Around 50-70 million Americans suffer from a lack of proper sleep.
For many, it's a chronic issue, but everyone can try to improve the situation with the right mattress for their needs. A mattress that's too hard or soft for you could cause back pain.
This leads to discomfort and further lack of sleep, and the cycle will continue this way. What can make it worse is that there are so many choices on the market. It can be impossible to determine what mattress is best for your body.
That's where JaxCo can help!
What is Mattress Firmness?
Many people have the misconception that support and firmness ratings are the same. There is a direct correlation, and they depend on each other, but they are different.
Firmness relates to how hard the mattress is, as a basic definition. Does it feel soft or hard? You want to ask yourself as you sit on and try them out.
This is subjective and will be different for every person. Still, while it differs for each person, it's something essential for buyers. It'll determine the expected comfort levels and the support that the mattress has.
Why Should You Care About Firmness?
Mattress firmness is a key characteristic that helps you make a decision. Not only does it tell you the comfort you should expect, but it also impacts the level of support. This is crucial.
Firmness dictates most of the functions your mattress will perform. From how much it supports your body to how comfortable you are in your sleeping position. Almost every part of the mattress performance is set by firmness.
A Soft vs. Hard Mattress: What is the Mattress Firmness Scale?
Mattress firmness refers to how it feels when you lay down on it. Do you sink into it or rest right on the top? Do you get a lot of pushback, or does it mold to the curves of your body? These questions help you work out if it's soft, medium, or firm.
To help explain this critical factor, the mattress industry has a firmness scale. This scale ranges from 1 to 10, with one being the softest and ten being the firmest.
A score of 6.5/10 would rank as medium-firm by industry standards. Here is more information on what soft, medium-firm, and firm should feel like. It should give you a starting point to work out what to look for when visiting stores or websites.
1-2/10 (Ultra Soft)
A mattress will rarely come with a rating of 1/10 on the scale. This is because it'll be too soft to sleep well on. In addition, there would be too much sinkage and little to no support.
While a 2/10 is more realistic and does exist on the market, it could still have support issues. For the average sleeper, it won't give enough, and there would still be significant sinkage.
Soft mattresses usually fall in at 3-5/10 on the firmness scale. They often use cushioning materials like thick memory foam or quilted pillow toppers. These will often make up the top layer of the mattress.
You'll often be able to spot them as they have a deep sinking feeling, relieve pressure, and mold to your body. You won't get much push back here, so you'll feel more like you're laying on the mattress than on it.
Softer mattresses are the preference of people who only sleep on their side. This is especially the case if they're memory foam. But they can also offer relief and comfort for people who have sore shoulders, hips, and lower backs.
6-7/10 is the usual range for medium-firm mattresses. They'll often combine the soft, cushioned top layers but on a firmer foundation. In most cases, these are either pocketed coils or dense poly-foam.
These mattresses have a mix of pressure relief and support, which appeals to a wide range of sleepers. You might sink a little on a medium-firm mattress, but more likely, you'll feel lifted upwards and more on top of the bed.
Because of this, they're great for people who sleep on their backs or combine back and side sleeping. However, these sleepers need extra mobility, which isn't always there with soft mattresses.
Finally, 8-10/10 mark the firm mattresses on the scale. You rarely find soft, plush padding on the comfort layers of these mattresses. Instead, they have a thin foam layer on top of springs or dense poly-foam.
Because of this, these mattresses offer high levels of support. Each part of your body should lift and rest flat against the top of the bed. As a result, you should feel a lot of pushback with these mattresses.
10/10 (Ultra Firm)
Like a 1/10, you're not likely to find 10/10 on the market. But, if you do see one, you should know there won't be any pressure relief. The pushback will be heavy and may be too hard to get comfortable on.
What Is One Firmness Fits All?
One firmness fits all is the phrase used to mark mattresses that will suit most sleepers. Generally, around 80% of sleepers would suit mattresses within the 5-7 range on the scale. Bearing this in mind, we can assume 6/10 is the score most people would look at first.
Because firmness is subjective, some people say there can't be a one-size-fits-all mattress. There could be truth to this, and we always recommend trying a mattress before committing to it. But, if you're starting and don't know what to start with, 6/10 could be the starting point.
Remember that firmness is only one considered to have. A firm bed doesn't always guarantee great support. There is the quality of materials used which affects how the bed performs. This is a strong reason why a firm mattress doesn't give the right level of support.
Other Considerations to Take Into Account
One of our biggest mattress buying tips is not to focus only on the firmness scale. When it comes to choosing the right mattress firmness, there are some other things to consider too. Let's take a look at them below.
This is one of the most subjective factors for mattress shopping. What feels comfortable to you might not to someone else, even your partner.
Do you usually like firm or soft beds, or are you happier in between? Thinking about your mattress and mattresses in hotels you've stayed in is an excellent place to start.
Your Body Type
The physical weight and size of a sleeper determine how each firmness level feels. In general, larger people prefer firmer mattresses. Softer ones make them sink too far and don't provide enough support.
On the other side, lighter people often sink less into softer mattresses. As a result, they provide enough support, and firmer mattresses can feel too rigid and stiff.
How You Sleep
What position you sleep in will affect how each firmness level feels for you. Stomach and back sleepers more often prefer firmer mattresses. Side sleepers want something softer in most cases. Of course, each person is different, but it's a good place to start.
Men are generally heavier than women and as we've seen with weight, firmer is often better. This is because it will prevent spinal misalignment. This is crucial if you want to avoid long-term back issues.
Women's bodies have a more subtle structure and need high levels of support. A medium-firm mattress that tailors to how you sleep will get the best results.
Mattresses that help with back pain are the same that suit stomach and side sleepers. You want a firmness rating of 5-8, depending on your weight. In addition, you must support your lower back and avoid contorting it.
For hip pain, improper spinal alignment can be a cause, and even if it isn't, it won't help your existing pain. Instead, it would help if you considered a medium-firm mattress or even soft, so you get the proper support for the lower back and hip area.
There is a range of issues behind shoulder pain, but a mattress that's too firm is a common cause. This is especially true for people who prefer to sleep on their sides. In this case, you're looking at a firmness rating of 3-5.
What Your Partner Prefers
If you share the bed with your partner, you must also consider their preferences. This includes their answers to all the considerations above. Most couples need to compromise, and a medium-range of 4-6 seems to work for most.
If you're both opposites, you might need a specialized mattress. Some manufacturers let you customize each side. Others have options to adjust the firmness, to change it as required.
How Exactly Does Sleeping Position Factor In?
We've mentioned sleeping positions already, but they're so important we'll expand on them. Check out these positions.
Sleeping On Your Back
People who sleep on their backs are interesting as their needs sit in the middle of front and side sleepers. If the mattress is too firm, they might get too much pinching and tension in the lower back. If it's too soft, the hips will dip and not align with their shoulders.
Because of this, back sleepers often get the best quality of sleep with a medium-firm mattress. It will keep the spine in the correct position and allow for comfort along the entire back. It will also help relieve the pressure and pain from arthritis and fibromyalgia.
The industry standard is 6.5 for medium-firm mattresses, so look around that firmness rating. As for the type of mattress, we'll look into that in more detail, but a hybrid is an excellent place to start. This is a mattress that uses both coil layers and foam to give a balance of sink and bounce.
Sleeping on Your Side
Side sleepers find it a little harder to get the right level of firmness and comfort. They need a soft mattress that lets them sink in for pressure relief on the hips, lower back, and shoulders.
Here a mattress that gives zone support is great as they're softer at the shoulders to give relief. At the hips, though they're firmer, helping the spine stay in alignment. This can provide better support to the lower back and hips.
Side sleepers should look for a mattress in the 4-6 range on the firmness scale. Side sleepers still need the support, of course, but they also need those thick layers of foam to fall into.
This cushions the joints preventing the pressure points from getting too tense or jammed up. For this reason, memory foam would be the best choice. It's known to contour to the body, bringing sinkage and pressure relief.
Sleeping on Your Stomach
On the opposite side, stomach sleepers need firm mattresses to lift and support them. This is to avoid the discomfort of the lower back bowing down. It's imperative for these sleepers to keep their shoulders and hips level.
If the spine doesn't remain in neutral alignment, you face both long and short-term back pain. To avoid this, you want to look for a firmness rating of 8-9. But, like side sleepers, stomach sleepers still need a comfortable mattress.
Innerspring or hybrid mattresses can work well if they have a thin cushion layer built-in. They'll provide the right level of support stomach sleepers need. But that extra padding will ensure the comfort is there for a good night's sleep.
Types of Mattresses
Now we've looked at the firmness ratings, and what to look for when using them, we'll look at mattress types. The material used can affect firmness, so it's another important consideration.
Traditional Spring (Open Coil)
The cheapest mattress on the market is the open coil. Usually, you won't expect to pay more than $400-$500 for one of these, and they're made for the entry-level market. Other names you might see them called include:
- Offset coils
- Bonnell coils
- Continuous wire coil
- Traditional coil
These mattresses use an open coil spring unit. Here the springs are one continuous wire that's coiled into a spring. They are quick and cheap if you're in a pinch but won't offer much support, especially long term.
Memory foam mattresses are next on the list, and you might see them called mattresses in a box. These are around the mid-price point level at around $400-$700. The design uses synthetic foam layers to make a one-sided mattress.
It can be a divisive material, though and after 25+ years on the market, people either love or hate them. The way memory foam mattresses work is by molding to your body shape over time as you sleep. The open-cell foam will trap your body heat, causing it to soften.
It's recommended that you get a mattress topper for these mattresses to help elongate their lifespan. There is a range of firmness ratings to choose from and most will say what position they suit best. But again, it's always best to try before you buy.
Hybrid mattresses mix some of the new upholstery types to solve some of the issues with memory foam. You'd expect to spend around $600 - $800 for one of these.
Some hybrids have a cooler foam that they use, like Igel, Laygel, or Coolblue. This addresses the fact that memory foam can cause sleepers to feel too hot during the night.
They may also have pocket springs or castellated foams. Castellated foams are layers cut into matrixes, shapes, or ridges to give some bounce. The aim is to provide you a balance of pocket spring support and memory foam pressure relief.
The only issue is that you can't turn them over like memory foam as they're one-sided. It's worth getting a topper to extend the lifespan a little longer.
Pocket spring mattresses could be the most popular mattresses on the market. They offer the best flexibility regarding durability, comfort, and support. To get this, though, you're looking at paying $600 - $1,000+.
When tested and in reviews, nothing else on the market has outshined pocket spring. Most experts would consider this the best type of mattress and one that will suit most types of sleepers.
These mattresses use a spring support system. On top, there is a layer of different upholstery. Next, individual springs get wrapped in polyester or natural calico.
Each spring can react independently, unlike traditional springs that all move together. The benefit of this is that your body gets support where it needs it most and tailors to your shape. In addition, it won't leave a permanent body print over time, unlike memory foam.
There is also less movement and transference between sleepers, which will reduce rolling. Because the springs are independent, you can mix tensions and wire thicknesses. This spring gauge lets you pick tensions that will work with your body weight.
To get the correct tension though, you shouldn't go on the feel. This should relate to your weight only. It is the upholstery layering on the top that will give you the feel of the mattress, so don't let that put you off.
Latex mattresses offer a more sophisticated option than the synthetic heat-retaining models. But you must ensure you get one that is 100% natural latex. Some latex mattresses will use synthetic latex without making that clear.
But it is getting that natural latex will come at a price, and you're looking at $1,000+. Natural latex's goal is to solve the heat retention that comes with other synthetics. But, the more synthetic the latex, the more heat it will keep, so it won't solve your issues.
Natural latex is excellent and gives you that slow sink without any response issues. The same can't be said for slow response memory foam or hybrid models. Natural latex is more breathable and only needs the pressure to mold to you, not any heat.
You'll get a much more comfortable and consistent night's sleep. In addition, these mattresses work well for sports injuries or sensitive pressure point pains. They provide that deep sink needed to offer the proper support for those pains and aches.
Again, there is hardly any transference between sleepers, so there is no rolling. You can turn them over; some people report a lifespan of up to 25 years if they're well cared for. So while the price tag is high, it's worth considering if you're looking for a long-term investment.
The Right Mattress Firmness Can Revolutionize Your Sleep
Getting the right mattress firmness is something many people struggle with. But with time and research, once you get it right, you'll find your sleep is a different experience.
Don't only rely on the firmness scale to make your choice. Think about your sleeping position and body shape, and consider your partner if you share a bed.
There are also your personal preferences to consider, as well as any pain you have ongoing. And most of all, always test a mattress before you commit to getting an idea of how it feels.
Check out our catalog today if you're looking for your next mattress. At JaxCo Furniture, we dedicate ourselves to providing mattresses and furniture you can love and trust.