A Guide To Mattress Firmness Scales

If you’re in the market for a new mattress, firmness is probably top of mind. Fortunately, there are countless mattress options with varying levels of firmness. 

Whether you prefer a mattress that’s super soft, extremely firm or somewhere in between, you’re sure to find it. But what if you don’t know which firmness level is right for you? Read on for our guide to mattress firmness scales. 

What Is Mattress Firmness? 

Mattress firmness refers to how soft or hard a mattress feels, according to the Sleep Foundation. If you sink into a mattress when you first lay on it, it’s likely soft. With a firmer mattress, you sink in less and lay on top. Mattress firmness shouldn’t be confused with the amount of support the mattress offers. Support refers to how the mattress promotes spinal alignment and is correlated with the mattress’ core layer while firmness comes from the mattress’ comfort layers. 

Keep in mind that mattress firmness is subjective—a mattress that’s too squishy for one person may seem more solid to someone else. Factors like your age, weight, body type and previous experience with mattresses may all affect how you perceive firmness. 

What Is a Mattress Firmness Scale?  

Mattress firmness scales differ among manufacturers; however, many use a 10-point scale, with one being the softest and 10 being the firmest.  


Soft (or plush) mattresses usually rank within the one to three range on the Sleep Foundation’s firmness scale. In most cases, they feature thick memory foam or pillow tops in their comfort or top layers. When you lay on a soft mattress, you can expect to sink into it deeply while it contours to your body and relieves pressure points. 

Since a soft mattress cradles your shoulders and hips more than a firm mattress, it’s the best mattress firmness for side sleepers. Standout soft mattresses include the Sealy Essentials Pillow Top mattress and the Lucid 14-Inch Plush Gel Memory Foam mattress. 


Medium-soft mattresses rank around a four on the mattress firmness scale. While a medium-soft mattress still contours to your body closely, you won’t sink into it as much. 

If you’d like some cushioning but don’t want to feel stuck in your bed, a medium-soft mattress may be a good option. It’s also ideal if you’re a heavier side sleeper or a lightweight combination sleeper.


Medium mattresses are typically a five on the firmness scale and offer the optimal blend of cushioning and support. They’re soft and respond to pressure quickly, but have less sinking than their softer counterparts. Since many people find medium mattresses comfortable, they’re very popular. You might enjoy a medium mattress if you often change positions while sleeping. 

A medium mattress may also be a solid pick if you sleep with a partner who has a different body type and sleep position than you. The Dreamfoam Arctic Dreams Cooling Gel Hybrid mattress by Brooklyn Bedding and the Linenspa 10-Inch Memory Foam Hybrid mattress are options you may want to consider. 


Medium-firm mattresses typically rank around a six on the firmness scale. These mattresses often offer a bit of contouring, but not much sinking. If you’re a side sleeper or heavier sleeper, you’ll likely find a medium-firm mattress comfortable. 

You might also benefit from a medium-firm mattress if you suffer from back pain and would like to alleviate your discomfort during sleep. Some of the top medium-firm mattresses include Linenspa 10-Inch Latex Hybrid mattress and the Puffy mattress. 


Firm mattresses, which feature thin comfort layers and thick base layers, fall within the seven to nine range on the Sleep Foundation’s firmness scale. With a firm mattress, you can expect minimal contouring and sinking  but plenty of support. It may be the way to go if you’re a larger individual who needs the added support. 

A firm mattress can also be a good option if you’re a back or stomach sleeper and would like to prevent your lower back and spine from sinking in too much. Casper’s Element mattress is a firm mattress worth exploring.  

Extra Firm 

Ranking as a nine to 10 on the Sleep Foundation’s firmness scale, extra firm mattresses have no sinking or conforming. They are best for people who weigh over 230 pounds, as well as stomach sleepers and back sleepers. Many innerspring mattresses have a firmer feel.

How to Choose Your Mattress Firmness 

You may be wondering, “What mattress firmness do I need?” The answer depends on your personal preferences. Consider:

  • Your sleeping position. Since your sleeping position plays a role in your potential pressure points and the amount of contouring you need to sleep comfortably, it’s important to consider. While a soft to medium-firm mattress is a good choice if you’re a side sleeper or combination sleeper, you’d be better off with a medium to medium-firm mattress if you’re a back sleeper. If you’re a stomach sleeper, consider a medium-firm or firm mattress.
  • Your weight. Your weight impacts how much pressure you place on the mattress and how it feels beneath you. Generally speaking, softer mattresses are ideal for lighter sleepers while firmer mattresses are more comfortable for heavier individuals. 
  • Any pain. If you have back pain, a medium-firm mattress can provide you with the cushioning you need to alleviate discomfort while also promoting proper spinal alignment. A medium-firm mattress may also be a good fit if you have shoulder pain or hip pain. 
  • Your sleeping partner. It can be more difficult to find the right mattress if you share a bed because you need to make sure you and your partner are both comfortable. A medium-firm mattress or one that allows you to adjust firmness levels is likely your best option.