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The Princess & the Pea: What Mattress Firmness is Right for Different People

After the question of what size your custom mattress needs to be is the questions of firmness and support. Mattress firmness is defined as the combination of mattress spring back and mattress sink. In other words, how much does the mattress give when you lay down vs how much it pushes back. And while firmness isn’t exactly the same as support – any level of firmness can be supportive – it’s still a big factor in the comfort and body contour of a mattress.

People often choose a firmness level based on their sleeping position and material preferences. And there are also other factors to consider like motion transfer and weight. So how do you decide what level of firmness is right for you? Let’s discuss:

Understanding Mattress Firmness: A Scale

Generally, custom mattress manufacturers use a scale of 1-10 for firmness, and it’s broken down into groups:

  • 1-2: Extra Soft: Significant sink, high contour

  • 2-3: Soft: Considerable sink, medium-high contour

  • 4: Medium Soft: Moderate sink, medium-high contour

  • 5: Medium: Less sink, still significant contour

  • 6: Medium Firm (3 out of 4 people prefer this mattress firmness!): Almost no sink, medium contour

  • 7-8: Firm: No sink, low contour

  • 9-10: Extra Firm: Seriously no sink, no contour

One thing to know about these firmness levels is that an extra-firm mattress is a niche market, but it does have its advantages for some. Same for soft… though we’re not sure about extra-soft; that’s a little extreme. And another thing to remember as we move forward is that firmness is somewhat subjective.

The best extra-firm mattress for an overweight person may not be the best extra-firm mattress for an athletic person… even though they’re both extra-firm.

That was a bit convoluted, but you get it.

Soft Mattresses (1-3/10)

We’re not exactly sure why extra-soft and ultra-soft mattresses exist, because a 1 on this scale just isn’t realistic. It’d be like stacking a bunch of down comforters on top of each other and trying to sleep on it. Zero support, max contouring, major sinkage: claustrophobia. A 2 is a little more realistic, but we think 3 is really where the scale should start at. Think of your spine.

  • Best for: side sleepers

  • Best materials: innerspring with pillow top, memory foam

Medium Mattresses (4-6/10)

Any mattress maker will tell you the vast majority of the mattresses they craft are somewhere in the medium range or just outside – like 4-7 on the scale. They’re the optimal mix of softness, contour and support. As most medium things are, this part of the scale is a compromise, making it workable for many different kinds of people. Medium mattresses also have less motion transfer.

  • Best for: side sleepers (softer end), back sleepers (firmer end), co-sleepers (firmer end)

  • Best materials: innerspring with pillow top, memory foam, latex

Firm Mattresses (7-10/10)

Firm mattresses have a lot of spring back and only a little contour. They tend to feel like you’re sleeping on top of the mattress. They’re very supportive, but they’re also a balance; 7-8 is way different from 9-10. Extra-firm mattresses aren’t easy to find, because you’ve got to be a pretty specific type of person to prefer that kind of firmness.

  • Best for: stomache sleepers (firmer end), restless sleepers (softer end), heavier people, people with mobility issues, older people

  • Best materials: latex

How Can I Be Sure I Chose the Right Mattress Firmness?

For most of us, firmness directly equates to comfort. But that initial comfort may become less comfortable as you get used to the mattress. There are a few ways you can tell your mattress firmness is off:

  • If it’s too soft, you’ll have difficulty getting in and out of bed, key pressure points may not be supported, and you may feel as if you reach a “bottom” of the mattress after sinking into the upper layers.

  • If your mattress is too firm, you might notice tingling in your arms, shoulders and/or hips, feel like you’re sitting on top of the mattress and not in it, and key pressure points are unable to rest in alignment with the rest of your body.

The good news is, your mattress size or shape doesn’t affect how we build your mattress and what firmness you want; so you’re not limited in choice. Knowing all this, it’s pretty easy to understand why you should do your research before just pointing and choosing a custom firmness when you order a tailored mattress. Everybody deserves a sleep that’s perfect for them, and whatever you decide that it, has you covered.


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