How do you tell if a mattress is firm or soft?

by:JLH Mattress     2024-01-24


Choosing the right mattress is crucial for a good night's sleep. However, with countless options available, it can be challenging to determine whether a mattress is firm or soft. Understanding the firmness level of a mattress is essential as it directly affects the quality of your sleep and overall comfort. In this article, we will explore various methods that can help you determine if a mattress is firm or soft, enabling you to make an informed decision when purchasing a new mattress.

The Role of Firmness in Mattresses

Mattress firmness refers to how soft or hard the sleeping surface feels when pressure is applied. It is often measured on a scale ranging from 1 to 10, with 1 being extremely plush, and 10 being extra firm. The ideal firmness level varies from person to person based on their individual preferences and specific needs.

The level of firmness affects various factors such as spinal alignment, pressure point relief, and overall comfort. A mattress that is too firm can result in discomfort and impact proper spinal alignment, leading to aches and pains. On the other hand, a mattress that is too soft may not provide enough support, leading to poor sleep quality and potential back problems.

Understanding the Firmness Scale

To determine the firmness level of a mattress accurately, it is important to understand the firmness scale. Although different manufacturers may have their own interpretations, the generally accepted firmness scale ranges from extra plush (1-2), plush (3-4), medium (5-6), firm (7-8), and extra firm (9-10).

The most common firmness levels preferred by consumers fall within the medium range (5-7). However, mattresses with different firmness levels cater to individual preferences and specific sleep requirements.

Testing Firmness in Retail Stores

When shopping for a mattress, visiting a retail store allows you to try out different models and assess their firmness levels firsthand. Here are some steps to help you effectively test the firmness of a mattress in a retail store:

1. Physically Inspect the Mattress:

- Look for visible signs of wear or sagging, which can directly impact the firmness level.

- Examine the mattress cover and stitching for any flaws or loose threads.

2. Lie Down on the Mattress:

- Spend an adequate amount of time lying down in your preferred sleeping position.

- Test the mattress with your partner if you share a bed, ensuring it caters to both your comfort needs.

- Pay attention to how your body sinks into the mattress and whether it provides adequate support to your pressure points.

3. Test Different Sleeping Positions:

- Try out different sleeping positions such as back, side, and stomach to assess comfort and support.

- Consider any specific sleep-related issues you may have, such as back pain or shoulder stiffness, and see if the mattress alleviates or exacerbates these problems.

4. Consider Body Weight and Type:

- Keep in mind that the firmness level may vary based on your body weight and type.

- Heavier individuals may find softer mattresses less supportive, while lighter individuals may prefer a softer feel.

5. Ask Detailed Questions:

- Speak with the salesperson about the specific firmness level of the mattress you are interested in.

- Inquire about available trial periods or return policies to ensure you have the option to adjust if the mattress does not meet your expectations.

Measuring Firmness Online

Shopping online for a mattress can be convenient; however, it presents challenges when assessing firmness levels without physically trying out the product. Despite this limitation, there are ways to measure firmness effectively when purchasing a mattress online.

1. Read Reviews and Descriptions:

- Read customer reviews and product descriptions to gather insights into the firmness level.

- Look for consistency in reviews, focusing on comments related to firmness and support.

2. Utilize Firmness Scales:

- Some online retailers provide detailed firmness scales for their mattresses.

- Familiarize yourself with the scale and compare the desired product with others to gauge its relative firmness.

3. Consider Density and Material:

- Different types of materials and densities correspond to varying firmness levels.

- For example, memory foam mattresses tend to be softer, while latex mattresses offer a firmer feel.

4. Look for Certifications:

- Certifications such as CertiPUR-US ensure that the mattress meets specific criteria for foam content, safety, and environmental standards.

- Checking for certifications can provide valuable information about the quality and expected firmness level of the mattress.

5. Take Advantage of Trial Periods:

- Many online mattress retailers offer trial periods ranging from a few weeks to several months.

- Utilize this opportunity to test the mattress in your home environment and determine if the firmness meets your preferences.

Hybrid Mattresses: Finding the Right Balance

Hybrid mattresses offer a combination of materials, typically combining innerspring coils with foam layers. They aim to provide the benefits of both support and comfort, offering a balanced firmness level.

Hybrid mattresses often have a medium-firm feel, suitable for a wide range of sleepers. The combination of coils and foam allows for better airflow, responsiveness, and pressure point relief. It is crucial to test different hybrid mattresses to find the one that strikes the perfect balance between firmness and softness for your needs.


Choosing a mattress with the right firmness level is essential for a comfortable and restorative sleep experience. Whether you are shopping in a retail store or online, there are various methods to help determine the firmness level of a mattress. From physically testing the mattress in person to reading reviews and comparing firmness scales online, each approach offers valuable insights into finding the perfect balance between softness and support. By considering your personal preferences, body type, and any specific sleep-related issues, you can make an informed decision and select a mattress that promotes healthy sleep and ensures proper spinal alignment. So go ahead, explore the options, and make the choice that will bring you nights of rejuvenating rest.

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