Get Better Sleep: How to Choose the Right Mattress Firmness

The firmness of a new mattress is a huge factor in how comfortable it is and can make or break a great night’s sleep. When buying a new mattress, it…

Last Updated On March 7th, 2023
Get Better Sleep: How to Choose the Right Mattress Firmness

The firmness of a new mattress is a huge factor in how comfortable it is and can make or break a great night’s sleep.

When buying a new mattress, it is important to find one that fits your exact needs. When surveyed, 92% of people said that a comfortable mattress was important to getting a good night’s sleep. Comfort is directly associated with how firm or plush a mattress is. Of course, there are other factors in how comfortable a mattress is, but this article is going to walk you through how a mattress’s firmness plays into comfort.

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Before, when we discussed how to choose the right mattress for your needs, we touched on the importance of getting the proper support while sleeping. Now we want to share in depth how to get the perfect firmness for every way you sleep.

The Importance of Proper Support

While most people equate a firm mattress with being more supportive, this is not exactly true. There is a difference between firmness and support. Support comes from having your spine in the proper alignment.

For example, if you are a side sleeper, you’ll need to allow your mattress to conform to your body. Having your hip and shoulder sink into the bed slightly while your core is elevated will allow your spine to be in perfect alignment. The most comfortable mattresses will help you fall asleep faster and sleep through the night easier.

Having the softest bed possible may seem like the ultimate goal, but don’t be fooled. Proper support can help rid your aches and pains. If your body is properly supported throughout the night, you’ll wake easier because your body didn’t have to strain itself to be comfortable the entire night.

Brands that advertise mattresses as “orthopedic” aren’t anything special. The Sleep Council explains that orthopedic mattresses are just extra firm beds. They claim that they support joints better, but any mattress that suits your sleep style is going to do that compared to just an extra firm mattress.

How to Determine Your Sleep Style

Cap nap
Photo by Basil Gloo, Flickr

Most people fall into one of three main categories for sleeping styles. These are side, stomach or back. If you find yourself sleeping in multiple positions, then you’re a combination sleeper.

Note what position you find comfortable to fall asleep in and how you wake up to better understand what sleeping style you fall in to. Knowing this before looking at mattresses will be helpful. Once you know how you’re sleeping, you can find a bed that caters to your sleep style.

Here are some general rules that can help you in your search for the perfect mattress.

  • Side sleepers: Look for a mattress that supports your side, but also lets your shoulder and hip sink in a bit. Your spine should be in line with the ground. Bending too much up or down vertically will engage your pressure points and make sleeping not as easy. Side sleepers tend to prefer a softer mattress.
  • Back sleepers: Keeping your back as natural as possible is key. When you’re lying down on your back, your spine should mimic how you typically stand. Usually, back sleepers prefer a firmer mattress. Plus, the best beds for back pain are usually a medium-firm.
  • Stomach sleepers: Like back sleepers, people who sleep on their stomach want their back to be in a natural position. Your upper body needs to supported so it doesn’t sink down and cause neck or back pain. As with sleeping on your back, a firmer mattress tends to keep your spine better aligned.
  • Combo sleepers: If you find yourself getting comfortable in multiple positions, find a mattress for combination sleeping that can suit all of your needs well. A medium-firm mattress will probably be the right balance of contour and support.

Go With What’s Comfortable

The final deciding factor for your mattress firmness is how it feels to you. Test out as many beds as possible before making your decision on firmness. These beds aren’t necessarily going to be one of the ones your going to buy, but they’ll give you a better understanding of what firmness you should be looking for.

Every mattress brand has a different scale for firmnesses, so what you might like about one company’s firmness might not translate to another. Make sure that you have a solid understanding of what firmness you like from multiple companies so that you’re making the most informed decision. If you’re considering an online mattress, you may also want to skim customer reviews to see what they say about the bed’s feel.

Testing a mattress in a mattress store, or buying one online, isn’t going to give you a full picture of how you’ll sleep. Before you buy, see what the company’s return policy is. You don’t want to be stuck with a bed that causes you to have more pain than before.

A sleep trial is imperative when you’re in the market for a new bed, especially if you’re buying an online mattress.

Mattress Firmness

It can, however take up to four weeks to adjust to a different style of mattress. Say you found the best memory foam mattress for you (it has the best reviews, highest-quality foam, and a fantastic warranty) it can still take a few weeks for your body to adjust to the new bed. If you’re switching to memory foam from an innerspring mattress, your body might need to adjust to the new style of support it offers. If you’re sleeping poorly, it may be increasing any pain you’re having.

Finding the right firmness for your mattress is a process. Don’t stress if it takes a while to dial in exactly what you find comfortable and uncomfortable. Take time and relax, choosing the right firmness will only help you get better sleep.

Have any questions about proper mattress support? What type of mattress do you prefer based on your sleep style?

About the author

Stacy Liman is a journalism graduate student and a freelance writer with a focus on mindfulness and content marketing. Stacy enjoys discovering new mattresses and connecting people with their perfect bed, but she more so enjoys understanding and writing about the science of sleep to help people get deeper, healthier rest.

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