One of the most important decisions when it comes to deciding on a mattress is how comfortable it is. But what is comfort?
A lot of what we identify as comfort has to do with how soft or how firm a mattress feels. A mattress can go from being very soft to being very firm.
How do you know if your mattress is too firm? Knowing the level of firmness that’s right for you may depend on a combination of things that include spinal alignment, your sleeping position, your sleeping partner, and your body weight.
Most manufacturers use a level of firmness scale that lets you know the firmness of your mattress on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being very soft and 10 being very firm. Now, no two people are the same, and what feels too firm for one person, may be just right for someone else.
In this post we will cover how you can find out if your mattress is to firm or not.
Levels of Firmness
Firmness relates to how a mattress feels when you lay down on it. This is directed to the top layers of the mattress and indicates how closely the mattress will conform to your body as you’re sleeping.
Don’t confuse firmness with support. Support is how well a mattress relieves pressure and keeps your spine in alignment, regardless of how soft or firm it is. Levels of firmness can be described in three categories: soft, medium, and firm.
A soft mattress is better able to conform to the curves of your body. It can offer good support to lightweight sleepers (not more than130 pounds).
Medium is the middle ground of firmness. This is a good choice for average-weight sleepers (from 130 to 230 pounds).
Firm mattresses are the most supportive, but they typically do not conform well to the body’s curves. This is a good choice for sleepers whose weight is more than 230 pounds.
4 Steps to Finding Your Ideal Level of Mattress Firmness
If the level of firmness scale alone was all that was needed to determine the firmness that’s best for you it would be easy enough. But, there are other factors to take into consideration. Other factors include spinal alignment, sleeping position, sleeping partner, and body weight.
1. Spinal Alignment
Our spines have a slight, natural curve. When we’re awake or standing, our alignment is maintained despite the curve because we subconsciously control our posture. However, when we’re sleeping our muscles relax and our bodies rely on the sleeping surface to maintain alignment.
So it’s important that we sleep on a surface that supports our back. Sleep is a nightly occurrence, over a period of time, not sleeping on the proper surface will subject us to serious aches and pains that could become problematic down the road.
It’s crucial that our mattress supports the natural curvature of our spine to help relieve pressure points. The most important pressure points to consider when selecting a firmness level are those which have the most contact with your bed. That would be our shoulders, hips, and legs.
So, your goal should be to find a mattress with a firmness level that puts your spine in a neutrally aligned position. This will depend a lot on your sleeping position.
2. Sleeping Position
Your sleeping position is crucial to deciding on the level of firmness of a mattress. How you’re laying determines which points are supporting most of your body weight, and thus those specific pressure points need the most support. So here are some recommendations depending on your position:
- Side sleepers generally are more comfortable with a softer mattress because a soft surface allows the mattress to conform to pressure points in the shoulders and hips. It also supports the arm that gets tucked underneath.
- Stomach sleepers are more comfortable with a firmer mattress because most of the pressure points are supporting the hips and pelvis. A medium or firm mattress will prevent your hips and pelvis from sinking lower than your shoulders and creating an unnatural curve in the spine.
- Back sleepers have more options on the type of mattress they sleep on because pressure is more evenly spread across their pressure points while they sleep. A medium level of firmness is probably a good choice.
3. Sleeping Partner
If you don’t sleep alone, odds are the person laying beside you may not need the same type of support as you. To satisfy you both, a medium level of firmness is a good option.
4. Body Weight
The more you weigh per square inch of your body, the more force is exerted on your pressure points while you sleep. A heavier person may sink very low into a soft mattress, also making it difficult for you to get in and out of bed. There is no comfort in that.
A less heavy person may feel as if they are pushed on top of a firm mattress. The higher you are on the body mass index (BMI) scale, the softer your mattress should be.
Signs That Your Mattress is Too Firm
Even after considering the factors above, you may still question the firmness of your mattress. You may be waking with back, neck, or shoulder pain, or are tired when you wake up.
This is a sign of one of two things: either the firmness level of the mattress isn’t right for you or you have not given the mattress time to be broken in.
If the first is the case, you will need to put your return policy into use and select a different firmness of mattress. However, if it’s the latter, there are some steps you can take to help make your mattress softer. Please keep in mind some mattresses can take up to 30 days to be broken in.
Making Your Mattress Softer
If your mattress is too firm, there are a few things you can do to help make it a little softer:
- Check your foundation and beddings – Your bedding foundation can affect how firm or soft your mattress feels. Solid foundations like wood planks, firm platforms or the floor provide less give to your mattress, making it feel considerably firm. So if your foundation is very firm, your mattress may be so as well. Consider changing your foundation. Also, tight sheets can create a firm sensation on your mattress. Consider loose sheets or mattress protectors.
- Use a mattress topper – One of the easiest ways to make a mattress softer is a mattress topper. A mattress topper can add extra contouring or pressure relief to the surface of a mattress that’s too firm.
- Break it in – Some mattresses, like memory foam, with time will soften on their own. If your mattress is new, it just needs time to soften. In the meantime, you can help it along by walking across the surface of the bed repeatedly before going to bed.
- Rotate it – You can also try rotating the mattress or flipping it over. This promotes even wear and can help the mattress stay comfortable longer.
- Warm it – If you have a memory foam mattress, which is temperature sensitive, its firmness could be due to a cold room. A gently-heated mattress pad, or a warmer room temperature can help soften the mattress.
Ultimately, your choice in level of firmness is based on personal preference and sleep style. If it seems too complicated to decide based on the above factors, or if you never seem to be fully satisfied, a happy medium is usually a medium level of firmness.