Finding the right mattress is essential to sleeping well each night. One of the most important factors to consider when choosing a mattress is firmness. The best mattress for you provides the perfect combination of support and comfort. But there’s no one firmness level that’s right for everyone. You’ll have to consider a number of factors to choose the right mattress firmness for you.

What is Mattress Firmness?

Mattress firmness describes how a mattress feels when you lay on it. Mattresses generally range from very soft, where the sleeper sinks into the bed, to very firm, where the sleeper lays on top without sinking in at all.

The correct mattress firmness is entirely subjective. Some people sleep better on a soft mattress, where others find they get a better night’s sleep when they lay firmly on top of their bed.

Mattress Firmness Scale

Mattresses typically range from extra soft to extra firm. Each person’s right firmness level depends on many factors, including their size, sleeping style, and personal preference. The different firmness levels are often described as a ten-point scale, where one is the softest and ten is the firmest.

Extra soft

An extra soft mattress falls at the very low end of the mattress firmness scale. It’s not very common to find a mattress that’s a one on the scale because they rarely deliver enough support. Sleepers can expect to sink quite far into this bed.


After the extra soft mattress is soft. These types of mattresses are very plush, and many people find them comfortable. Soft mattresses are especially well-suited to side-sleepers. Like an extra soft mattress, you can expect to sink into a soft mattress.


A medium-firm mattress is a good balance of both soft and firm, which is why many sleepers prefer them. These mattresses fall right in the middle of the firmness scale. They provide the structure of a firm mattress but still offer a soft sleep and allow you to sink in a little.


Firm mattresses make for a much harder sleep surface. These beds generally provide the most support, and you won’t find yourself sinking into it much. While they aren’t as plush as a soft mattress, many people still find them more comfortable to sleep on. These mattresses are especially good for back sleepers and stomach sleepers.

Extra Firm

All the way on the high end of the firmness scale is the extra firm mattress. Many people will find this type of mattress to be far too hard to sleep on. They often have no cushion, and you won’t sink in at all.

How to Choose Your Mattress Firmness

With so many mattress firmness levels to choose from, it can be difficult to know which to choose. And considering you’ll be sleeping on it for years to come, many people feel overwhelmed making this decision. There are several factors to consider when choosing the right mattress firmness.

Sleeping position

One of the biggest factors to consider when choosing a mattress is how you typically sleep at night. Those who sleep on their side typically prefer a softer mattress since it provides joint and pressure relief on their shoulders and hips.

Single vs. couples

When you’re sharing a bed with someone else, you’ve got to take their preferences into account as much as your own. Unless both partners strongly agree on either a soft or firm mattress, a medium-firm mattress can often provide both support and comfort for both people.


The right mattress firmness for you depends partially on your weight. Heavier individuals might feel that a soft mattress doesn’t provide the support they need. On the other hand, very light individuals may find that they aren’t as comfortable on a firm mattress.


If you suffer from body pain, the type of mattress you choose can either make it better or worse. People with back pain often don’t get the necessary support from a soft mattress. On the other hand, someone who sleeps on their side may get hip or shoulder pain from sleeping on a firm mattress.


Soft mattresses can cause you to sink in quite a bit when you’re lying down. Older individuals and those with mobility issues might find it challenging to get up from a soft mattress. If you struggle in this area, you might prefer a firmer mattress.

Comfort preference

Ultimately some people are more comfortable on a certain type of mattress. Some people love the feeling of sinking into their bed, while others are more comfortable resting on top of it.

What is Universal Firmness

Some mattress companies have begun using what they call “universal firmness.” Instead of offering mattresses at different levels of the firmness scale, they offer a single firmness level that will be comfortable for most people. In reality, these mattresses simply fall in the middle of the firmness scale, where most people prefer to sleep. But if you like a very soft or very firm bed, they likely won’t be universally comfortable for you.

Is firmness the same as support?Many people find that firm mattresses provide more support. But the reality is that firmness and support aren’t the same thing. A soft mattress can be supportive, just as a firm mattress can lack support. It also depends significantly on where you need the support.
What is the best firmness for a mattress?There’s no one right firmness level for everyone. Some people prefer very soft mattresses, while others prefer very firm ones. Most people fall somewhere in the middle, with a medium mattress being the most popular.
What if I buy the wrong mattress firmness?Most companies offer trial periods during which you can return your mattress for a full refund. That way, if you buy a mattress that doesn’t work for you, you can return it and buy one that’s a better fit.