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What mattress firmness is right for you

17 June 2022

Purchasing the right kind of bed is hugely important, but a bed is only as effective as the mattress that is used with it.

You don’t need to go too far back in time to find an era when a mattress was simply a mattress and terms such as memory foam, pocket sprung and latex were yet to enter the bed-purchasing dictionary.

Today, the right kind of mattress is seen as absolutely vital to alleviate chronic pain, get a good night’s sleep and keep the body temperature at an acceptable level while in bed. But with so much variety on the market, it can be difficult to get a clear idea of what you really need instead of what various companies want you to buy.

Beds & Mattresses

It can be easy to lump beds and mattresses together but increasingly these days they are sold separately with each offering different features and benefits. But even here things can get a little complicated.

Bed bases, such as the Adjustable Bed Base EB01 from FlexiSpot, are structured foundations that often fit a mattress perfectly, and in this case, can be raised and lowered. But a little confusingly, they might also be referred to as bed foundations or bed platforms, although these terms also often refer to much larger structures that the Bed Base EB01 can technically fit into.  

Types of Mattresses

OK, so you’ve purchased a bed base, or bed frame, whichever way you choose to look at it, and now you’re searching for that all-important mattress.

Mattresses always fall somewhere on the firmness spectrum, ranging from ultra-soft to ultra-firm, with considerable differences in terms of feel and benefits. They are typically measured on a 1-10 scale, with 1 being ultra-soft and 10 being ultra-firm.  

Soft Mattresses

Sinking into a nice soft mattress often feels wonderful, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that that is the right mattress for you all the time. Soft mattresses are often recommended for people who are suffering back pain while using normal mattresses as well as those who tend to sleep on their side as it usually aligns the spine much better and provides a better cushion for the neck and hips.

While soft mattresses can often feel like you are sinking into a blissful pile of feathers, they’re not for everybody. For heavier sleepers and those who sleep on their back or front, soft mattresses can cause back and neck problems because the body tends to sink into the mattress without providing the necessary cushion.

Soft mattresses can also be problematic for partners with a large weight difference between them. This can lead to one side of the bed sinking and causing the entire mattress to become unbalanced. And finally, soft mattresses tend to have a slightly shorter lifespan than firmer mattresses, though not by much.      

Medium Mattresses

As you would imagine on a spectrum, a medium mattress straddles both worlds and provides a good middle ground for those who are hesitant to go too far one way or the other. This might be a good option for those who sleep on their side but feel uncomfortable on a firm mattress or for couples who have differing preferences.  

In theory, medium mattresses provide a comfortable and healthy sleeping experience to a wider array of people than either soft or firm mattresses and are a good option for those who don’t have a set sleeping style and who toss and turn in all kinds of positions throughout the night.  

Firm Mattresses

Lying down on a firm mattress doesn’t always fill you with immediate joy. They can often feel too rigid but there are significant reasons why people might choose a firm option. Firstly, they are better for back and stomach sleepers as they provide a more stable and even surface for the body. Sleeping on a firmer surface means that the body’s bones absorb more of the pressure, which alleviates stress on the muscles and joints and also improves circulation. However, for those who sleep on their sides, a firm mattress might not provide an ample cushion for the shoulders and hips, which can lead to aches and pains.  

When it comes to those suffering from back problems, firm mattresses can either be a godsend or a curse. The traditional way of thinking is that something more rigid is better for a bad back and there’s certainly something to this, but for those suffering from serious and chronic pain, a firm mattress can be akin to torture. This is why it’s vital to test your mattress out properly before purchasing it.

The Bottom Line

Buying a new mattress is something you should take your time over and certainly shouldn't be a decision you base on a quick lie down in the showroom. These days, most reputable companies offer trials, usually for a month, which allow you to give the mattress a thorough examination before making the purchase.

Things to consider before choosing a mattress are; your style of sleep, whether you have existing back pain, whether it’s just for you or to be shared, and if it’s shared what is your partner's style of sleeping. Once you’ve mulled over all of these factors carefully, it’s time to buy that mattress.