The Best Firm Mattresses
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How to Find the Best Firm Mattress for You
Choosing a mattress is a significant decision. It affects the quality of your sleep, health, and life. Not only is it an important decision, but also very subjective. Everyone experiences sleep differently, and the mattress that’s best for you won’t be best for someone else.
This guide will help you explore the pros and cons of a firm mattress, who can benefit from a firm mattress, the choice of materials, our top picks, and firm mattress reviews to help you decide. Armed with this information, you’ll be ready to choose and buy your mattress.
How is Firmness Measured?
Mattress firmness is rated on a numerical scale of 1-10. However, what feels medium-firm to you may be a hard mattress to someone else. Your body mass index (BMI), physical sensitivity, your sleep position, whether you run “hot” when you sleep, and if you sleep alone or with a partner all matter.
Although firmness is about your perception of comfort, mattress manufacturers rate products on the numeric scale to help guide customers. Mattress firmness rankings run from extremely soft to extremely firm along this general scale:
|1||Extremely soft||These are plush mattresses that give the sensation of “sinking in.”|
|2-3||Soft||These are soft with the “sinking in” quality.|
|4-6||Medium||These middle-ground mattresses are plush but with less “sinking in.”|
|7-9||Firm||These are harder and offer limited sinking and less soft sensation.|
|10||Extremely firm||These are very hard with no plushness, sinking, or softness sensation.|
Our Top Picks for Firm Mattresses
*Price varies by mattress size from twin up to California King. Optional pillowtop accessories may increase price in some models.
Best Firm Mattress Reviews
When choosing the best firm mattress for you, it’s a matter of personal preference, sleep style, health concerns, and your budget. Below is a review of our top five firm mattresses with details on each including pros and cons, information on construction and materials, and why this could be the best mattress for you.
Why we like it:
- Made with natural and sustainable materials
- Good pressure relief, motion isolation and edge support
- 100-night sleep trial and a 25 year ending
The Avocado Green Mattress is a latex hybrid bed known for its sustainable, organic materials. This mattress comes in two firmness options, medium (5.5) and Firm (6.5), with an 11" and 13" thickness profile respectively. The medium firmness model features a pillow-top for a softer feel, making the firm option our pick in the context of this article.
The top comfort layer of the Avocado Green is two inches of firm, durable Dunlop latex foam. Beneath that is a support core of eight-inch innerspring coils. Below that is another one-inch layer of Dunlop foam. The cover is tufted organic cotton over high-quality New Zealand wool.
For those who value an all-natural and organic mattress that has been constructed sustainably, the Avocado Green should probably be a top pick. Additionally, the latex-spring hybrid system makes for a firm, supportive sleep surface that provides good pressure relief, motion isolation and edge support. We've also found this mattress to be slightly more firm than advertised, reinforcing it as a top choice for those seeking a firm mattress.
The Avocado Green comes with a 100-night sleep trial, 25 year warranty and ships free in the US. Natural materials do come at a price, however, as this bed is not among the most affordable on the market. Nonetheless, this is a quality product and Avocado donates 1% of their proceeds to charity.
Brooklyn Bedding Signature
Why we like it:
- Three different firmness options to accommodate any sleeper
- Gel-Infused foam provides great pressure relief
- More responsive than most hybrids
The Brooklyn Bedding Signature Mattress is an innerspring-polyfoam hybrid. It features three firmness options: soft (3.5), medium (5.5) and firm (7.5), making it a good option for any firmness preference. Brooklyn Bedding is renowned for their quality and this mattress is highly liked by its owners.
The Brooklyn Bedding Signature mattress is a hybrid with a six-inch base of innerspring pocket coils. The 1.5” thick comfort layer of quilted polyfoam sits on gel-infused polyfoam. There are three firmness options, and the gel layer is thicker in the firmer option. Under that is a transitional layer of polyfoam that’s thinner in the firmer model.
The firm model of the Brooklyn Signature is among out top picks for best firm mattress. With the gel-infusion polyfoam and innerspring design, this mattress gets the best of both worlds, providing more pressure relief than innerspring beds and and more responsiveness than even most hybrids. The result is a mattress that's versatile, comfortable and good for sex.
At under $1000, the Signature is the cheapest Brooklyn mattress and one of the cheaper options on this list. Additionally, delivery is free, and the sleep trial lasts 120 days, so you can really give it a go before you commit.
Why we like it:
- Flippable design with two firmness options
- Sleeps very cool for a memory foam mattress
- 120-night sleep trial
The Layla is an all-foam mattress distinguished by its flippable design. This double-sided mattress features a firmness of 5 on one side and 7 on the other, meaning you get two settings in one purchase and can switch night-to-night. Consequently, the Layla is among the best all-foam mattress for those who like it firm.
The Layla is a three-layer foam construction mattress with top and bottom layers of copper-infused memory foam and a six-inch middle layer of support foam. The top layer is three inches thick, and the base layer is one-inch thick. These are both comfort layers because the mattress can be flipped.
This all makes for a versatile and high quality mattress. The copper infused foam and open cell memory foam design offers a very cool sleep experience, while the firm side makes this a viable option for stomach, back and heavyweight sleepers. Plus, this bed comes with a 120 day sleep trial and prices for less than $1k
Why we like it:
- Better pressure relief than most innerspring beds
- Sleeps cool
- Free White glove delivery with setup
The Saatva is the only innerspring on our top five firm mattress list, and it comes in three firmness levels of soft, medium-firm, and firm and two different heights. Further it is made with environmentally-friendly materials.
The inner construction is composed of two levels of coils. The support core is hourglass coils, and the middle layer is pocket coils for contour. Atop these is a comfort layer of thin memory foam with a European pillowtop.
Like other innersprings, the Saatva offers a cooler sleep experience. Unlike other innersprings, this bed has a nice cushioned feel that will conform to your pressure points. The higher firmness options also make this bed an excellent choice for back, stomach and heavyweight sleepers who prefer a firmer mattress.
Saatva offers free white glove delivery including their team bringing the mattress and setting it up for you. Additionally, it have excellent customer reviews and comes at a relatively affordable price.
Why we like it:
- Dual sided design with multiple firmness options
- Balances pressure-relief and responsiveness for sleep
- 100% organic
- Free white glove delivery and 120-night sleep trial
The Zenhaven Mattress from Saatvaq is a luxury latex bed with a flippable, dual-sided design. One side is a 4-5 level firmness and the other is a 7-8, making it great for sleepers who enjoy multiple firmness levels or are unsure about their preferences.
A 100% organic all-latex mattress, the Zenhaven is made of Talalay latex and New Zealand wool and cotton. The four-layer bed has a 1.5” firm comfort layer on one side and a luxury plush layer on the other. In between is a three-inch firm layer and three-inch plush layer.
This design offers multiple advantages. For one, its firm side makes it a great option for back, stomach and heavyweight sleepers who may also want a softer option should their preferences change. Further the 100% organic latex design sleeps very cool while providing excellent spinal alignment for pressure relief and responsiveness for sex.
Zenhaven offers free white glove delivery including old mattress removal. Additionally, they offer a 120 night sleep trial with a full refund minus a $99 delivery fee.
Is a Firm Mattress Right for You?
What feels extra firm to you might not feel firm at all to someone else, because comfort is subjective. Your weight is also a factor. A heavier person will experience a mattress differently than a lighter person. The important thing is to determine if a firm mattress will give you a good night’s sleep and how firm of one you need. Your sleep style, overall health, age, and other factors should influence your decision.
If your current bed is not firm and you have pain or soreness upon waking that goes away after stretching and being active, your bed might be the problem. You might need a firmer sleep surface. This guide will walk you through firm mattress options so that you can decide if you’re ready to change your bed to improve your sleep. Here are some considerations.
Firm to medium-firm mattresses are better suited for:
- Stomach sleepers
- Back sleepers
- High BMI people
- Hot sleepers
- Back pain sufferers
- Arthritis sufferers
Stomach sleepers are a rare breed. Research by Professor Chris Idzikiwoski of The Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service in the UK surveyed 1,000 people and learned that just 7% sleep on their stomach. The study calls this the “freefaller” position. Firm mattresses are better for stomach sleepers because if you sink in too deeply, your spine’s curvature will misalign.
Back sleepers are also relatively rare and may benefit from a firm mattress to support the “S” curve of the spine while sleeping. If you can slide a hand between your lumbar region (pictured) and the mattress, you might need a different sleep surface. The University of Rochester Medical Center suggests back sleepers put a small pillow under their knees to help alignment.
Back sleepers usually find they are best suited to a mattress in the medium-firm range rather than an outright firm bed. A medium-firm mattress – depending on body type – allows for some sink in the hip/pelvic region to help maintain the natural curve of the lumbar area, while being stiff enough to support the upper back.
Heavier people, gauged by Body Mass Index (BMI), often benefit from a firmer mattress. A study by the Sleep to Live Institute found those with greater BMI (30 or higher) sleep less, have a lower quality of sleep, less energy in the daytime, and more daytime sleepiness.
Studies suggest that those with higher BMI benefit from firmer mattresses that prevent excessive “sinking in” or “hammocking” effects. A heavier person will automatically dig further into any mattress than someone of a lower BMI, so a firmer bed will help to offset that natural sink.
Hot sleepers are more commonly women than men as women experience hormonal surges at mid-life, but anyone can wake up sweating. A study from Sleep Medicine Reviews showed a link between higher body temperature at night and insomnia. Hot sleepers benefit from firmer mattresses that don’t let you sink into soft materials that insulate and increase body temperature.
Back pain sufferers benefit greatly from firmer mattresses. Studies from Harvard Medical School show that medium-firm to firm beds are best for those with low back pain while another study in Canada concluded medium-firm was preferable. The evidence is clear that soft mattresses are typically not good for those with back pain.
Children sleep better on firmer surfaces. The sleep patterns of children evolve significantly as they age and can change rapidly. Healthy Children reports that firm mattresses are safer for children. Also, growing children are less able to regulate their body temperature while they sleep and firmer mattresses are cooler and may help children sleep better and through the night.
Arthritis sufferers may benefit from a firm mattress with a soft upper comfort layer, according to an expert from The Cleveland Clinic. Keeping the spine properly aligned helps ease arthritis aches and pains while sleeping. Firm mattresses allow you to shift position more easily so that your joints won’t stiffen as you sleep. Mattresses that are too soft can increase arthritis pain.
Firm to medium-firm mattresses may not be a fit for the following:
- Side sleepers
- Low BMI people
- Older people
- Sleep apnea sufferers
Side sleepers are the most common position. The UK sleep study mentioned above found that almost 70% of people sleep on their sides. Firm mattresses are less comfortable for side sleepers. Discomfort in the pressure points of your shoulders, neck, and hips may not be cushioned enough by a firm mattress. Softer mattresses may support side sleepers better.
Thinner people may find firm mattresses uncomfortable because they don’t weigh enough to get a “sink in” effect. Those with a Body Mass Index of less than 18.5 are considered underweight. If you’re very thin, you may need a cushier sleep surface. The top layer of a mattress – called the comfort layer – won’t help if you don’t weigh enough to sink into it.
Older people might not benefit from a firm mattress. Softer mattresses may be preferable for seniors because the materials retain heat and better relieve pressure thanks to the “sinking in” of richer comfort layers. Seniors with certain medical conditions, such as arthritis, might be better with a firmer surface, but in general, older joints, bones, and muscles benefit from more cushion.
Sleep apnea sufferers are strongly recommended to sleep on their sides. SleepHealth.org reports that 20% of Americans suffer from sleep apnea. On your side is the best sleep posture for apnea relief and that means a softer mattress may be better. The latest CPAP masks are soft and flexible enough to allow beneficial side sleeping while using the life-saving gear.
Benefits of a Firm Mattress
While your choice of mattress is deeply personal, there are some confirmed benefits of choosing a firm mattress over a softer one. These benefits include:
Less sag in your sleep.
A comfortable mattress lets you sink in a little, but too much softness can turn into sagging. If you sink into the bed too deeply, your spine won’t stay aligned, and it can be tough to change position. Excess sagging can lead to a “hammock effect” that’s unhealthy for your spine and can have you waking in pain.
Better air flow.
If you live in a warm climate or are naturally a hot sleeper, a firm mattress will be better for you. Because you’re not sinking down into the structure of the mattress, you’ll have better airflow which can keep you cooler. Studies show that sleep temperature is critical to your quality of sleep and running too hot can lead to insomnia.
Optimal edge support.
Firmer mattresses have better edges which are important if you’re someone that sleeps near the side of your bed. Soft sides can send you tumbling to the floor. A firm mattress supports you when you sit on the edge of your bed to stretch, put on socks and shoes, read, relax, fold laundry, etc. Softer beds don’t offer this benefit.
Better for sex.
Mattresses aren’t only for sleeping. Firmer mattresses are shown to have better bounce and are more reactive during sexual activity. Soft mattresses that allow you to sink in too deeply can inhibit amorous activities. Edge support on a firm bed is also better for sex. Firmer mattresses are usually more durable, which is also a plus.
Depending on your sleep position, a firm mattress may offer improved spinal alignment. Keeping your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned is recommended no matter in what position you sleep. If you’re a stomach or back sleeper, you’ll likely find alignment easier to attain on a firm mattress supplemented with high-quality pillows.
While shopping for a mattress, the variety may seem overwhelming. Every manufacturer has many models, and salespeople use buzz words that might not mean much to you. The important thing to know is that there are four basic types of mattress materials. Once you know this, it simplifies the options and lets you cut through the industry hype.
The four basic types of mattresses are:
These types of mattresses may be memory foam, polyurethane foam, or a combination of both. Memory foam is also polyfoam but undergoes a chemical process to increase the viscosity (thickness) and density. All foam mattresses are synthetic products, but memory foam and polyurethane foam mattresses feel very different from each other.
There are three types of polyfoam – regular, high density, and high resiliency – in order of quality and cost. Memory foam (also called viscoelastic) is less springy than polyfoam, and better conforms to the body. Both types of foam can range from soft to firm, but memory foam sleeps warmer than polyfoam.
*Prices without discount/promo applied.
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