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Soft or Firm Mattress, Which is Best for You?

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Soft and firm mattresses both sit on extreme ends of the mattress spectrum. While soft mattresses compress easily, delivering a cloud-like experience, firm mattresses have hardly any shrinkage even under heavy loads.

Who are these mattresses for?

While medium mattresses cater to a wide range of people, soft and firm mattresses cater to a smaller pool.

Typically, we'll specify a soft or firm mattress for special requirements, such as body weight extremes (low or high) and medical conditions.

Which is best for you depends on what sleeping experience you prefer, and ultimately, what level of support you need to be comfortable.

What's the difference?

The apparent difference between soft and firm mattresses is how they react when sitting on them. You sink into a soft mattress but stay on top of a firm mattress. Based on this behaviour, you can judge whether a mattress is soft or firm.

Another key difference is how the mattress reacts when you toss and turn. It's easier to toss and turn on a firmer mattress, and firmer mattresses make movement more manageable, while soft mattresses make it more challenging because they sink.

Pictured: Sleepeezee Hybrid 2000 Mattress and Divan Bed (Available from

The Which? approved Hybrid 2000 mattress offers the perfect blend of technologies to deliver outstanding comfort and total support night after night.

The last key difference is pressure relief. Softer mattresses relieve pressure on joints, so suit side sleepers. Firm mattresses are rigid, so they are best for black sleepers. If you wake up with joint pain, it's probably because your mattress is too firm!

Soft mattresses

  • Super squishy

  • Best for side sleepers

  • Best for people under 130lbs

  • Very little support

Soft mattresses are designed for people who weigh less than 130lbs (9.2 stone). People heavier than this will sink into a soft mattress too much, making it challenging to move around and evaporating any level of support.

It's important to point out that a soft mattress will deliver support to people within the correct weight range, just like any mattress.

If you sleep next to someone heavier than you, a good compromise is a soft-medium mattress. Soft-medium mattresses are suited to people up to 160lbs (11.5 stone), providing more outstanding support with a soft comfort layer.

Pictured: Silentnight Geltex 2000 Mattress. Available from

Silentnight's trademark Mirapocket spring system offers a tailored experience to every type of sleeper.

Sleeping on a soft mattress is like sleeping on a marshmallow; the mattress sinks quickly with low levels of support.

Firm mattresses

  • Rock hard

  • Best for back sleepers

  • Best for people over 220lbs

  • Maximum support

Firm mattresses are best for back sleepers and people who weigh over 220lbs. A firm mattress won't sink under a heavy load and delivers the highest level of support, although the firmness makes side sleeping uncomfortable.

A firm mattress is also sometimes recommended to relieve back pain in back sleepers because it helps to keep the spine aligned.

However, most people find a firm mattress uncomfortable, and the worst offenders are rock hard and unforgiving. For this reason, firm-medium mattresses are more popular because they have a softer comfort layer.

Pictured: Sleepeezee Perfectly British Strand 1400 Mattress. Available from

Firm-medium mattresses are a good compromise for heavier couples that need to balance support and comfort.

If you want a firm mattress, you'll probably find lots of mattresses with the label "orthopaedic." Beware that there are no standards for this term, so in reality, any mattress can be an orthopaedic mattress.

Where do medium mattresses fit in?

If you weigh between 160lbs and 190lbs, a medium mattress is better than firm-medium or soft-medium. Medium mattresses offer a complete balance between support and comfort, which most people prefer.

Medium mattresses are also suitable for sleeping on your front, side, and back, which is why they are the most popular type of mattress.

You can think of medium mattresses as a jack of all trades. They are suitable for most sleepers, but not everyone will find them comfy.

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