Is It Better to Sleep on a Hard or Soft Mattress

Is It Better To Sleep On A Hard Or Soft Mattress

According to the Huffington Post, an individual sleeps for about 26 years in an 80 year-long lifetime.

And they spend 7 hours trying to sleep. More than 1/3 of a person’s life passes by sleeping, or trying to sleep. That means a considerable amount of one’s life is spent in bed.  

Even if we discount the quick couch naps and sleepy nights on the couch, still a significant chunk of our lives involves beds.

All these facts lead to one thing, and that is the importance of a mattress in one’s life. There is no bed without a mattress, and therefore mattress plays a vital role in our lives. 

And something that is of so much significance to our lives must be of comfort; otherwise, we would look for options to replace it.

So how do we evaluate the comfort level of a mattress? What scale do we use to examine how ‘comfortable’ or ‘uncomfortable’ a bed cushion is?

We do that by taking the firmness of a mattress into account. But what is firmness?

Well, let’s find out!

What is firmness?

What Is Firmness?

Firmness doesn’t have a universal definition because it’s quite subjective.

For someone, a particular surface may be harder than it is for someone else. However, to simplify things, mattress manufacturers define firmness ad the ‘feel of comfort’ a sleeper feels when they lie on it.

When their back hits the topmost layer of the mattress, how they feel at the time determines the firmness of the bed.

Firmness describes how soft or hard a surface is, therefore the top layers of a mattress are responsible for its degree of hardness.

To get a clearer idea about firmness, let’s discuss a rule of thumb. When you lie down on a mattress, and it stiffens up and instead of sinking in it pushes back, that’s a firm cushion.

Whereas, if the mattress sags and partially engulfs you when you lie down, then it’s a soft bed.

One thing must be clarified at this point, and that is ‘firmness is not the same as ‘support.’

Support is the ability of a mattress to hold up a body and provide relief to the pressure points and the spine. It stems from the bottom layers of the mattress.

Moreover, there is a third feature of a mattress that’s different from firmness and support, which is conforming.

Conforming is a bed’s ability to take the shape of the sleeper’s body and contour accordingly without sagging under the weight.

Out of the three qualities of a mattress, firmness is considered to be the most subjective. Therefore, mattress manufacturers have multiple levels of sturdiness to suit the needs of a variety of users.

It starts from extra soft and goes through to extra firm.

Firmness levelMattress FeelMattress Characteristic
1Extra softThis level offers the deepest sinking and the mattress conforms perfectly according to the sleeper’s body.
2-3SoftA soft mattress sinks enough for the body to get comfortable and conform to a considerable extent.
4Medium softThe bed sinks slightly and conforms close enough to the body.
5MediumA medium futon doesn’t sink much but it does conform to some extent.
6Medium firmThe bed sinks a little and fits around the body to some degree.
7-8FirmA firm bed doesn’t sink at all and the conforming is almost nonexistent.

Firmness Level Explained

Firmness Level Explained

Soft and Extra Soft (1-3)

Mattresses on level one of the firmness scale is a rarity. Most manufacturers offer pallets that are on level 2-3 of the firmness scale.

  • Support: Soft or extra soft futons offer enough softness to conform to the sleeper’s body closely and keep the spine aligned to some extent. However, they can distort the upright shape of the spine in some cases.
  • Conforming ability: Soft beds contour super close to the body. It almost feels like something is partially enveloping the body from beneath.
  • Lifespan: These mattresses have the shortest lifespan compared to the firmer counterparts. Due to sensitive layers, soft cushions wear out pretty quickly.
  • Price: Since they are composed of several layers of padding, they are costlier than firmer mattresses.

Medium (4-6)

Beds that fall in the category of medium firmness are the most commonly used.

  • Support: Medium mattresses offer the best possible support to the body with substantial contouring. And they do not sink as much as their softer counterparts. They are best for the spine; they keep it upright and perfectly aligned.
  • Conforming ability: Sleepers get enough fitting with the medium-firm mattress. They work well for restless sleepers, who toss and turn around a lot while sleeping.
  • Lifespan: Medium mattresses have a longer lifespan than their softer counterparts but shorter than the firmer lot.
  • Price: Price of a mattress is directly proportional to the number of layers packed inside the bed. Therefore, medium mattresses are less expensive than soft ones.

Firm (7-8)

Firm mattresses are the hardest cushions out of all the available bed options.

  • Support: Firm futons are the best for overweight individuals as they do not sink, and if they do its not noticeable. They are an excellent option for people who like to sleep flat on their backs or stomachs.
  • Conforming ability: If you have a dainty figure or you’re underweight, then the conforming ability of a firm mattress is not going to be enough for you. Firm mattresses do not conform closely to the body if at all.
  • Lifespan: Firm beds have the most extended lifespan. They do not sag easily and maintain their sturdy structure for a considerable amount of time.
  • Price: Firm beds are the cheapest of the lot due to the lack of extra layers or padding.

Now let’s move on to the pros and cons of having a hard or soft mattress.

Hard Mattress

Hard Mattress


  • A firm mattress is suitable for people who sleep on their back or stomach. It keeps the body straight and doesn’t strain the muscles in the back or front.
  • The body doesn’t sag much on a firm mattress, and that leads to improved blood circulation throughout the body.
  • Hard mattresses don’t sag when you lie down on them, which leads to improved breathing and enhanced circulation of oxygen throughout the body.
  • Sleeping on a hard mattress means the weight of the sleeper’s body is evenly distributed, which reduces pressure on muscles.


  • Switching to a hard mattress after using a soft one can be uncomfortable for a while. But with time the body gets used to it.
  • A firm mattress is not right for someone with lower back problems such as scoliosis or rheumatism.
  • Sleeping on the wrong kind of firm mattress can cause back problems. It’s difficult to distinguish between the firmness levels of hard beds. So you may end up sleeping on a cushion that doesn’t meet the needs of your body.

Soft mattress


  • A soft bed is an excellent choice for individuals who have back pain.
  • It’s also great for adults with joint problems.
  • A soft mattress allows underweight people to sleep comfortably, unlike a hard bed as it doesn’t compress for them at all.
  • People who sleep on their sides sleep better on a soft futon.


  • A soft mattress can be bad for the spine. It can induce curvature to the spine due to excessive sinking under the weight.
  • Sleeping with someone on a soft mattress can get uncomfortable because the heavier partner would sink more, making the sleeping surface uneven.
  • All mattresses get soft over time. Starting with a soft mattress can turn into a tremendously soft bed that may become unusable.
  • It’s expensive.

In many cases, the user may not be aware of their body needs when it comes to choosing the right mattress, which can lead to back problems.

Therefore, it is essential to select the right kind of bed cushion for yourself.

Why should you choose one type of bed over the other?

Why Should You Choose One Type Of Bed Over The Other?

It would be best if you chose the right mattress for a bunch of reasons.

  • If you have back pain, a hard mattress could potentially make matters worse for you. Hence, it would help if you got the bed that assuaged the pain and didn’t aggravate it.
  • If your spine is sensitive and you need to keep it in an upright position, then you can’t work with a soft mattress. It’d be best for your spinal health to choose a firmer mattress.
  • The right type of mattress reduces the chances of irregular sleep or no sleep at all.
  • A mattress that doesn’t meet the requirements of your body can lead to poor quality sleep. And that can result in a sour mood during the day.

Using the right mattress to sleep on is essential for the sleeper’s body anatomy and mental health.

The next time you go mattress shopping, make sure to keep our guidelines in mind to make the right choice for yourself.

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