Which to Choose: Plush vs. Firm Mattress

In this comparison, we take a deep dive into the features, benefits, and disadvantages of plush mattresses and firm mattresses.
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
Reviewed By
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: September 04, 2023
TalkAboutSleep is reader-supported. We may earn a commission through products purchased using links on this page. Learn more about our process here

The thickness of a mattress’ comfort layers dictates a mattress’ firmness. The comfort layers are the topmost layers of the bed, which is what you come in contact with when you sleep. In simpler terms, comfort layers are the part of the mattress you feel when you lay down.

When choosing between mattresses, people often have to decide whether to get a plush or firm one. Plush and firm mattresses are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and each type has a different set of advantages and disadvantages. Generally, the thicker the comfort layers, the plusher or softer the mattress.

Choosing the right firmness for you is crucial when it comes to mattresses. So, to make it easier for you to decide, we’ll be comparing a plush vs. firm mattress for back pain, comfort, and others. By the end of this comparison, you’ll have a clear idea of which one is right for you.

What is a Plush Mattress?

Which to Choose: Plush vs. Firm Mattress
Plush mattresses feel ultra-soft, they’re often described as “cloud-like,” and they provide sleepers with lots of cushioning comfort.

You can instantly recognize a plush mattress from its thick comfort layer. Since the top layers are thick, plush mattresses are very soft and can feel amazing when you lay down in them. If you have pain and pressure in your joints after a long day’s work, a plush mattress can release pressure and relieve pain.

Plush mattresses work best on lighter individuals. The less weight on the mattress, the better it can cradle a person’s body. These mattresses are ideal for petite people who enjoy being nestled in their sleep and need pressure relief in their joints.

The Pros and Cons of a Plush Mattress

Since a plush mattress is soft, it is great at cradling lighter people. The softness also relieves pain and pressure in the joints that comes with sleeping on your side. If you move around a lot in your sleep, the mattress can easily adjust to your position, making it a great overall pick.

However, if you’re a heavier sleeper who puts a fair amount of pressure on the bed, you might not enjoy sleeping on a plush mattress. Stomach sleepers or those who sleep on their back might also experience some discomfort when using a plush mattress.

For Whom a Plush Mattress is Necessary

Side-sleepers benefit the most from the pressure relief that comes with a plush mattress. When you sleep on your side, there tends to be a pressure build-up in your hips and shoulders, which a plush mattress can address. On top of that, plush mattresses can also aid with spinal alignment when you sleep. Additionally, elderly people might also enjoy a plush mattress since it’s soft and accommodates their joints very well.

A plush mattress is designed to cradle every single part of your body without sinking. So, if you move around a lot in your sleep, a plush mattress will work very well for you. The lighter you are, the less pressure you put on the bed. And if you’re a petite person using a firm mattress, you might feel some discomfort which leads to joint pain. In case you’re a lightweight person, a plush mattress could be just the right sleeping surface for you.

Another great option for side sleepers and petite people is a medium plush mattress. These aren’t as soft as full plush mattresses but are still softer than firm ones. When people try to compare a plush vs. medium mattress, the only real difference is that medium mattresses are a bit firmer. A mattress like the Live and Sleep Memory Foam Mattress is an example of a medium plush model and a great option that combines the best of both worlds.

What is a Firm Mattress?

Which to Choose: Plush vs. Firm Mattress
Firm mattresses can also prove to be extremely comfortable, with soft comfort layers resting atop a supportive, durable core construction.

As the name suggests, a firm mattress will be sturdier and feel more solid when you lay on it. Firm beds have a thinner comfort layer on them, so they won’t give as much when you lay or sit on them. Firm mattresses provide a bit more support than plush ones and are the ideal pick for heavier individuals. Firm beds also keep your spine aligned and prevent pain caused by a lack of support when sleeping.

When you sleep on a firm mattress, you sacrifice cradling for more support. Because of this, firm mattresses are highly recommended for back sleepers as well. When a back-sleeper sleeps on softer and plush mattresses, they tend to sink at the hips, which can misalign your spine while you sleep. And when you wake up with back pain, sleeping on a soft bed is likely the cause.

The Pros and Cons of a Firm Mattress

As we mentioned earlier, the biggest advantage of a firm mattress is the support it offers. These mattresses have thinner and more solid comfort layers, which is the reason for their firmness. So, you won’t be cradled by this bed too much, which is the reason many side sleepers and lighter people dislike firm mattresses.

However, heavier people and those who sleep on their back benefit the most form firm beds. Since they don’t have too much give, the bed supports all the parts of your body, keeping your spine aligned the whole time. And for heavier people over 230 pounds, a firm bed won’t feel firm at all since you will be applying more pressure on the surface.

For Whom a Firm Mattress is Necessary

The people who benefit the most from firm mattresses are those over 230 pounds. When heavier people lay down on plush or soft mattresses, they exert a lot of pressure on the surface, which causes the bed to sink. When laying on soft mattresses, your hips tend to sink while you sleep, which misaligns the spine and can cause discomfort or back pain in the morning.

Laying down on a firm mattress gives you much more support. So, if you sleep on your back, it would be great to get a firm mattress as this will keep your spine aligned the whole night through.

Firm beds aren’t as flexible as soft ones. If you’re a petite person, side-sleeper, or combination sleeper, firm beds aren’t ideal for you. They may feel tough and stiff and cause you to feel uncomfortable while sleeping. However, for heavier individuals and back sleepers, the support of a firm mattress cannot be overlooked. If you’re looking to try out a firm mattress for yourself, we recommend this Ethos Cove Hybrid as it’s made of premium materials, provides maximum comfort, and gives you a lot of support when sleeping.

The Difference between Plush and Firm Mattresses

Which to Choose: Plush vs. Firm Mattress
There are many types of mattresses in between a plush or firm mattress that will provide high-quality sleep with varying degrees of comfort.

The main difference between plush and firm beds is the comfort layer. In fact, many beds and models out there use the exact same materials and manufacturing techniques except for the comfort layer.

Most modern mattresses are composed of two distinct layers Trusted Source Mattress - Wikipedia Innerspring mattresses commonly consist of just the spring core, and the top and bottom upholstery layers. en.wikipedia.org : the core and the upholstery. The core is known as the “support layer” and you won’t come into contact with it when sleeping. The upholstery is what we call the comfort layer and is composed of three segments, the insulator, middle upholstery, and the quilt.

On a plush mattress, you usually find a thicker comfort layer and quilt. This is what gives the mattress a cradling feel when you lay down on it. Plush mattresses are the softer option and since they give when you lay down on them, they are fit for many different types of sleepers. Most people prefer the plush mattress since it fits many different sleeping positions. Whether you sleep on your side, back, or a combination, a plush mattress would fit you very well. Additionally, lighter people enjoy plush mattresses more as they exert less pressure on the bed.

If you suffer from joint and muscle pain when you wake up in the morning, it could be because you aren’t sleeping on the right bed. Plush mattresses can be a great fix for joint pain as they can relieve the pressure in certain areas while you sleep.

However, heftier individuals might not feel as comfortable on a soft and plush bed. Since heavier people exert more pressure on the surface, they might feel “too cradles” on soft beds. In fact, when you lay down on a soft bed as a heavy person, you might even feel like you’re sinking, which feels very uncomfortable. If you already have a plush mattress and you realize that it isn’t the right one for you, there are many ways you can make a mattress firmer. However, if you can, we recommend investing in a new mattress as it will be worth it in the long run and will be better for your spine and joints as well.

Aside from heavy people, back sleepers might enjoy the extra support on a firm mattress as well. When you sleep on your back, it’s important to keep your spine aligned while you sleep. Otherwise, you risk developing muscle pain and soreness by the time you wake up. The support that a firm mattress offers keeps your spine aligned the entire time you sleep, which is why it’s a great choice for both overweight people and back sleepers.

Which to Choose: Plush or Firm?

When you shop for a mattress, you need to choose the right option for you. This means you have to take your height, weight, sleeping position, and many other factors into account. Remember, everyone sleeps differently, which is why you need mattresses that can soothe and support you in your sleep Trusted Source Softly does it: how to choose the perfect mattress | Sleep | The Guardian It’s important to find a mattress that soothes as well as supports you. Two experts give their advice and test out John Lewis’s selection to find the best bed for a silent night www.theguardian.com . There isn’t one better option when it comes to plush vs. firm mattress for back pain, deeper sleep, and comfort.

These two mattresses are designed for different types of sleepers. If you’re a lightweight person who’s a combination or side-sleeper, the best option for you is a plush mattress. These beds will cradle you and have you feeling very comfortable the whole night through.

But for heavier people and back-sleepers, firm beds are the better option. With these mattresses, you won’t sink at the hips when you sleep, and you’ll have full and even support while you’re on the bed.

When buying a mattress, you have to remember that you’re investing in something you’ll use for a very long time. Mattresses can cost you a lot of money but remember it’s an investment for better sleep, which is very important for humans. However, there are also great mattresses for under $500 in today’s market, which are the best options for shoppers on a budget.

You don’t have to bust the bank to find the right mattress for you. However, you do have to understand your sleeping position while also factoring in your height and weight so you can find the optimal bed to give you a full night’s sleep.


1.   Are there any negative sides to plush mattresses?

While plush mattresses are great for many sleepers with back pain and other muscle and joint pains, they are not without their own disadvantages. Remember, every sleeper is different, so what may be comfortable and beneficial for some may not be the case for others.

When it comes to plush mattresses, the softness can sometimes get in the way of a good night’s sleep. If you’re an overweight person or a back-sleeper, you might find plush mattresses uncomfortable. This is because of the way your weight is distributed on the bed. When you lay down on a soft mattress, there’s the potential that it might give too much and cause you to sink in the bed when sleeping. This misaligned your spine and can cause pain when you wake up.

Plush mattresses are also not ideal for stomach sleepers, and those with shoulder pain and the softness can be too much and actually make for a poor night’s sleep. If you find plush mattresses too soft and firm beds uncomfortable, we recommend medium mattresses. These offer the best of both worlds and could be just the right option for you.

2.   Are firm mattresses unhealthy for me?

Generally, firm mattresses are not unhealthy. However, a mattress can always be too firm and actually cause some discomfort. For example, if a mattress doesn’t have enough give on the shoulder and hip areas and you can’t sink in, your shoulders can buckle inward in your sleep, which misaligned your spine.

On top of that, firm mattresses aren’t made for everyone. There are some sleepers who find these beds uncomfortable, such as lighter petite people and those who sleep on their side. However, firm beds are the optimal choice for many other sleepers out there to give them the best sleep possible.

3.   What type of mattresses do hotels use?

Which to Choose: Plush vs. Firm Mattress
The added coil support mattress breakdown, an important feature when it’s being used every night by different guests.

Since hotels provide sleeping space for many different people, they need to use mattresses that can address the needs of a wide variety of sleepers. For this reason, many hotels stock up their rooms with innerspring or hybrid mattresses with medium firmness.

Medium mattresses combine the best of both worlds. They have enough to give that you feel cradled when laying down, even if you’re a petite person, but it doesn’t give too much that you sink into the mattress when sleeping. Luxury hotels are known to use pillow-top mattresses for maximum flexibility.

When it comes to brands, hotels use a wide variety of them. However, many hotels prefer to stick with reliable names in the mattress market, such as Sealy, Beautyrest, and Serta-Simmons.

4.   What kind of mattress lasts longer: plush or firm?

The answer to this question largely depends on the manufacturer. Different manufacturers and brands use various materials for their beds, which plays a big role in dictating the mattress’s lifespan. Experts recommend using latex when it comes to longevity, as these can last a couple of years longer than other materials. That being said, latex mattresses tend to cost more than others on the market.

Plush and firm mattresses generally have a lifespan between 7-10 years, depending on the use. Sleep experts recommend changing your mattress every decade, and the lifespan of your mattress has nothing to do with its firmness. Remember, different materials have a different lifespan, which is why it’s always important to do the research when shopping for mattresses.

Final Thoughts

With that, our comprehensive guide to plush vs. firm mattresses comes to an end. We made sure to do all the research and layout all the cards on the table for you. And based on our research, we concluded that neither of these mattresses can beat out the other.

The reason for this is that these two mattresses are designed for different sleepers. When you shop for a new mattress, remember that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to better sleep. Some people need firm mattresses and some people need soft ones. It all depends on your own sleeping position, height, and weight.

But with the information from this plush vs. firm mattress comparison, you now have a clear idea of each type’s features, pros, and cons. And now, all that’s left to do is sit down and figure out which one suits your sleeping style the best!


Mattress - Wikipedia
Innerspring mattresses commonly consist of just the spring core, and the top and bottom upholstery layers.
Softly does it: how to choose the perfect mattress | Sleep | The Guardian
It’s important to find a mattress that soothes as well as supports you. Two experts give their advice and test out John Lewis’s selection to find the best bed for a silent night
Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *