Mattress Firmness Scale: Everything You Need to Know!

Romeo Vitelli
Romeo Vitelli
Expert Writer
Received his doctorate in Psychology in 1987, spent fifteen years as a staff psychologist in Millbrook Correctional Centre. In 2003 went into full-time private practice. read more
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Medical Advisory Team
Medical Advisory Team
Includes well-known professionals, who together provide decades of sleep medicine experience that enables Talk About Sleep to fulfill its mission of creating access to high- read more
Last updated: August 20, 2023
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No doubt, a mattress is one of the essential things you consider when setting up your bedroom.

At the same time, it can be quite tricky for you to decide on how firm your mattress should be.

Because it is all a matter of preference, you want to use the mattress firmness scale to determine the best product for your bedroom.

You will also have in mind that a variety of factors (including your body weight and shape) could influence the firmness of your preferred mattress.

In this article, you will learn more about the mattress firmness rating guide so you can quickly figure out what you need.

What is Mattress Firmness?

So, what is this mattress firmness that many homeowners are talking about? Many potential buyers out there are not sure what this firmness scale means, and that means they may never get to appreciate how important it is.

Simply put – the firmness of a mattress implies the initial feeling of comfort you experience when lying on the mattress.

That is why we say that the preferences may differ by different buyers because what Buyer A considers to be firm is what another calls “hard”.

The subjective nature of this subject means that many potential buyers will have a lot of time to spend trying to figure out just how firm the bed should be.

We would like to clarify some points, so you don’t make some mistakes as you try to decide on a mattress to buy based on the firmness.

The first point to note is that the firmness of the mattresses has to do with the hardness of the bed. Several mattress manufacturers have come up with different firmness levels to make it simpler for you to determine the softness of the bed.

Second and most important – don’t mistake the fitness of the mattress to be the same as the support. They are two different concepts, which though they may seem similar, are not the same. You will find out more about the differences between the support and the firmness of a mattress in the latter part of this article.

Mattress Firmness Scale: Everything You Need to Know!

Why Is It So Important?

You may know a couple of homeowners who are bent on buying a firm mattress. You will be wondering why they are so decisive.

Is there any special benefit that comes with sleeping on a firm mattress? Isn’t it like every other mattress you can find out there?

It appears that there are many positive benefits that firmness mattresses have to offer – benefits that you just can’t ignore.

Here are some of the reasons that support the importance/relevance of firm mattresses:

  1. The Firmness Supports the Bed

One of the many reasons why potential buyers take time to go through the mattress firmness rating guide is because the firmer the mattress is, the high the support it provides the bed.

You wouldn’t want to fall off the bed while resting or sleeping. So, it makes sense that you invest in a mattress that is firm and can have a serious impact on the bed.

  1. The Firmness is All-Inclusive

Now, this isn’t just about you. You wouldn’t want to miss out on the many benefits of a firm mattress, especially when you know how inclusive it can be.

Ideally, the firmness of a mattress has an impact on most of the important features of the mattress.

Can One Mattress Fit All Sleepers?

This is where things can get tricky. You want to confirm if people of different body sizes and sleeping positions can use the same type of mattress.

Indeed, it may not be so good an idea because different sleepers tend to have different definitions of firmness.

Thus, it is pertinent to consider several factors that could help in balancing the differences in mattress firmness.

Here are some of the things to consider before deciding if one firmness fits all mattress is what you need.

  1. Firmness Scale of 5 to 7

Some sleepers prefer to sleep on a mattress that has its firmness between 5 and 7. The reason for that is not unconnected to the fact that about 80% of sleepers would prefer sleeping on a bed that its firmness scale is between 5 and 7.

Generally, the assumption is that such a mattress firmness scale would suit the needs of a wide range of sleepers.

  1. A Medium Feel Firmness Could be a Better Option

Now, there is a category of sleepers who wouldn’t buy into the idea of a mattress that fits everyone.

For this set of sleepers, the option they prefer the most is if the mattress can provide them a medium feel.

  1. The Juxtaposition between Firmness and Support

Once more, the age-long argument on the difference between support and firmness of a mattress comes to play.

Some potential mattress buyers tie the firmness they expect from the mattress to the support of the bed – thereby making it quite challenging to differentiate between the two.

So, if you must buy a mattress based on firmness, do well to be sure that the type of bed you are paying for can provide the needed support.

If you are looking for a new mattress, our top recommendation is the AMERISLEEP AS3 Memory Foam model that will impress you with the amount of support it provides.

Difference between Firmness and Support

Mattress Firmness Scale: Everything You Need to Know!This is one of the aspects of selecting a mattress that could be confusing. Many potential buyers are confused about the differences between the firmness and support of a mattress.

Some have gone on to believe that the two are the same thing. We are here to let you know that there are many differences between the firmness and the support of a mattress.

And although they may share some characteristics, it still doesn’t make them synonymous.

To help you understand this better, here are some of the clear differences between mattress firmness and mattress support.

Firmness is an Immediate Feeling

Do you know that feeling you get immediately you lie on your bed/mattress? Yes, that feeling!

That feeling is what we call firmness because the firmness of a mattress has to do with the immediate feeling you get when you lay on it.

Support is all About Your Spine Alignment

You are not just lying on your mattress to rest for a while or to sleep for hours. You are also considering the state of your spine while you rest or sleep.

That is where the support of a mattress comes into the picture. When someone says that a mattress has support, it simply means that the mattress has what it takes to keep your spine in alignment.

So, when you lay on a mattress, and it seems your spine is not in place, just know that the bed doesn’t have support.

Another important difference to take note of is that the firmness and the support of a mattress should be balanced. It is vital to have that in mind when shopping for a firm mattress because if the two aren’t balanced, it may lead to different pressure points. In the end, you will not enjoy your purchase because the various pressure points will render the mattress counterproductive.

Firmness Scale

Do you know that there are different ways to determine the firmness of a mattress? Using a mattress firmness rating guide is an excellent way of determining that.

Before we get into the meat of it, let us mention that the firmness scale is usually measured in the following areas:

  • Extra soft;
  • Soft;
  • Medium-soft;
  • Medium-firm/hard and;
  • Extra hard.

Each of those latex mattress firmness guides points out the different levels of firmness that the mattress has.

In most cases, people prefer to buy mattresses that are between the firmness levels of soft and medium-firm.

But, of course, it is all a matter of preference. So, we present to you some of the popular mattress firmness levels and what they mean.

Mattress Firmness Scale: Everything You Need to Know!Extra Soft

This is the first level of softness you will find in mattresses. The caveat is that you may not completely enjoy sleeping on a mattress that is extra soft because it doesn’t seem to have some levels of firmness in it.

So, you should expect to sink at some points while sleeping on the bed. That informs the reason why many mattress manufacturers aren’t so committed to making mattresses that have their firmness levels at 1 out of 10.


The second category of mattress firmness levels is called ultra-soft. This firmness level is usually used to describe mattresses that have their firmness levels at 2 out of 10.

As much as an ultra-soft mattress is a bit more realistic than the extra soft, it still doesn’t rule out the fact that it doesn’t have enough support.

The incredible softness of this type of mattress makes it quote incapable of providing the type of support that will stabilize the support from shaking or coming apart while you sleep.

Besides, there is an increased chance that you wouldn’t be comfortable, just as you will be indirectly setting up your spine to be hurt.

Very Soft

Well, this is a lot better than the two previous mattress levels we just reviewed. The Very Soft mattress scale is used to rate beds that have up to 3 out of 10 on the rating scale.

Now, we must mention that mattresses that score 3 out of 10 are not only considered very soft. They are also the best type of mattress for people who sleep on their sides. And the reason for that is that the mattress is usually made of memory foam, which is required for applying deep pressure relief to the spine.


Soft mattresses are the ones that score 4 out of 10. They are not only soft – but they also provide a more balanced feel to your body when sleeping or resting.

Worthy of mention, too, is that soft mattresses usually have a sinkage that ranges between 1.5 to 3 inches.

Note that you can find soft mattresses in two major variants, which are:

  • A traditional deep contour memory foam and
  • A deep cushion hug

Above all, it would be in your best interest to invest in a soft mattress only if you sleep on your side – because mattresses for side sleepers aren’t best for people that sleep on their stomach or back.

Mattress Firmness Scale: Everything You Need to Know!Medium Soft

This is the most preferred firmness scale for mattresses. Many sleepers prefer it because they provide that  bed-in-a-box mattress Trusted Source Best mattresses in a box of 2021 | CNN Underscored Looking to purchase your first bed-in-a-box mattress? Here’s exactly what to know before buying and a list of our top five mattress online delivery brands to try out now.  feel that you need to enjoy your sleep.

Besides, medium-soft mattresses can include plush comfort layers that are usually made of:

  • Coils;
  • Springs and;
  • High-quality polyfoam.

Medium Firm

Now, you are slowly drifting to a mattress that has more support. Ideally, when a mattress firmness guide extends to 6 out of 10, it means that such a mattress provides an adequate balance between support and relief.

The amazing thing is that a medium-firm mattress can be made of a wide range of materials, including a combination of coils and foam, as well as just from foam.

Also, the use isn’t restricted to a few people. Instead, a wide range of sleepers can use it.

Slightly Firm

Mattresses that score 7 out of 10 are categorized as Slightly Firm, because of the way they lift the sleeper up and out of the structure.

The major beneficiaries/sleepers who will find the Slightly Firm mattress useful are:

  • People who sleep on their stomachs and
  • Combo sleepers


When a mattress is rated firm, it means that it scores up to 8 out of 10. In that case, you should expect your body to be contoured when lying on the bed.

Instead, you will be getting a lot of push-backs that may cause you some discomforts and make your sleep restless.

At the same time, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to purchase a Firm mattress because it would enhance your sleep if you sleep on your back or your stomach.

Very Firm

While there are some similarities between a firm and a very firm mattress, there are still some differences.

The similarity between the two is based on the sinkage.

However, a firm mattress scores 9 out of 10. And it features an extreme push back that could be a source of discomfort for sleepers.


Last but not least in the memory foam mattress firmness guide is the ultra-firm mattress.

This type of mattress is usually the last on the list of beds to buy because it doesn’t provide any pressure relief.

Which One Should I Pick?

Deciding on the type of mattress to buy can be complicated for some people. Most times, you have to consider important factors, such as your body weight and your sleeping position.

The general rule is that people who sleep on their sides should buy a soft mattress. At the same time, you want to invest in a firm mattress if you sleep more on your back. Also, people who sleep on their stomach, side, and back would find a medium mattress a better option because it is light, heavy, and average.

Yet, there is more to selecting a mattress. That is why we put together the mattress firmness buying guide below to help you make a good decision on the type of mattress to buy.

We hope to make things clearer for you. So, we would break down the different factors to consider into smaller units.

Let us start with your body weight. Your weight could help you decide on the type of mattress firmness to settle for.

Here are some of the factors involved when checking your weight as a prerequisite for selecting a firm mattress:

Light Sleepers

Light people weigh 120 pounds or less. For this type of people with this bodyweight, it would do them a world of good to buy a soft or a medium-firm mattress because they don’t put as much pressure on the mattress.

Your major concern is to sleep on a mattress that can contour your body perfectly – and that is what the soft or medium-soft mattress does for you.

You should, however, have some critical points in mind. Point number one is that you need to consider your average sleeping temperature. For example, if you feel hot while sleeping, consider buying a  mattress that comes with comfort layers Trusted Source How to keep cool at night | BBC Good Food When temperatures climb, it can be hard to get a restful night’s sleep. Health writer and nutritionist Kerry Torrens explores how you can stay cool and wake up refreshed for a new day.  meant to dissipate heat from the mattress.

Average Sleepers

The other bodyweight to consider is that of average-weight sleepers. These are people that weigh between 130 and 200 pounds.

Buying a universal mattress (medium-soft or medium-firm) is the perfect choice of mattress for this category of sleepers.

The reason is that a lot of factors, including the number of persons sleeping on the bed, the sleeping position, and the average sleeping positions, are considered.

A universal mattress, such as a medium-soft or a medium-firm, ticks all the boxes.

Heavy People

Mattress Firmness Scale: Everything You Need to Know!People who weigh up to 250 pounds are considered heavy. For this category of sleepers, a medium-firm or a firm mattress is the perfect choice of mattress.

One of the major reasons why heavy people should invest in firmer mattresses is that their body needs to come into closer contact with the support core of the mattress.

So, it makes sense that they go for a type of mattress that has an equivalent firmness that protects them from sinking into the bed when sleeping or resting.

  1. Sleeping Positions

Your position when sleeping could also be one of the important factors that influence the type of mattress firmness you should be looking for.

Here are some of the sleeping positions and the types of mattress firmness the sleepers should look for:

Back Sleepers

People who sleep on their backs tend to spread their weight when they sleep. That means that people who sleep on their backs have an increased likelihood of finding comfort in different forms – especially because spreading out their weight could prevent them from creating painful pressure points.

If you are a back sleeper, consider buying a soft or a firm mattress. Most back sleepers that suffer from back pain prefer to buy a firm mattress because it helps to alleviate their back pain.

Similarly, soft mattresses are a great option, only that the soft mattresses might not provide ample spinal support when you sleep on your back.

Stomach Sleepers

People who sleep on their stomachs have much of the pressure on their hips and around their pelvis.

As such, they want to invest in either a medium-soft or a slightly firm mattress that allows for proper contouring and pressure-point relief on their hips and shoulders.

Side Sleepers

Softer mattresses are perfect for people who sleep on their sides. Because pressure is more concentrated on the sides while sleeping, you need to sleep on either the soft or very soft category of mattresses.

In addition to the above, you also have to consider some other options if you want to buy the best firm mattress that would enhance your sleep/rest. Some of the additional factors to consider are:

  • Your partner;
  • Consider buying a responsive mattress if you move a lot while sleeping;
  • Stay away from soft mattresses if you suffer from back pain;
  • You may want to read the memory foam mattress firmness guide so that you will understand why you should stay away from memory foam that traps heat.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some answers to questions we continually come across from sleepers who are looking for the best firm mattress to enhance their sleep:

What is a Plush Mattress?

A plush mattress is a bulky bed that provides you with a soft sensation the first time you sleep on it.

Over time, the bed will start adjusting to your body weight.

What is the Best Mattress?

Best is a relative word as far as mattress firmness is concerned. You only need to take note of your sleeping position and your body mass so that you can select the best mattress.

You can always refer to the buying guide or list of things to look for (that we discussed earlier) so you can make the right decision.

Are Memory Foams Soft?

Mattress Firmness Scale: Everything You Need to Know!No, not all memory foams are soft. The construction and specifications of the foam matter a lot.

For example, Gel-Infused Memory Foams are not only responsive and supportive. They could also be soft or firm.

To ensure proper comfort during each night, you can try the Zinus Gel-Infused Green Tea Memory Foam Mattress.

Final Thoughts

Mattresses come in different forms and sizes. But, what matters the most is the level of comfort the bed offers you, which is why referring to the mattress firmness scale is crucial.

Always check to be sure of your sleeping position, body weight, and tendency to move when sleeping because those are factors that could help you determine the ideal product for a comfortable sleep.


Best mattresses in a box of 2021 | CNN Underscored
Looking to purchase your first bed-in-a-box mattress? Here’s exactly what to know before buying and a list of our top five mattress online delivery brands to try out now.
How to keep cool at night | BBC Good Food
When temperatures climb, it can be hard to get a restful night’s sleep. Health writer and nutritionist Kerry Torrens explores how you can stay cool and wake up refreshed for a new day.
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