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Are you looking for a new mattress and need some help to decide the firmness level of your new mattress? Our sleeping needs and preferences can change over time and a firmness level that was right for you when you bought your current mattress, may no longer match your needs.

Choosing the right firmness level for your mattress can make a significant difference in how well you sleep. How firm or soft your mattress should be depends on factors such as your body weight and preferred sleeping position.

Continue reading to learn more about mattress firmness levels and to decide if you need a soft or firm mattress or something in between.

How is Mattress Firmness Measured

How is Mattress Firmness Measured?

Typically, mattresses are rated on a scale from one to ten for their firmness. Most mattresses sold in Canada have a firmness rating between four and seven, which is comfortable for most Canadians.

You can also find mattresses that are softer or firmer. However, some manufacturers and retailers may not stock very soft or very firm mattresses since they are not in high demand. Therefore, should you want a mattress that falls outside the middle range for firmness, you may need to order it specially made for you.

When you are searching for a new mattress, keep in mind that although the mattress has been given a certain firmness rating, how firm or soft it feels is subjective. People will experience the feel of a mattress differently depending on the position they sleep in and how much they weigh. But you can of course use the firmness rating as a good indicator of how the mattress will feel and how well it will match your unique preferences and needs.

What Affects the Firmness Level of a Mattress?

The construction and materials used to build a mattress are key factors in how firm it will be. For example, an innerspring mattress with a thin comfort layer will be firmer than a memory foam or polyfoam mattress. Mattresses with latex are generally firmer than other foam mattresses but softer than innerspring mattresses.

Memory foam mattresses are often softer than other mattresses. They are known for their ability to contour the body and for offering great pressure relief. Memory foam is often used for bed-in-a-box mattresses because of its ability to return to its original shape.

Innerspring mattresses are often the firmest with the least contouring. However, this depends on the thickness and material of the comfort layer placed on top of the innerspring core. A thicker top layer can add softness to a firm innerspring mattress.

But as mentioned before, firmness is subjective. As an example, when a heavier person is using an innerspring mattress, the coils can compress more, making the mattress feel softer. For a lighter person, the same mattress is likely to feel firmer as their weight is compressing the coils less.

On the other hand, a petite sleeper is likely to find a hybrid mattress with a memory foam comfort layer soft because they are not sinking in too much. The same mattress can feel firm for a heavier sleeper as they are more likely to press through the comfort layer.

Firm Mattresses

Mattresses rated seven or above are considered firm mattresses. However, for some people, a mattress rated as seven may feel medium-firm or very firm depending on their weight. Generally, mattresses will feel softer for heavier sleepers than for lighter sleepers.

Very firm mattresses, rated as seven or above, are too firm for most Canadians. Anyone with a body weight between 60 kg and 105 kg, is more likely to find a mattress rated between five and seven more comfortable. These are medium to medium-firm mattresses. For most sleepers, mattresses within this range offer a balance of pressure relief and support.

Benefits of Firm Mattresses

Firm mattresses can help to keep your spine in the right alignment since they do not allow your body to sink in excessively. They can be especially good for people who have back problems as they can help your spine stay in a neutral position.

If you like to sleep on your stomach or your back, a firm mattress will prevent your midsection and shoulders from sinking too deep into the mattress. This will help to keep your back in a better alignment. If you need a firmer mattress but would like to add some softness, consider getting an innerspring mattress with a foam topper.

Drawbacks of Firm Mattresses

Many adult Canadians have some level of pain in the hips or shoulders, achy joints, or other sensitivities. A mattress that is too firm will not allow contouring and is likely to create pressure points. This can lead to new aches and pains or make existing conditions worse.

Most side sleepers are likely to find firm mattresses uncomfortable, especially if you are a petite or average-sized person. Because there is not enough give in the mattress, side sleepers may feel pain in their hips because most of their body pressure is focused on a small surface area.

Who Are Firm Mattresses Suitable For?

Since firm mattresses are not suitable for everyone, who can consider getting one? You can get a firm or medium-firm mattress if you are a stomach sleeper because you need more substantial support from your mattress. If you sleep on a too-soft mattress, your back may arch. This could cause your spine to hyperextend and put stress on the lower back.

Back sleepers can also get a firmer mattress because they need their hips to stay elevated rather than sink into the mattress. For most Canadians who prefer to sleep on their backs, a medium-firm mattress is the ideal option but you can choose a harder mattress if you prefer.

If you often get hot during the night, consider a medium to firm mattress, depending on your weight. Since softer beds can feel like they are cradling you, this may make you feel extra hot. Staying more on the surface of the mattress can improve the airflow around you and therefore help regulate your temperature.

Soft Mattresses

Soft mattresses are sometimes referred to as plush mattresses and are rated below five or four on the firmness scale, depending on the mattress manufacturer. Mattresses below four can be difficult to find because they have minimal or no support for a healthy sleeping position for most adult Canadians.

Soft mattresses usually have superior pressure relief because the softer layers provide more cradling. Some people like the idea of sinking into a mattress. However, sinking in too much is likely to lead to an unnatural curve in the spine, which may lead to an aching back over time.

Benefits of Soft Mattresses

A softer mattress can be beneficial if you prefer to sleep on your side and you need more pressure relief. Side sleepers typically experience more stress in the hip region and shoulders because they are usually the widest parts of the body.

Having a softer sleeping surface can help prevent aches and pains created by pressure points. It can offer gentle support and relief. When you get the right softness level for your body type, the mattress will fill the spaces where needed and accommodate your hips and shoulders, contouring your body’s curves. Chiropractors will often recommend a softer mattress for side sleepers to support a correct spinal alignment.

Drawbacks of Soft Mattresses

While soft mattresses can be great for side sleepers, they are generally not the best option for back or stomach sleepers. If you sleep on your back or stomach, a softer mattress can let your hips sink in too deep. This means your spine is not in the right alignment, which can cause pain or worsen any existing back issues.

Softer mattresses can make you feel hotter during the night. Because you sink deeper, you have more material around you. This can trap hot air and cause you to overheat while you are sleeping.

Who Are Soft Mattresses Suitable For?

Softer mattresses are more suitable for side sleepers than back or stomach sleepers. When you sleep on your side, the softer surface allows you to rest more comfortably on a slimmer surface area of your body and effectively relieves pressure.

If you share your bed with a partner, getting a softer mattress can help you sleep better because it will better eliminate motion transfer. Firmer mattresses, especially those with innerspring core, allow the movement to travel across the mattress, while softer mattresses limit the movement to a smaller area. However, it is best not to go too soft.

If you suffer stress in nerves or joints, getting a softer mattress can ease the discomfort in the tender areas of your body. Because the soft mattress contours the body, it prevents pressure points and keeps your spine in the correct position.

Key Things to Remember When Choosing a Mattress Firmness Level

Key Things to Remember When Choosing a Mattress Firmness Level

Because we all have unique sleeping needs and preferences, we need to consider several things when deciding on the firmness level of a new mattress.

  • What are your personal preferences? This is probably the most important factor. Regardless of the general recommendations, the most important factor is your comfort. Try out different mattresses but do it properly. For example, if you usually sleep on your side, try the mattress in that position rather than lying on your back. This will give you a better idea of how well the mattress supports you.
  • What is your preferred sleeping position? This is a key factor when deciding whether you should go softer or firmer. A softer is better for side sleepers, while firmer will suit stomach and back sleepers better.
  • What is your weight? Another key factor to keep in mind. Heavier sleepers will need to choose a firmer mattress to prevent excessive sinking. A petite sleeper will need a softer mattress to prevent pressure points.
  • Do you share a bed with your partner? Most couples prefer a mattress with good motion isolation and softer mattresses will do it better than firm mattresses. For most couples, finding a mattress in the middle range will work the best. If you have very different weights and sleeping preferences, consider getting two twin mattresses to cater to your individual needs. You can use a mattress topper to bridge the gap between the mattresses.
  • Does the mattress company offer a sleep trial? Investing in a new mattress is an important decision and good mattresses do not come cheap. Therefore, consider getting a mattress that comes with a sleep trial. That way you can try it out at home and get a full refund if you are not happy with it.

Conclusion

Most Canadians can choose mattresses from the middle of the firmness scale for balanced support and contouring. Lighter and side sleepers can usually go softer than heavier, back or stomach sleepers.

However, everyone has their own personal preferences when it comes to choosing the firmness level of a mattress. Pick one that makes you feel comfortable, allows you to fall asleep quickly, and leaves you feeling refreshed.

Frequently Asked Questions

The main differences are how the mattress feels when you lie on it and how well it supports and contours your body. Softer mattresses compress more under pressure, meaning they can offer better pressure relief, especially for side sleepers. Firmer mattresses will offer more robust support, which is better for heavier sleepers as well as back and stomach sleepers.

Most Canadians choose a medium or medium-firm mattress. For the average Canadian, middle-range mattresses will provide a balance between contouring and support.

Yes, firm mattresses will get a little softer over time. However, it will not become significantly softer so if you prefer a softer mattress, it is best to purchase one in the first place.