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Firm or Soft Mattresses: Which Is Better? - Expert Roundup

by SleePare

By Emily Stringer | 3 Minute Read

From deciding on brand, type, size, etc., one of the most important features of a mattress is firmness. You’ve probably heard about soft vs firm mattresses and why you might either one. The ideal firmness of your mattress is often determined by your sleep position and body type, but ultimately the firmness you select is dependent on your own comfort level and your preference. 

Not sure if you need a soft or firm mattress? Let the experts help you decide! Read on for tips from experts to help you decide which mattress firmness level is right for you. 

1. Firm Is Best for Your Back

“A firm mattress is far superior - and mostly recommended - for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons are related to your sleep posture and how a firm mattress encourages healthy positioning for the long term. 

By using a firm mattress, your body will remain in a nice straight line position for the duration of the night and you’ll wake up feeling much better when compared to sleeping on a soft mattress. Firm mattresses are especially good for your back, which can be a problem error for people who struggle to get a good night's sleep.” 

Dr. Pietro Luca Ratti, MD, Ph.D., Sleep Expert and Neurologist for WhatAsleep

2. Quality and Support Matter the Most

“Hey doc, what's better, a soft mattress or a firm mattress? My response, both! Let me explain... A firm mattress offers layers of support to keep your body in an ideal sleep position and provides proper spinal posture. 

This allows the muscles and joints in the body to rest easy while properly supported. A firmer mattress will support your bones and structure so that your muscles can rest. If your mattress is too soft, your muscles end up doing all the supporting and you wake up with back pain, stiffness, and a feeling of overall tension, and even fatigue. 

If we spend 1/3rd of our lives sleeping, we want to be sure we are getting quality sleep - our bodies will thank us! 

A soft mattress offers a level of comfort, giving us that soft, cozy feeling. So how do we achieve the best of both? I suggest selecting a mattress that is more on the firm side, that offers support, and is also equipped with a 'plush' or soft top to give it that 'soft' feeling. 

In summary: when shopping for a mattress, BE PATIENT! Take your time. Do your research. Test, test, and then test again to see which mattress suits your style and needs. 

This isn't the time to look for the cheapest or least expensive mattress. Again, you will be spending approximately 1/3 of your life on it. Quality, support, and comfort prevail when selecting a mattress.”

Dr. Sean Rundle, Owner, Premier Chiropractic

3. Consider Back Pain

“Current research shows that people with lower back pain tend to do better with a medium-firm mattress, in terms of pain and disability, compared to other mattresses.”

Dr. Jordan Duncan, Owner, Silverdale Sport & Spine

4. The Wrong Mattress Will Likely Mean Pain

“Mattress selection is an important part of creating an optimal sleep environment. The right mattress should provide support in roughly the same position as when standing with good posture. 

If the mattress is too firm, it will push on pressure points and cause problems with alignment. If the mattress is too soft, those pressure points will not be properly supported either. Both of these scenarios can lead to back pain, or non-restorative sleep, in the morning.”

Smita Patel, DO, FAASM, ABOIM, iNeuro Institute

5. Consider Your Sleep Position 

“The soft mattress has extra give and provides comfort to the side sleepers hips and shoulders, but still ensures overall stability and support. The firm mattress is good for back and stomach sleepers, as the firmness offers a solid surface to support the back and stomach. 

This ensures the spine is aligned and results in a more comfortable night’s sleep. Ensure to find a mattress provider that offers varying levels of softness and firmness, as one size does not fit all. Yaasa offers mattresses on a scale from level 1 softness to level 10 firmness. Choosing a good mattress is an investment, make it a good one!”

Ashleigh Saunder, Product Specialist, Yaasa Furniture 

6. You Need Both Softness and Firmness

“Neither—[is better] we need two things from our bed: A bed that’s firm enough to give us back support and hold our alignment, but also a bed that's soft, comfortable and provides pressure relief on our joints. 

The problem today is that you have to choose between firm and soft, as the majority of mattresses are built this way using foam materials. The reality is that every couple has to compromise, as most individuals have different needs. Developments in modern mattress technology can alleviate this problem, while still maintaining spinal alignment and offering optimal pressure relief. The best mattress is one that is both firm and soft.”

Colin House, CEO, Intellibed

There are a variety of things to consider when purchasing a mattress. When it comes to selecting your mattress firmness, it ultimately boils down to personal preference and what feels good to you. According to our experts, opinions vary on whether a soft or firm mattress is best, but if you suffer from back pain, a firm mattress is recommended. 

If you are unsure about which is best for you–a soft or firm mattress–SleePare can help! Visit our website and check out our mattress comparison tool where you can compare the features of the most popular online mattresses, read sleep guides, and more!

 
Emily Stringer

Emily Stringer


Emily is a sleep expert and content creator at SleePare. With over five years of experience writing and extensive experience reviewing mattresses, curating comparisons and advising on "best of" guides, she's well-versed in mattress technology.

Emily has perfected this method by personally testing over 200 different mattresses, so she's not only able to discern the overall value of a specific bed, but to assign its value to different types of sleepers.

Along with creating honest and straightforward mattress features, Emily enjoys spending time with her dogs and exploring her home town of Lexington, Kentucky.