The Ultimate Guide to Mattress Firmness

Last Updated on July 10, 2024

by Marc Werner, Founder - GhostBed

These days, you can get almost anything delivered straight to your door—including mattresses! Buying a mattress online is easy and convenient. But there's one thing missing from the equation: the ability to feel how firm or soft your bed will be before buying it.

Because of this, a lot of consumers rely on a brand's mattress firmness scale to make their choice.

Keep reading, and we'll guide you through everything you need to know about the scale and how to choose the best mattress for you.

Find the Perfect Mattress Firmness for You
- May not provide adequate support
- Prone to sinkage
- Feels like sleeping on a cloud
- Gently conforms to the body without "pulling" you in
- Offers some resistance against your body weight
- Ideal for side, back and combo sleepers
- Most popular
- Aligns the body
- Ideal for side, back, stomach and combo sleepers
- Least popular
- May feel inflexible

What is Mattress Firmness?

Mattress firmness refers to the feel of a bed and how hard or soft it is when you lie on it. Industry-wide, mattress firmness is measured on a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 as the firmest and 1 as the softest.

Why Does Mattress Firmness Matter?

Aside from durability, the feel of your mattress is one of the most important considerations when you're shopping for a new bed. Selecting a mattress that is either too firm or too soft for you can lead to things like back and shoulder pain, and can make it harder to fall (and stay) asleep.

Some people already know what kind of mattress they prefer. If you're starting from scratch, don't worry—that's what we're here for!

The Subjective Nature of Mattress Firmness

Here's the good news: if you're shopping online, most companies will showcase their firmness scale and let you know where a particular mattress falls.

However, you may need to take these ratings with a grain of salt. This is because mattress firmness is incredibly subjective.

Factors like your weight and your typical sleeping position change where (and how much) your body presses against the surface of the mattress.

There are a couple of ways to combat this:

  • Do your research. Look through online reviews and testimonials, and see how real people describe the mattress.
  • Talk to us. Here at GhostBed, our team of Sleep Experts is trained to guide you through the process of selecting the best mattress for you.
  • Look for a comfort guarantee. We offer a 101-Night Sleep Trial with all of our mattresses. This extended trial period gives you time to break in your mattress and determine if the firmness is well-suited to your body type and/or sleeping style.

How Your Sleeping Position Affects Mattress Firmness

When you lay down flat on a mattress, your weight doesn't naturally distribute evenly from head to toe. Your torso, for example, weighs more than your lower legs, so it will sink in further. Because of this, the position you sleep in will change how your mattress contours against you—and how much "give" you should look for in order to stay comfortable.

Below, we'll run through some of the common recommendations for finding the right balance.

Stomach Sleepers
Side Sleepers
Back Sleepers
Combination Sleepers

Mattress Firmness Chart by Sleeping Position

Firmness by Position
GhostBed Stomach Sleeper
5-8 on the firmness scale
Medium | Medium-Firm
GhostBed Stomach Sleeper
4-6 on the firmness scale
Plush | Medium-Plush | Medium
GhostBed Stomach Sleeper
4-8 on the firmness scale
Medium-Plush | Medium | Medium-Firm
GhostBed Stomach Sleeper
5-7 on the firmness scale
Medium | Medium-Firm

How Weight Affects Mattress Firmness

The position you sleep in can help determine whether you need a firm or plush mattress, but your body weight also comes into play. The best mattress for a heavy person, for example, may be too firm for a smaller person. This has to do with gravity.

Take a look at the dropdowns below to help you understand what you should look for firmness-wise in your bed based on your weight.

130 Pounds and Under
130-230 Pounds
230 Pounds and Up

Mattress Firmness Chart by Weight

Firmness by Weight
130 Pounds
and Under
3-6 on the firmness scale
Plush | Medium-Plush | Medium
4-8 on the firmness scale
Medium-Plush | Medium | Medium-Firm
230 Pounds
and Up
6-10 on the firmness scale
Medium-Firm | Firm | Extra-Firm

Mattress Firmness FAQs

Do you have a question about mattress firmness? We talk to customers all day about choosing the right mattress. Read below for the common queries we get.

What if My Partner and I Like a Different Level of Mattress Firmness?

If you and your partner prefer different mattress comfort levels, we have two suggestions to try as a solution.

  1. Select a mattress with a universal feel (in the 5-7 range).
  2. Opt for a split king. With two separate mattresses making up the bed, you can each choose a mattress that you like.

Are All Memory Foam Mattresses Soft?

Nope—just because there is memory foam in a mattress doesn't automatically make it plush. Many mattresses use a few different types of foam and other materials, and the way they're layered within the model makes a big difference. A latex layer toward the top, for example, will balance out a memory foam layer and provide a bit of a firmer feel.

What Does "Universal Comfort" Mean?

You may also come across the term "universal comfort" when researching mattress firmness online. A universal comfort level mattress is usually in the 5-7 range of firmness and means that it is suitable for all sleeping styles. It's perfect for couples, too!

Build Your Bedroom with GhostBed

We hope that our mattress firmness guide has helped you understand what to look for when selecting your next bed. Ultimately, an extended trial period will remove any worries about choosing a mattress with the wrong firmness, as you will be able to try it for several months before committing.

Need help deciding? Chat with one of our Sleep Experts today, or take Marc's Mattress Quiz to get your personalized recommendation.

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Marc Werner - Founder, GhostBed

Marc Werner

Founder - GhostBed

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Marc has spent the last two decades designing & manufacturing mattresses and other sleep products, drawing on a lifetime of experience working with the material sciences. With several patents to his name, he works closely with the GhostBed team to create products with the perfect balance of comfort & support. Learn More

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