You might think a soft mattress is always more comfortable than a hard one, but this depends on the individual. Since the average Australian spends a third of every day sleeping, it's important to choose a mattress that's comfortable while also giving you the support you need.
When you're shopping for a luxury mattress, you need to think about more than just its size. The position you sleep in, your height and weight and whether you suffer from back ache or neck pains can all determine whether a firm or soft mattress is the best choice for you.
What makes a mattress firm or soft?
There can be big differences in how firm or soft a mattress feels. A firm mattress feels rigid and can't be compressed by hand or when lying down, whereas a soft mattress sinks down easily when pressure is applied.
Firmness is determined by the thickness of the mattress and its comfort layers and the materials these are made from. Innerspring mattresses can be made firmer by increasing the gauge (thickness) of the metal springs, while the firmness of a foam or latex mattress is rated according to how much weight is needed to indent the surface.
Most people don't feel comfortable sleeping on a very firm or very soft mattress, with firmness ratings being more of a spectrum. Most preferences are somewhere in the middle. If you don't know what firmness level is right for you, you should spend some time trying out different mattresses in the store before you buy.
Why is firmness important?
The firmness of a mattress isn't only about comfort. Your mattress should also support your body by helping to maintain correct alignment of the spine and relieving pressure and discomfort on the joints. This varies for every individual, but is determined to a large extent by your height, weight and whether you have an existing health condition.
If you suffer from neck or back pain, a firm mattress can make it worse and should be avoided. On the other hand, some people may find that a soft mattress doesn't give enough support and makes them wake up aching in the morning.
The position you sleep in – on your back, on your side or on your front – should also influence your decision when choosing a firm, medium-firm or soft mattress.
Who needs a hard mattress?
Mattresses are usually promoted for their softness and comfort, but many people are better suited to a hard mattress. This may be the case if:
- You sleep on your stomach
- You weigh more than 105kg (230lb)
A firm mattress gives maximum support to the spine and neck and helps to keep them straight, which is vital if you sleep on your front. More pressure is absorbed by the bones during sleep, which helps to relieve stress on the muscles and other soft tissues, improving breathing and circulation.
If you're tall or heavy, a heavy gauge innerspring mattress or high density foam mattress will distribute your weight more evenly, without you sinking into the bed. This type of mattress may feel uncomfortable at first if you're used to a softer mattress, but over time you should wake up feeling fewer aches and pains and more refreshed.
- Not suitable for back pains
A firm mattress is not a good idea if you have lower back pains or a joint problem such as arthritis, rheumatism or scoliosis, as more pressure being applied to the bones and joints can make symptoms worse.
Stomach sleeping is also discouraged by doctors, as it puts more pressure on the spine, neck and joints, so you might consider trying to adjust your sleeping position before committing to a firm mattress.
Who needs a soft mattress?
A soft mattress might sound ideal for a comfortable sleep, but it's not for everyone. You may be suited to a softer mattress if:
- You sleep on your side
- You weigh less than 75kg (165lb)
If you're below average height or weight, you won't get the full benefits of a firm mattress, which could just feel uncomfortable, but a soft mattress can give you all the support you need. The reverse applies for heavier sleepers, who won't be supported when sinking into a mattress that's too soft.
Soft mattresses are also recommended for side sleepers. This sleeping position puts pressure on the shoulders and hips that's reduced when sinking into an accommodating mattress, especially one made from memory foam or natural latex that conforms to your body shape.
If you have back or joint pains, a soft mattress could also provide relief, but a medium-firm mattress may be a better fit to make sure you're still getting much-needed support.
- Not suitable for back or stomach sleepers
If you sleep on your back or your front, a soft mattress won't align your spine correctly and could cause problems.
Who needs a medium mattress?
If a firm mattress is too uncomfortable and a soft mattress isn't supportive enough, you'll need a middle ground that's 'just right.' A medium-firm, medium or medium-soft mattress could be ideal if:
- You sleep on your back
- You're of average height and weight
- You have back, neck or joint problems
- You're pregnant
For most people, a mid-level spring, foam or latex mattress offers the ideal balance of comfort and spinal support, especially for back sleepers. A luxury mattress with natural comfort layers over a firmer base offers the best of both worlds, helping you to enjoy an indulgent and supportive sleep.
If you sometimes wake up with aches and pains on your old mattress, switching to a well-balanced medium mattress could provide relief. These mattresses can also be the best option for pregnant women, as you'll get the cushioning support you need without making it difficult to get out of bed.
Dual comfort mattress for couples
What if you need a firm mattress, but you partner prefers it soft? Rather than making one of you suffer, or tying to find a middle ground that could leave you both unsatisfied, ask your local mattress store about dual firmness mattresses for bed sharers.
These mattresses can be custom-made to suit both of your sleeping styles, whether you need one side firm and one side soft or other combinations. Each side of the sleeping surface is tailored to the individual sleeper, so you won't have to suffer back aches and joint pains or get that sinking feeling on an unsuitable mattress.
DeRUCCI partnered with French TRECA and the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium to design the innovative TS Sleep System, a body modelling system that enables two different firmness levels in one mattress. By collecting data such as weight, height and body shape, we can create a personalised sleeping solution for you and your partner to over 95% accuracy.
Does firmness affect lifespan?
The firmness of a mattress can have some effect on how long it lasts, but this depends more on the materials it's made from and quality of construction, as well as how the mattress is treated.
As mattresses tend to lose their firmness over a number of years, a firm mattress can have a longer life than a mattress that's already soft, but this isn't always the case.
To make sure your mattress will stand the test of time, choose a luxury mattress made from strong memory foam or natural latex, or one that uses independent pocket springs rather than a single set of springs that can wear down more quickly.
What about pillows?
A good mattress should support your spine, but you also need the right pillows to support your head and neck. Where mattresses are graded on firmness, pillows are measured by loft (thickness). The greater the loft, the bulkier the pillow and the higher it will raise your head and neck.
Generally, the firmer the mattress, the higher the pillow loft needed to correctly align the spine and cervical spine (neck). The exception is for stomach sleepers, who should choose a low-loft pillow to avoid raising their neck too high. As with mattresses, you should try pillows out for yourself before deciding which ones to buy.
When is it time for a new mattress?
If you wake up with aches and pains some mornings, or you've been sleeping on your old mattress for many years, it may be time to make a change. As well as losing their firmness and going out of shape, mattresses can also harbour bacteria and mould that could be hazardous to health, especially if someone in your home has allergies.
DeRUCCI's Italian designers have created luxury mattresses to suit every sleeping style and every style of bedroom. View our mattress range online and visit your nearest showroom to find your perfect match.
This information is not to be considered as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe, treat, or cure any medical condition. For further advice, you should speak to an appropriately qualified health practitioner.