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Mattress Firmness Scale and What It Means

Better Slumber

Most shoppers who go mattress shopping want something that fits them well and does not cause any discomfort during or after use. However, there are many different mattress firmness levels to choose from. Each type is designed for different comfort needs and will likely be a perfect fit for some people but not others. Knowing what style best suits you will help you find the best mattress suited for your lifestyle. This blog post will teach you about each level of firmness on the mattress firmness scale and what that level feels like, and which types of sleepers may prefer it as their sleeping surface of choice.

What Is Mattress Firmness?

Mattress firmness is how hard or soft a mattress is. Depending on the type, firm mattresses are designed to give back support and stability, while soft mattresses are designed to cradle and relieve pressure. The firmness level of a mattress also affects the sleeping position of the sleeper. The more firm the mattress, the more likely the sleeper will lie on their back. Soft mattresses are typically recommended for side sleepers.

Mattress firmness is also based on personal preference and needs. Some individuals prefer more firm mattresses, while others like soft mattresses. Some people sleep on their back, and a firm mattress would be their best choice because it will provide more support for their spine. While sleeping on one’s side can put pressure on the back and shoulders, so a softer mattress is best suited for these individuals to relieve this discomfort.

Why Is Mattress Firmness Important?

testing mattress firmness

The firmness level of your mattress plays a very crucial role in your overall comfort. The perfect mattress will allow you to get the restful sleep you need while also providing the support and stability to aid a healthy lifestyle. Suppose you are unsure which type of firmness is best for you. In that case, this guide will help point out exactly how different levels of firmness affect sleepers’ preferences, both positively and negatively.

A Guide To Firmness Levels

The mattress firmness scale can be different for each person as it varies upon body weight and sleeping position. Also, many factors can affect how a particular mattress feels. The mattress softness scale is only meant to guide how the different firmness levels feel. Your personal preference will always be the best judge of what type of feel is right for you.

The Firmness Scale

mattress firmness scale

The mattress firmness chart ranges from 1 to 10, with 1 being the least firm and 10 being the most. The numbers represent how much force is required to sink into each level of firmness, whereas 8-10 is very difficult to sink into (considered as Very Firm), while 4-7 requires very little effort to sink into (considered Medium, Medium Firm), and 1-3 will require almost no effort at all to sink into (Plush or Soft).

The scores are designed to cater to different sleepers. Individual preferences will determine which type of mattress is the best one for them, regardless of its comfort level.

Level 1-2: Super Soft

Mattresses in this range are very plush and soft and would likely feel like you’re sinking straight into the bed. This level of softness doesn’t provide much support and is likely best suited for those who won’t be using the mattress all night or for extended periods.

Sleepers with even average builds may find these mattresses hard to move around on. They may not be able to settle into a comfortable position, and depending upon the quality of the material, may end up feeling like they’re sinking into quicksand.

Side sleepers may wake up with a stiff or sore neck as they aren’t getting enough support from the mattress and do not have a good sleeping surface of support.

Level 2-3: Soft

In this range, there is a noticeable difference in firmness from 1-2. If you have trouble sleeping because the mattress is too soft but want something plush yet cradling, try a soft mattress. Side sleepers tend to sink low into soft mattresses, while back sleepers will feel some support from it. Some people even prefer a firmer mattress for stomach sleepers as it allows them to sink less into the surface without worrying about the misalignment of their spine.

Level 3-4: Medium-Soft

This comfort level is adequate for some side and back sleepers, although some may still choose a firmer bedding option if they suffer from chronic back or neck pain. Back sleepers tend to sink lower into this level of firmness than side sleepers, so the mattress might be fairly soft, especially for overweight people.

It is best for those who prefer to sleep on their side as it cradles and conforms to your body type quite easily. Side sleepers also benefit from more cushioning between their hips and shoulders, allowing the spine and neck to relax more efficiently than on firmer mattresses where they don’t sink as low.

Level 4-5: Medium

Medium mattresses are a good fit for those who want cradling support yet desire their bodies to relax comfortably without having to worry about pressure points. Side sleepers will likely prefer this feel as it cradles but isn’t too cushy or hard. This feel is very comfy and may be a perfect fit for those who have trouble sleeping on their side as it does not allow motion transfer or motion that lasts all night long.

This firmness level is also a good fit for stomach sleepers because they can easily sink into it but still maintain a soft, comfortable surface to rest upon.

Level 5-6: Luxury-Firm

The luxury-firm has a slightly firmer, cradling yet soft feeling that is great for those who tend to sink into their beds and want a pillow-like surface to relax down upon, whether lying on their backs or sides. Side sleepers benefit from this level of firmness because it cradles and conforms to the body without pressure points. This is a good choice for back sleepers as it allows them to sink properly without having to worry about misalignment of the spine after sleeping on it all night long.

Some side sleepers may not be able to make up their mind yet between this comfort level or a soft one since they will feel satisfied with either.

Level 6-7: Medium-Firm

This is usually the most popular firmness level and best-selling option among most brands. Most universal, or “one size fits all”, mattress firmnesses are manufactured to a medium-firm feel. You will feel a comfortable sleeping surface in this level, no matter your weight or body shape.

In general, most people who sleep on their back prefer a medium-firm mattress. There is a noticeable difference in support and spinal alignment from the previous comfort levels in this range. It cradles and conforms to their bodies, while side sleepers can easily sink into these mattresses without feeling like they’re suffocating or stuck too low in the bed. This is a suitable choice for heavier folks who want a bit of support when sleeping on their stomachs as there isn’t anything too soft to lean against when sleeping on your stomach.

Level 7-8: Firm

With firm mattresses, you will feel a solid sleeping surface with very little give to it. It’s important to note that these mattresses may not be as comfortable as those in a lower range so take that into consideration when shopping for a new mattress. Firm mattresses aren’t for everyone and can be uncomfortable for couples, especially when having sex.

For those who have a bad back and need the support of firm mattresses, this feel is most suitable. Most of the best mattresses for back pain relief have a firm comfort level. Side sleepers may not appreciate the firmness level much, as they won’t sink into the bed and will have less cradling support for the hips.

A firm mattress is highly recommended if you suffer from chronic pain such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, or any other similar illness. It allows you to sleep on your side without fear of waking up in pain or having your back feel sore because the mattress will absorb pressure and provide true support for all areas of the body.

Level 8-9: Very Firm

Very firm mattresses are not for everyone’s taste. They don’t allow your body to sink into these mattresses as they are quite hard. They are durable and robust, so you won’t have to worry about replacing them too soon due to sagging. It’s best for overweight people weighing over 300 pounds, or for those with chronic back pain as it lets their bodies lie flat and not be pulled down by the cushioning beneath them, especially if the mattress’s top layer is contouring memory foam.

For those who sleep on their stomachs, this may be a tad too firm, as it may hurt your ribs or chest while you lie flat against the mattress because there’s no give or sinking feel beneath you.

Level 9-10: Extremely Firm

Extremely firm mattresses are great for sleepers who have problems with prolonged pressure on the shoulders, back, or hips due to their weight. However, this type of mattress may cause discomfort in these areas if you are a stomach sleeper because it will put pressure on the sensitive lower back and hips.

These mattresses are generally recommended for people who desire extreme levels of support while sleeping without any chance of pressure points that could lead to pain or soreness while sleeping (i.e., bodybuilders and athletes).


As you can see, mattresses come in various levels of soft or hard, and each model is designed for specific individuals with various needs. If you haven’t found your perfect bedding yet, hopefully, the information above will help you select the right mattress with the best support for your body type and sleeping position.

If you don’t know which comfort level you should buy, perhaps try a two-sided flippable mattress that has dual firmness (like the Layla mattress). One side is soft, and when you flip it over, the other side is firm. That way you can experiment with which you prefer. Also, use the sleep trials that come with most mattresses purchased online. You can always return the mattress within the trial period if it isn’t what you expected.