem like a great deal, but they are often made of cheaper foams like polyurethane foam and they break down much faster.
How long does a firm mattress last? The answer largely depends on the mattress type as well as how well you maintain it. Always use a mattress protector or encasement with your mattress to protect it from stains, spills, allergens, or dust mites. This will extend the mattress’s life and keep your warranty intact.
It’s a myth that a firm mattress lasts longer than soft one— as long as the mattress has a sturdy, supportive core, the firmness level shouldn’t affect how long the mattress lasts. The most reliable determinant of mattress lifespan is the mattress type.
|Mattress Type||Average Lifespan|
|Latex Foam||8-10 years|
|Memory Foam||7-8 years|
Is a firm mattress good for back pain?
Studies point to medium-firm mattresses as being the best for back pain. You can choose a specific firmness from most, if not all, mattress types, but keep in mind that some will relieve pressure better than others. Memory foam and latex are good options.
Do firm beds sleep cool or hot?
Mattress firmness doesn’t necessarily determine how hot or cool you will be when you sleep— instead, temperature regulation depends more on the mattress type. In general, foam mattresses trap more heat than innerspring beds unless they incorporate cooling technologies. Firm foam mattresses do use fewer comfort layers which, because they sink in more, are known to trap heat. So while you should always look for a breathable mattress, there is very little concern with sleeping hot on a firm bed.
Innersprings and hybrids naturally sleep cooler than basic foam beds because of the coil cores. These mattress types are also typically firmer than many memory or latex foam beds.
What is the firmest mattress?
It’s hard to know what the “firmest” mattress is without trying every mattress on earth— firmness is rather subjective. The easiest thing to do is choose the firm option on a mattress website and hope it feels truly firm, but this method comes with risks. Read mattress reviews from customers who have tried out the bed for at least 3 months— pay special attention to the reviews that mention specific issues, like sleeping with a partner, health problems, or chronic pain.
Are dual-sided mattresses good?
You may have noticed dual-sided or flippable mattresses in your search for a new bed. They have a soft side and a firm side, often marketed as “two mattresses in one.” Dual-sided mattresses were created for couples who have differing sleep preferences, but you can only sleep on one side at a time. Unless you find your sleeping preferences drastically changing, a dual-sided mattress isn’t necessary or worth the extra cost.
If you sleep with a partner who has different sleep preferences than you, choose a medium mattress— on the firmness scale, a medium mattress falls between 5.5 and 6.5, making it perfectly balanced and soft. The Amerisleep AS3 is the most popular model because it has this universally comfortable, 50/50 feel. It also prevents motion transfer, which is a common concern among couples.
Can a mattress topper make my mattress feel firmer?
Most of us are familiar with mattress toppers that add extra softness to a mattress, but are there any toppers that make a mattress feel firmer? While they aren’t as common or easy to find, they do exist. After all, some of us need more support than cushioning. Amerisleep’s Lift Support Layer uses the Affinity foam with HIVE® technology, which provides extra support where you need it and cushioning where you don’t.
Is a firm mattress right for me?
If you suffer from back pain, sleep on your back or stomach, or need extra support because of health conditions, consider a firm mattress. A firm mattress is not necessarily “uncomfortable”— in fact, many customers report getting the best sleep of their life on a firmer mattress because they offer so much support. If you’re thinking about getting a firm bed, consider your weight, health conditions, and sleep style to help you choose the absolute best mattress for your needs.
This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.