How to Measure Mattress Firmness

Tanya Mozias Slavin

Sleeping on a good mattress is a huge factor in getting quality sleep at night. Before buying a new mattress, make sure you're getting the level of firmness that is right for you. That will depend on your favorite sleeping position, your weight and whether or not you're prone to back pain.

How to Measure Mattress Firmness

Everybody knows about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, but many people underestimate the role of a good mattress in the quality of your sleep. Some of the effects of sleeping on a mattress that is old, low quality or simply not right for you include not only fatigue but also decreased libido and various skin conditions.

One thing you want to check if you've decided to upgrade your mattress is the level of firmness. The right type of firmness for your mattress is largely a matter of personal choice. However, there are some general guidelines to help you make an informed decision.

Mattress Firmness vs. Support

First of all, contrary to the common misconception, mattress firmness is not the same as support. Firmness simply refers to how hard or soft the mattress feels to you when you first lie down on it.

Support, on the other hand, refers to how effectively said mattress is able to keep your spine in alignment when you lie down on it. In other words, support is whether the mattress is doing a good job at keeping your spine straight. Depending on your weight and other factors, you will need or firmer or a softer mattress for an optimal level of support.

Firmness Scale

Mattress firmness is typically measured on a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 to 2 being ultra-soft, 3 to 4 soft, 5 to 6 medium, 7 to 8 hard and 9 to 10 extra hard. Many brands offer ranges that fall within all five categories.

How to Choose Your Perfect Mattress

Your ideal level of firmness will depend on different factors including your favorite sleeping position (stomach, back, side), your weight and any preexisting conditions, such as hip, shoulder or back pain.

In general, heavier people will get better support and proper alignment with medium to firmer mattresses, while lighter people should go for softer mattresses.

People who tend to sleep on their side or change positions a lot might find that softer mattresses provide the optimal body contouring.

Those who sleep on their stomach would require a medium-firm mattress on the scale between 5 and 7. Unlike soft or very firm mattresses, the medium level of firmness will ensure that stomach sleepers get the best spinal alignment.

Back sleepers will feel comfortable on a mattress from medium soft to moderately firm. If you suffer from back pain, choose a mattress between 5 and 8, depending on your weight, to make sure you get proper body contouring. Shoulder pain is often caused or made worse by sleeping on a firm mattress, so choosing a softer one might help alleviate it.

When buying a mattress, it's a good idea to try lying down on different models for a few minutes each. Or better yet, buy from a place with a good return policy to make sure you're happy with your mattress.