Plush vs Firm Mattress: What’s Best For You?

Last Updated On August 22nd, 2023
Plush vs Firm Mattress: What’s Best For You?

Mattress firmness comes down to the thickness of the comfort layers—the uppermost layers on a bed and what you’ll feel beneath you when sleeping. Plusher mattresses have thicker comfort layers and firmer mattresses have thinner comfort layers.

Plush and firm beds are on opposite ends of the mattress firmness scale—the mattress ranking system from 1 to 10, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the firmest. Choosing between a plush and a firm mattress primarily comes down to two factors: your body weight and sleeping position.

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What’s a Plush Mattress?

A plush mattress has a thick and cushiony comfort layer. Softer beds respond well under minimal body weight and have a luxuriously soft feel.

The extra padding of a plush bed is excellent for relieving pressure points and pain. Pressure relief is significant for side sleepers, whose shoulders and hips experience pressure build-up when sleeping. Therefore, the best mattresses for side sleepers are often plush to minimizes discomfort around the shoulders and hips while promoting proper spinal alignment.

If you change positions throughout the night, a plush mattress can work in your favor. That said, plush beds that are pillow top or Euro top mattresses may hinder movement slightly, with a sleeper’s body sinking into pillowy surface.

Similarly, individuals who struggle with joint or muscle pain—such as the elderly or people with chronic pain—may prefer a soft mattress to soothe discomfort and alleviate pressure.

Petite people who weigh less than 130 pounds usually sleep well on a plush mattress. Lighter people place less pressure on a bed, thus firm beds with minimal cushioning will only lead to pressure, pain, and difficulty sleeping. Since plush beds have lots of cushioning and respond well to minimal pressure, petite people won’t experience discomfort and potential pain.

Who Should Use a Plush Mattress?

  • Side sleepers
  • Combination sleepers
  • Petite people
  • Joint or muscle pain sufferers

What’s a Firm Mattress?

Firm mattresses have thin comfort layers and are primarily made out of support layers—stiff and durable mattress layers. Firm beds have very little give, meaning you won’t sink much in bed and won’t feel overly cradled.

Firm beds also provide excellent support to keep your spine aligned and prevent pain. While the mattress thickness of a firm mattress is usually thinner than a softer mattress, a well-made firm bed should still have ample supportive materials.

A bed with minimal cradling and lots of support works well for back and stomach sleepers. On softer beds, back and stomach sleepers are at risk of their hips sinking and throwing their spines out of alignment. This only leads to lower back pain, stiffness, and trouble sleeping. In most cases, the right mattresses for back sleepers are medium to medium-firm.

People who weigh over 230 pounds may also prefer a hard mattress over a plush one. Heavier people naturally place more pressure on their beds and need more pushback to stop them from bottoming out. For a large person, a firm bed won’t feel stiff; instead, it will cradle their body comfortably.

Who Should Use a Firm Mattress?

  • Stomach sleepers
  • Back sleepers
  • Overweight people


Try Amerisleep Mattresses

Quick Guide: A 30-Second Summary

Best Plush Mattress Amerisleep AS5
Best Firm Mattress Amerisleep AS1
Best Medium-Firm Mattress Amerisleep AS2

At Amerisleep, we offer nine different mattresses ranging from plush to firm. What sets us apart from other mattress brands are our eco-friendly materials, CertiPUR-US® certification, and great prices.

With every Amerisleep mattress, you receive free shipping and returns, a 100-night sleep trial, and a 20-year warranty.

Our Amerisleep AS5 is the softest model we offer, perfect for side sleepers who enjoy a luxuriously plush bed.

Mattress Highlights
  • Plant-based memory foam for soft, relaxing cushion
  • Active Flex comfortably offsets the memory foam top
  • Sturdy base foam and targeted support limits sinkage
Recommended For
  • Side sleepers
  • Petite, average, and plus-size sleepers
  • Hot sleepers

If you’re interested in a plush mattress, check out our Amerisleep AS5, the softest model we offer. The AS5 has a 14-inch profile and four layers—3 inches of Bio-Pur®, 2 inches of Active Flex, 2 inches of Affinity foam, and 7 inches of Bio-Core®.

All Amerisleep mattresses have a ventilated mattress cover. It’s built to dissipate heat and moisture so you don’t overheat or wake up in a cold sweat. The covers are also removable for easy care.

We made the top of the mattress with Bio-Pur® comfort foam, our proprietary plant-based memory foam. During the manufacturing process, we replace part of the petroleum oil with castor oil. This way, Bio-Pur® has minimal to no off-gassing and is naturally cooler than other types of memory foam.

Most soft beds are uncomfortable and unsupportive for large sleepers, but we added the Active Flex layer to our bed to make the bed usable for people of all sizes. Active flex adds softness and adaptability to the belt; it instantly cradles your body when you lay down, but if you shift positions or get out of bed, the layer quickly springs back to shape.

The AS5 contains the Affinity layer with HIVE® technology for zoned support, with hexagonal cutouts strategically placed to be softer around the shoulders and hips, but firm around the head, back, and legs. With this layer, the bed provides even support to your body and minimizes pressure point pain.

The Bio-Core® base is a supportive foam. It’s durable enough to support the upper layers and prevent the bed from sagging quickly.

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Our AS1 mattress is the firmest model we offer. It is so firm that it only suits a small pool of sleepers, providing the support stomach sleepers need to sleep comfortably.

Mattress Highlights
  • Refresh cover fabric transforms heat
  • Plant-based memory foam comfort
  • Thick, supportive base foam
Recommended For
  • Stomach sleepers
  • Heavier sleepers
  • Sleepers seeking a firm daybed mattress

The firmest mattress we offer at Amerisleep is the AS1 and it’s one of the best for stomach and back sleepers. The AS1 is 10 inches thick and has a two-layer design: 2 inches of Bio-Pur® and 8 inches of Bio-Core®. The bed features the same lightweight mattress cover as our other mattress models.

With a true firm mattress, sleepers won’t experience uncomfortable sinkage around the hips and lower back. Still, the AS1 mattress has a thin layer of Bio-Pur® to prevent pressure points around your joints.

With the majority of the AS1 being made from Bio-Core®, the bed is incredibly supportive. This layer enhances the bed’s firmness and supports your body. It also protects the bed from growing soft or saggy, even with nightly usage.

Save $450 on the Amerisleep AS1 with our discount code
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Some back and combination sleepers may find the AS1 too firm to suit their needs. For those sleepers, we recommend the more balanced feel of our AS2, which features targeted pressure-relieving cushion in the shoulders and hips.

Mattress Highlights
  • Plant-based memory foam layer for firm cushion
  • Five zones of targeted support and pressure relief
  • Structural base foam provides sag-free support
Recommended For
  • Back sleepers
  • Select stomach and combination sleepers
  • Plus-size individuals

If you need a firmer bed, but a true firm bed doesn’t meet your personal preference, a medium-firm may be better. The AS2 is our medium-firm model and works well for back sleepers, people with back pain, and stomach sleepers.

The bed is 12 inches tall and contains:

  • 2 inches of Bio-Pur®
  • 3 inches of Affinity with HIVE®
  • 7 inches of Bio-Core® base

You may be wondering how the AS2 is any softer than the AS1 considering their comfort layers are the same thickness. However, the Affinity layer with HIVE® adds extra cushioning to the AS2 to relieve pressure and support the lumbar spine.

The Bio-Core® base supports the two other layers while resisting sags and soft spots.

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Other Mattress Firmness Options

Firm and soft mattresses aren’t necessarily right for everyone, so shoppers may want to consider their other options. Some shoppers enjoy medium mattresses most of all, thanks to their versatility. We have guides comparing medium mattresses to firm and soft feels:

There are also medium-soft and medium-firm mattresses offered for in-between feels.


Are firm beds uncomfortable?

No, firm beds should not be uncomfortable so long as they are compatible with your sleeping position and size.

When you get a new firm mattress, it may initially feel uncomfortable, especially if you were previously using a softer mattress. In this case, we recommend continuing to use your mattress for at least 30 days—the average adjustment period for a new mattress.

If you are still experiencing problems with your firm mattress after 30 days, it’s likely best to replace your mattress with something softer.

Are plush beds bad for you?

There’s a common misconception that firm beds are good for you while plush beds are bad for you, but this is untrue. Plush beds and firm beds are simply suited for different sleepers.

If you are petite, a combination sleeper, or side sleeper, plush mattresses should offer a good level of cushioning for your needs. However, if you sleep on your stomach or back, the cushioning and sinkage may cause your spine to curve unnaturally, thus leading to pain and discomfort.

Do firm mattresses last longer?

Most mattresses last about 7 to 10 years, regardless of it being plush or firm. Your mattress firmness does not play a role in its lifespan.

The crucial factor in your mattress’s longevity is its construction and what it’s made from. Your mattress’s support layer—the layer built to prevent sagging and wear—should make up at least 50 percent of your mattress’s construction.

So, if your mattress is 12 inches thick, the support layer should be no thinner than 6 inches. Any less than this can lead to rapid wear and sagging, meaning you’ll have to replace your mattress sooner.

Do hotels use plush or firm mattresses?

Most hotel mattresses are within the medium to the medium-firm range. Such extreme mattress firmnesses—such as plush or firm—are unlikely to suit a majority of guests, leading to complaints. Medium and medium-firm mattresses are more of a middle ground for most people, thus being suitable for hotels.

Which mattress firmness is best?

There is no best level of firmness, so the “best” firmness for one person can be the worst for another person. Different mattress firmnesses are available to suit a variety of needs, including your sleeping position, size, and whether or not you share your bed.


While plush and firm mattresses can be great, remember that plush and firm are not the options available. They are on either end of the mattress firmness scale, but you can find different firmnesses within this scale, including medium-soft, medium, and medium-firm beds. These beds offer less extreme features and the average person usually sleepers better on them.

About the author

April Mayer is a sleep expert and writer with a degree in exercise physiology. She has dedicated her career to exploring the relationship between sleep and productivity. Her insightful articles, such as "The Surprising Way Your Mood Might Be Messing With Your Productivity" and "Wake Up to More Productive Mornings," have been featured in reputable publications like Forbes, Greatist, Real Homes, Thrillist, Tom's Guide, and Eat This, Not That. With a passion for helping others lead more productive lives through restful sleep, April offers valuable expertise on foods and vitamins for better sleep. As a trusted member of the Early Bird team since March 2020, she continues to provide informative and well-researched content.

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