Mattress Firmness Scale & Guide: How to Choose the Right Firmness Level?

Mattress Firmness Scale & Guide: How to Choose the Right Firmness Level?

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Last Updated on Jun 14, 2022

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    You need to consider several things while shopping for your mattress, and one of them is how firm or soft the mattress is. If your mattress is too soft or too firm, you may wake up with aches and pains.

    The mattress firmness scale helps you understand the level of firmness you can expect when you lie down on a mattress. It runs from 0 to 10, where 0 denotes the softest mattress and 10, the firmest.

    Mattress firmness is, however, quite subjective. What is super soft for you might be too firm for someone else. This guide will take you through the different levels of firmness and help you decide which one is best for you based on your preferences.

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    What Is Mattress Firmness?

    Mattress firmness refers to the hardness of your mattress. It is how you feel when you lie down on your mattress.

    Do you sink in or lie right on top of it? The materials of the mattress might hurt you, or they might adjust to the contours of your body. So, knowing how you feel can help you understand the firmness of your mattress.

    Your mattress can be soft, medium-firm, or firm, depending on its rating on the firmness scale.

    Mattress Firmness Scale

    Each number on the scale denotes a level of firmness. Let us look at how each number feels so that it helps you while buying your new mattress.

    1 out of 10 (extremely soft):

    It is rare to find a mattress that scores 1 on the firmness scale. Guess why? Because it would be too soft to sleep on and would not provide any kind of support. After all, no one would like their body to sink inside the mattress while sleeping.

    2 out of 10 (ultra-soft):

     A mattress with a score of 2 on the firmness scale would be ultra-soft. It is also rare to spot while choosing a mattress.

    It would feel too soft for an average sleeper. Moreover, it would fail to provide the desired support while sleeping. So, the chances are less that you would stumble upon such a mattress while shopping for your bedding.

    3 out of 10 (very soft):

    These mattresses are also soft. But, they provide a much more comfortable sinkage. They are usually made of memory foam and provide excellent pressure relief. 

    3 out of 10 is also the best mattress firmness for side sleepers. However, back and stomach sleepers would not find it quite comfortable since it will not provide adequate support.

    4 out of 10 (soft):

    There is not much difference between 3 and 4. However, a mattress that scores a 4 on the firmness scale will give you a more balanced feeling. You will not sink uncomfortably in it. These mattresses are also perfect for side sleepers.

    5 out of 10 (medium soft):

    A mattress that scores 5 out of 10 has medium firmness. But it is on the softer side.

    This medium-firm mattress has plush comfort layers. At the same time, they have a sturdy base made of high-density foam or springs. Thus, they provide the perfect support for all sleeping positions.

    6 out of 10 (medium firm):

    It is the most common mattress firmness you will find in the market. It is neither too soft nor too firm and provides a perfect balance of pressure relief and comfort.

    You can call it the best mattress firmness for most sleepers. Whether you are a side sleeper or a back sleeper, you can get a comfortable night’s sleep on these mattresses.

    They are made of foam or a mix of foam and coils.

    7 out of 10 (slightly firm):

    If a mattress rates 7 on the mattress firmness scale, you can call it firm. It will provide less shrinkage compared to the softer ones and will also not hug your body.

    If you love sleeping on hard surfaces, these mattresses are the best for you. They won’t let your body sink in, thus providing the support your joints need. At the same time, you won’t feel uncomfortable due to the firmness.

    Back sleepers and stomach sleepers would love the extra lift that these mattresses provide.

    8 out of 10 (firm):

    A score of 9 out of 10 indicates that the mattress is very firm. It will push back against your body while you sleep. There is no question of hugging your body.

    If you love a firm and hard bed, you can go for it. You will get that traditional feel of an old, hard bed. However, most people would find thesis mattresses extra hard and uncomfortable.

    9 out of 10 (very firm):

    There is not much difference between a score of 8 and 9 on the mattress firmness scale. However, a score of 9 makes your mattress too firm.

    These mattresses will feel quite hard under your body. You might even feel uneasy. But, they are suitable for heavy sleepers who don’t want to sink into their mattress. These mattresses are, however, rare to find.

    10 out of 10 (ultra-firm):

    You are least likely to come across such an ultra-firm mattress in any store. That’s because no one likes to sleep on a bed that feels like a rock. These mattresses will not provide you with any pressure relief at all.

    You will find these hard mattresses only for therapeutic purposes to reduce lower back pain. However, a 2003 study shows that mattresses of medium firmness are best for lower back pain.

    What is the Best Mattress Firmness?

    You might have often asked yourself this question – How firm should my mattress be? The answer depends on your personal preferences and might vary for different people. It also depends on your sleeping position and health conditions like shoulder or back pain.

    Sleeping Position

    • Side Sleeper

    Side sleepers require extra pressure relief because they concentrate their entire body’s pressure over a small area. So, soft mattresses are the best for them.

    Mattresses with firmness ranging from 3 to 6 are ideal if you sleep on your side. They will relieve pressure on your shoulders and hips, giving you the most comfortable sleep.

    • Back Sleeper

    Back sleepers need proper support to keep their spine and hips in alignment. But, if the mattress is too firm, you will feel it hurting your back. So, a medium-firm memory foam mattress is your ideal companion if you sleep on your back. 

    A score of 6 on the mattress firmness scale indicates medium firmness. It will provide the exact support you need for your spine and hips without causing any discomfort.

    • Stomach Sleeper

    If you are a stomach sleeper, you need a mattress that will prevent you from sinking deep into it. Sinking into the mattress will cause your back to arch, disturbing the natural alignment of your spine.

    Firm mattresses are ideal for stomach sleepers. You can choose a firmness of around 8 to 9. But, make sure that you still get some cozy and comfortable feeling. You can choose a mattress that has a firm base with softer upper layers for some pressure relief.


    • Light

    Soft mattresses are best for thin people. That’s because they do not put a lot of pressure on the mattress, and there is no sinking.

    Too firm mattresses might create pressure points and lead to stiffness and pain in the body. So, it’s crucial to have a mattress of moderate softness so that you get a cozy bed to sleep in. A score of 4 to 5 on the mattress firmness scale is perfect for lightweight people.

    • Heavy

    Heavy and bulky people will put more weight on the mattress, making it sink. So, a medium to firm mattress is the best if you are a bit bulky. That will ensure that the mattress does not sink while providing you with the comfort you deserve.

    While choosing mattress firmness, don’t forget about the thickness. You need a mattress thick enough to bear the heavyweight.


    • Back Pain

    If you have back pain, your lower back must get the necessary contouring. It means that the mattress should adjust to the contours of your body. So, you need a soft to medium-firm mattress to provide pressure relief to your back.

    Depending on your weight, you can choose a firmness between 5 and 8. Lighter people can go for a softer mattress, and heavier people can buy a firm mattress for maximum comfort.

    Read our blog to find out the best mattress firmness for back pain.

    • Shoulder Pain

    If you are suffering from shoulder pain, you require a mattress of medium firmness for pressure relief on your shoulder joint. Studies show that medium-firm mattresses can reduce body pain significantly.

    Too firm mattresses can create pressure points and make you uncomfortable. Thus, you might wake up with a stiff neck or shoulder. A score of 5 to 6 on the mattress firmness scale is ideal for your shoulder pain.

    • Hip Pain

    Hip pain occurs when your spinal cord is not in proper alignment. It happens when you lie down on an ultra-soft mattress. A mattress of medium firmness is what you need to deal with your hip pain.

    Mattress Types and Firmness Level

    Memory Foam

    Memory foam was first designed in the 1960s for NASA aircraft seats. It has a cushioned feel. So, memory foam mattresses tend to hug your body, giving you a cozy bed to sleep in. They usually opt for medium firmness.


    Hybrid mattresses are made of different materials. They might contain a mix of foam, latex, and coils. In most cases, there is a firm base with soft and cozy top layers. So, these mattresses are of medium firmness. 

    If you are looking for both support and comfort, you can go for a hybrid mattress.


    Latex mattresses are made of rubber and are 100% natural. They are also thick and heavy. You can classify a latex mattress as firm as it will provide some solid support as you lie down.

    If you are looking for the best mattress firmness, you can bring home a latex mattress. It will provide you with the exact support you need, helping your spine stay in its natural alignment. Thus, you can say goodbye to pain by sleeping on a latex mattress.


    Thinking of innerspring mattresses must bring the image of a bouncy bed to your mind. They contain springs and coils inside them. You will get different types of mattress firmness depending on the number and density of coils and springs.

    Innerspring mattresses, however, cannot help you with your shoulder and joint pains as they are not firm enough, owing to their bouncy nature.

    Check out our blog to know more about the different types of mattresses.

    Are Firmness and Support the Same Thing?

    Firmness and support are not synonymous as you might think. They are quite different from each other, and you should keep both in mind while purchasing your mattress.

    Firmness is how the mattress feels when you lie down on it. It might feel soft and cozy or hard. However, support denotes whether your mattress can keep your spine in its natural alignment.

    If you get confused between the two, try answering the following questions. To understand your mattress firmness, ask yourself whether it has a lot of cushioning or offers pushback. Does it feel comfortable? Now, to know how supportive your mattress is, try to find out if it keeps your spine aligned while sleeping. If your spine gets bent, you are not getting enough support.

    The support offered by a mattress does not depend on its firmness. Whether it is a firm or plush mattress, it can give you the needed support. Make sure you consider both these factors while shopping for your new mattress to get the best results.

    How to Choose the Firmness of a Mattress?

    Now that you know everything about firm vs soft mattresses, you need to make the toughest decision. Which firmness level would be the best for you? You have to keep several factors in mind while choosing the firmness of your mattress. Let’s look at each of them separately.

    Sleeping Position

    Your spinal position depends on how you sleep. So, you need to choose your mattress firmness accordingly to ensure that your spine stays in its natural alignment. Apart from that, your mattress should also provide you with comfort.

    Side sleepers need a soft mattress with a score of around 3-5. Back sleepers need more support, and a mattress that scores 6-7 is ideal for them. Lastly, stomach sleepers require maximum support to ensure they don’t sink into the mattress. A mattress that scores above 7 can be a perfect match for them.


    Heavier folks require a firmer mattress to hold them in position. A soft mattress will not provide enough support as they would sink into it. But, if you are lightweight, you can go for a softer mattress because a firmer one might be uncomfortable.

    Your Partner

    If you sleep with your loved ones, you need to consider them while buying your mattress. It is crucial to make sure that the mattress is firm enough to bear both of your weights.

    You will not want to wake up in the middle of the night if your partner moves in the bed while sleeping. What’s the way out? You have to get a mattress that promises the least motion transfer. A firm memory foam mattress can ensure that you don’t get disturbed if your partner moves in their sleep.

    Too Soft Is Not Good

    A soft mattress might be luring. Who doesn’t want to jump into a soft and cozy bed after a tiring day? But, if your mattress is too soft, it can create health problems for you.

    Soft mattresses do not provide adequate support to your spine, leading to conditions like spondylitis and lower back pain. Buy a mattress that has a moderate score on the softness scale.

    Play Safe

    If you are still confused, you can go with the majority. Most people choose a medium-firm mattress. That will provide you with adequate support without compromising your comfort.

    What Are Adjustable, Flippable, and Dual-Firmness Mattresses?

    There are many categories of mattresses such as adjustable, flippable, and dual firmness mattresses. Let’s look at each type.

    Adjustable Firmness Mattress

    In these mattresses, you can change the firmness according to your preferences. These mattresses have a mechanism that utilizes air to customize the firmness of your mattress.

    Your lifestyle keeps on changing, and so can your preferences. So, it’s necessary to adjust your mattress firmness depending on your sleeping style or specific health conditions. It is not feasible to buy a new mattress every once in a while. That’s where adjustable mattress firmness comes in as your savior.

    Read our blog to know more on how to make your mattress firmer if it is too soft.

    Flippable Mattress

    Flippable mattresses are double-sided mattresses. That means you can sleep on any side.

    Most mattresses have a single sleeping side. So, when it gets old you have to get rid of it. However, flippable mattresses have a longer life since you can flip them off when one side fails to provide enough comfort.

    Manufacturers use the same high-quality material on both sides of the mattresses to give you the same level of support and comfort. However, these mattresses tend to be costlier than the usual single-sided mattresses.

    Dual Firmness Mattress

    What if you and your partner have different preferences? Will you sleep on separate beds? That is not a wise idea. A dual firmness mattress will ensure both of you can sleep on the same bed without compromising your comfort. It has two different levels of firmness on the same side. 

    Now you and your partner can choose the softer or firmer part of the mattresses according to your needs.

    Do you get confused while buying your bedding? Check out our mattress and bed size dimensions guide here.

    No one size fits all when it comes to mattresses. What matters is your comfort. A mattress of the appropriate firmness will help you sleep better and wake up feeling refreshed and energized.

    The super-comfortable Memory foam Mattress from Nectar Sleep will keep you cool and cozy while you sleep. It is also designed to give you maximum support so that your back pain disappears in no time. Bring your new mattress home today and start sleeping better to improve your life.

    This article is for informational purposes and should not replace advice from your doctor or other medical professional.
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