Plush vs Firm Mattress: Which One Is Best?

Written by
 Purple Staff
Last Updated
January 18, 2023
min read

Selecting the right mattress firmness can be confusing. The mattress's firmness and plush feel are due to the thickness of the top layer of the mattress. 

You should be aware of key differences when trying to decide whether to buy a plush or firm mattress. Fortunately, there are key benchmarks you can follow to better understand which one to choose. Let’s take a look at the main differences between plush and firm mattresses.

What Is a Plush Mattress?

Plush mattresses are soft, cozy mattresses with minimal firmness. You can tell a plush mattress apart from a firm mattress by the way the top layers “collapse” when you apply pressure. Because they tend to have a thicker top layer, plush mattresses usually hug your body as you fall into them, keeping you gently in place while you sleep.

Man sleeping on side plush mattress

Our Plush Mattress: Purple Plus Mattress

If you’re interested in a plush mattress, check out the Purple Plus. It includes comfort layers with extra height for sleepers who prefer more plush mattresses. The top layer is made of the Grid which is a patented technology that eliminates pressure by being both soft and supportive all at once.

Purple 3 Grid Showing

What Is a Firm Mattress?

Firm mattresses are mattresses with thin layers that have very little give. Unlike plush mattresses, firm mattresses offer more resistance against your body when you sleep. Though they're not as soft as plush mattresses, they do offer a high level of support, as they keep you elevated and "on top" of the mattress rather than allowing you to sink into it.

Man sleeping on back

Plush vs Firm Mattress: What Is The Difference?

The main difference between a plush and a firm mattress is the height of the top comfort layer. The thicker the comfort layer on a mattress, the plusher the mattress will feel. Firm mattresses, on the other hand, have a thinner comfort layer that feels, well, firm.

Plush and firm mattresses lie on opposite ends of the mattress firmness scale, and one's ideal mattress thickness and firmness all boils down to three things: body weight, ideal sleep position, and personal preference for firmness and thickness. Just because slightly more people prefer a firm mattress, it doesn't necessarily make it right for you. Read our mattress firmness guide

To better illustrate the differences between the two types of mattresses and help you choose the best kind of mattress for you, we list down their benefits and disadvantages below:

The Benefits Of A Plush Mattress

A softer mattress will deliver the following benefits:

  • Extra cushioning that supports limbs and joints;
  • Soft layers that “catch” your body upon contact;
  • A soft, secure hold;
  • Pressure-point relief;
  • Shape retention over time.

The Disadvantages Of A Plush Mattress

Despite these advantages, soft mattresses still have their drawbacks, including:

  • Creating a "sinking feeling" for a heavier person;
  • Providing inadequate support for stomach sleepers and back sleepers;
  • More resistance when getting out of bed.

The Benefits Of A Firm Mattress

They say firm mattresses are great for people with back issues. Here's why:

  • The level of firmness provides more support to sleepers' back and limbs;
  • The firm top doesn't mess with one's spinal alignment;
  • The sleepers' weight is evenly distributed across the top of the mattress.

The Disadvantages Of A Firm Mattress

But just like plush mattresses, using a firm to medium-firm mattress can also bring the following problems:

  • The mattress' rigidity may feel too uncomfortable to fall asleep.
  • Petite sleepers may experience discomfort, hip pain, joint pain, and stiff neck.

Also, keep in mind that firm mattresses require an adjustment period before sleeping conditions improve.

Plush Vs Firm Mattress: Which One Should I Choose?

As mentioned, the choice between a firmer or thicker mattress is affected by the users' body weight and the types of sleepers using the mattress.

Who Should Use A Firm Mattress?

If you are any of the following, you should look into getting a firmer mattress:

  • A larger person (over 240 pounds)
  • A stomach sleeper
  • A back sleeper
  • A deep sleeper
  • Someone who needs spinal support at night

Who Should Use A Plush Mattress?

If any of the following describe you, you could use the extra padding provided by plushier mattresses:

  • A smaller person (less than 135 pounds);
  • A side sleeper;
  • A combination sleeper;
  • Wake up several times each night;
  • Someone who needs pressure relief, especially from joint pain, shoulder pain, and muscle pain.

How To Know If You Need A Firm Or Soft Mattress?

Before you begin mattress shopping, you need to consider the following factors: the body types of the users, their sleep preferences, and the firmness levels they're comfortable with.

As a general rule, side sleepers and combination sleepers benefit most from a plush mattress, while back and stomach sleepers may prefer a firmer option. But again, it ultimately depends on your personal preference and what you deem to be the perfect mattress.

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Frequently Asked Questions About Plush vs Firm Mattress

Are the mattresses in hotels plush or firm?

In general, hotel mattresses are in the medium-firm to firm range of comfort levels.

Is it uncomfortable to sleep in a firm bed?

Whether or not a firm mattress is uncomfortable depends on each user. A lighter person may find a firm mattress too uncomfortable for their liking, but a heavier person or a person in need of spinal support may find a firm mattress much more comfortable than a plush one.

What is the ideal mattress firmness?

There is no ideal mattress firmness. Plush comfort level is ultimately subjective and will change from person to person.

Generally speaking, side sleepers and smaller folks should go for extra soft and plush mattresses, while heavier sleepers, back sleepers, and stomach sleepers should go for medium-firm to firm mattresses.