Mattress Firmness Guide: Which Is Right For Me?

Written by
 April Seifert
Last Updated
January 18, 2023
min read

Mattress firmness can be confusing to understand. Everyone has a unique body and experiences levels of firmness differently. A few contributing factors are weight, body shape, size, and sleeping position. Fortunately, there are key gauges you can follow to better understand mattress firmness. 

We discuss the differences in mattress firmness and support so you can understand which mattress firmness is ideal for you.

What Is Mattress Firmness?

As the name suggests, mattress firmness refers to how soft or hard your mattress feels. Mattress firmness is largely impacted by the mattress thickness in the top comfort level.

You may have noticed that you sink into some mattresses more than others. These plushier, more pliable mattresses are usually softer, while beds that prevent any deep sinkage are considered firm.

However, firmness levels aren't the same for every person. A mattress that feels firm to you might feel softer to someone else. Whether you’re purchasing a memory foam bed or looking at hybrid mattresses, we recommend trying it out for yourself instead of taking someone else's word for it. That’s why all our Purple clients get a 100-day sleep trial period to find out for themselves!


Why Firmness Levels Matters

Mattress firmness matters because different types of sleepers have various needs. As a result, there’s no single universal comfort level that all mattresses can fulfill. For example, a firmer mattress might help a heavier sleeper with spinal alignment, but the same surface may feel too rigid for a lighter sleeper.

Sleeping on a bed with a less-than-ideal firmness level can even result in people feeling stiff and unrested in the morning – and that’s why it’s so important to check out several types of mattresses before settling on one.

Mattress Firmness Scale

mattress firmness scale

The firmness scale ranges from 1-10, with 1 representing softer models and 10 referring to the firmer options on the market. Mattress manufacturers use this scale as a tool for firmness rating so consumers more or less get the right idea before they actually make the purchase.

However, everyone experiences each level of firmness differently, so the best thing to do is test out a mattress for yourself. That said, understanding the mattress firmness scale is still a great starting point for anybody looking to find the perfect sleeping surface.


1-2: Extra Soft

Extra soft models are relatively rare finds, primarily because they offer the least support of all mattress types. While a plush sleeping surface can sound like heaven, sleeping on these beds can result in body pain and poor sleep quality. Only the lightest sleepers will find these comfortable.


3-4: Soft

If you’re a strict side sleeper or share a bed with a partner, relatively soft mattress options might be for you. These plush mattresses let you sink in without being completely devoid of back support, making them the ideal choice for the average sleeper who changes positions throughout the night.


5: Medium-Firm

The majority of sleepers consider mattresses with a medium firmness to be an excellent “middle of the road” option. It provides an outstanding balance of comfort and support while you sleep, so a wide range of sleepers will get the pushback they need without too much fuss. Combo sleepers that can’t settle on one sleep position may also feel right at home here.


6-7: Firm

This firmness rating provides a fair bit of support while still being soft enough for combination sleepers. People who experience body pain while sleeping might benefit from investing in a firm mattress. Stomach sleepers, in particular, are particularly suited to this kind of bed.


8-10: Extra Firm

Like extra soft mattresses, very few people prefer an extra-firm mattress. As a result, you won't find many on the market. Extra-firm beds have hardly any “give”, which means they provide that additional back support at the cost of that pillowy, plushy feeling. That said, this mattress type can be an excellent option for heavy people who want a firmer sleep experience.

Firmness vs Support

A common misconception among mattress buyers is that mattress firmness and support are the same. On the contrary, some medium-range mattresses can have the same pressure relief and support as an extra firm bed, but these models usually have a particular type of inner construction to them.

Take the Purple mattress, for example. With the GelFlex™ grid technology, the Purple mattress provides the comfort you're looking for without sacrificing any support. Our bed instantly adapts to your body while cradling your pressure points regardless of model firmness.  

What Is the Right Firmness for You?

As we mentioned earlier, there is no universal comfort level that suits everyone when it comes to mattresses. But how do you identify which mattress will fit your needs without trying every single one you see? Here are a few things you should keep in mind when deciding on mattress firmness. Consider the benefits of a firm mattress


Sleeping Positions

Sleeping position is a major deciding factor when choosing firmness. Here’s how different sleepers can benefit from various mattress firmness levels:

  • Side sleepers: Side sleepers benefit from softer to medium-firm mattresses. Because side sleepers sleep on their shoulders and hips, a softer to medium-firm mattress will help with any joint pain while keeping your body in perfect alignment.
  • Back sleepers: Back sleepers benefit from a medium-firm to firm mattress. You’ll want to look for a bed that relieves pressure point pain for the best sleep quality. The extra support keeps the spine in neutral alignment and prevents the lower back from rounding.
man sleeping on his back
  • Stomach sleepers: Stomach sleepers tend to suffer the most from stiffness and soreness, so they benefit most from a more firm mattress. A firm mattress prevents a stomach sleeper's hips from sinking, which could lead to lower back pain.
man laying on his stomach

Although stomach sleeping is the least common position, the right mattress firmness is especially important in preventing neck and back pain. Stomach sleepers tend to suffer the most from stiffness and soreness, so they benefit most from a more firm mattress. A firm mattress prevents a stomach sleeper’s hips from sinking, which could lead to lower back pain. It also supports the shoulders, keeping the neck and head at an appropriate and more comfortable angle.

Buyers should note that this list isn’t the end-all-be-all when deciding on mattress firmness. Don't ignore your personal firmness preference when making the decision.



A sleeper’s bodyweight influences the way people experience different firmness levels. Here are some of our recommendations for mattresses, based on general bodyweight:

  • Lightweight sleepers: Lighter people tend to experience mattresses as firmer than their ratings and may benefit from choosing a softer bed.
  • Average weight sleepers: Average weight sleepers usually experience firmness as manufacturers intended, meaning ratings are a little more accurate. With this in mind, consider your personal sleeping style and preferred position when buying.
  • Heavier sleepers: Heavier folks tend to experience mattresses as less firm than their ratings. However, this doesn’t mean you should purchase firm mattresses right off the bat. Instead, consider your personal comfort preferences and buy accordingly.


Consider Partner Preferences

If you share your bed with a significant other, make sure you consider their preferences and sleep position as well. We recommend taking the time to discuss your individual preferences and test out mattresses together.

For example, a medium-firm bed is a prevalent halfway point for most couples, but this may not be the ideal choice for you. Check out our guide on mattresses for couples for more information.


Body Pain

Even if your mattress was comfortable when you bought it, that could change as it wears down. Body pain is one of the main reasons people consider getting a new bed, so making your decisions around pain relief can be very helpful. Here’s how different types of sleep-related pain can inform your purchases.


Shoulder Pain

If you deal with shoulder pain, a softer mattress might be the right fit for you. That’s because many side sleepers develop shoulder pain if their mattress is too firm. Since firmer options don’t have lots of “give” for shoulders and hips, they can cause morning stiffness. We recommend trying out a soft to medium-firm mattress.


Back Pain

man sitting on mattress with back pain

Waking up with back pain is one of the most commonly reported sleep-related problems. Most of the time, the issue comes from a person's mattress being too soft and lacking support, leading to improper spinal alignment as you sleep.


Hip Pain

Nearly 10 percent of the adult population suffers from hip pain, which only worsens with time. That’s why it’s so important to choose a bed that makes things a little bit better. With this in mind, we recommend checking out soft to medium-firm mattresses for maximum comfort.

However, mattress firmness alone won’t fix hip pain. You may also want to adjust your sleeping position for near-instant relief. These suggestions may help keep your hips from twisting and causing you unnecessary or worse pain:

  • If you're a stomach or back sleeper, try to sleep with both legs straight.

Consider placing a pillow between your knees if you're a side sleeper.

You may enjoy reading these related articles: 

- Firm vs medium mattress

- Plush vs firm mattress

- How to know if my mattress is too firm or too soft?

Purple Mattresses: The Sleep Solution For All Firmness Levels

When choosing the right mattress firmness for you, there are many factors to consider. There's a lot to think about, from bodyweight to sleeping position to existing body pain, before pulling the trigger on a new purchase.

That said, Purple has a variety of high-quality and comfortable mattresses to meet your specific needs. With our patented GelFlex™ Grid technology, you get the comfort and support exactly where you need it. Buyers can even contact one of our sleep experts to help them make the right decision.

Talk to a Sleep Consultant for rejuvenating sleep and exclusive savings.

woman in Purple warehouse

Live Showroom Demo

Talk to a Sleep Consultant in an actual Purple showroom. Ask questions and see our products up close.

White Location Icon

Find a Store Near You

Purple mattresses are sold in thousands of locations. Experience Purple near you.

Chat bubble icon

Call or Chat

Our Sleep Consultants are here to help you build your perfect bed.

Chat bubble icon

Let our Sleep Geniuses help you discover better sleep.

Our Sleep Geniuses are here to help
you build your perfect bed.