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Firm or soft? Tips on choosing the best mattress for you

You spend roughly a third of your life asleep, so it only makes sense to find a good mattress for your needs. One factor that buyers often struggle with is firmness — once you know the difference between a firm and soft mattress, and know your preference, it's easier to find the right one for you. 

Of course, you have other features to consider, such as mattress type, size and cooling properties. We've put together some tips to help you find your perfect mattress. 

In this article: Casper Original MattressSweetnight Hybrid Mattress and Leesa Sapira Hybrid Mattress.

Mattress firmness

Mattresses come in different levels of firmness. Manufacturers sometimes rate them on a scale of 1 to 10, but this scale is subjective. It's generally easier to group them into soft, medium, medium-firm and firm categories. 

  • Soft: Soft mattresses feel extremely plush, almost like you might sink into them. Some side sleepers find soft mattresses the most comfortable option. Although not every soft mattress lacks support, this is a common issue. 
  • Medium: Medium is a popular choice, as it offers a great balance of comfort and support, and it works for most sleeping positions.
  • Medium-firm: Medium-firm mattresses find the happy medium, offering something more firm than a medium mattress but with some extra cushioning. They're great for back and stomach sleepers who need the extra support. 
  • Firm: Some people simply prefer the feeling of firm mattresses. They're rarely more supportive than medium-firm offerings, so it's a matter of preference. 

Mattress types

You'll find three main types of mattresses: foam, innerspring and hybrid. 

  • Foam: Foam mattresses usually have varying layers of foam, including high-density foam for support and top layers of memory foam for comfort and pressure relief. They usually range from soft to medium-firm. 
  • Innerspring: Innerspring mattresses contain metal springs or coils to provide support and give mattresses a firm yet bouncy feel. They tend to be medium-firm to firm. 
  • Hybrid: Hybrid mattresses have a base of coils and several layers of foam over the top. This combines the plush pressure relief of foam with the bounce and added support of coils. Most hybrid mattresses have medium to firm feels. 

Tips for choosing a mattress

There's still more to consider when picking your perfect mattress. Here are some additional tips for finding the one to give you sweet dreams. 

  • Consider what size you need: Twin beds are fine for kids but generally feel too small for adults, even when they sleep by themselves. If you're an adult who sleeps alone, then a full-size mattress will suffice. But you may still be more comfortable with a queen-size mattress. People who sleep with a partner should opt for a queen, king or California king option, depending on how much space they require. 
  • Find out about guarantees: Some mattresses come with a guarantee that allows you to send them back if you're unhappy with them for any reason. This can last as long as 100 nights, letting you get a real feel for a mattress. 
  • Decide if cooling properties are important to you: Memory foam mattresses can cause people to feel too hot at night. However, you can find some options with perforated top layers for breathability or gel-infused foam layers, which have their own cooling properties.

Best mattresses

Casper Original Mattress

This quality foam mattress offers zoned support, so it is softer under the shoulders for comfort and offers necessary support around the hips, waist and lower back. The top layer of perforated foam helps keep sleepers from overheating. 

Where to buy: Sold by Casper and Amazon

Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Breeze Mattress

Not only does this mattress have the comfort you'd expect from a Tempur product, but it has cooling properties that are great for hot sleepers. It's available in soft or firm varieties, so you can choose one to suit you. 

Where to buy: Sold by Tempur-Pedic

Iyee Nature Gel Memory Foam Mattress

Thanks to its medium-firm feel, this mattress is a great choice for people who want a decent amount of support without a mattress that's excessively hard. The gel-infused memory foam is comfortable and cools down hot sleepers. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Sweetnight Hybrid Mattress

This hybrid mattress features individually wrapped coils under layers of support foam and memory foam. It has a medium-firm feel and is sure to give you a plush feeling with ample support. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Leesa Sapira Hybrid Mattress

With a support layer of more than 1,000 springs and layers of comfortable foam on top, this is a comfier alternative to a classic innerspring mattress. It features a cooling top layer and has a medium-firm feel. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Zinus Support Plus Pocket Spring Hybrid Mattress

If you're looking for firm support, this mattress provides, thanks to its innerspring/foam combo. It is perfect for pressure relief and also isolates motion so you won't disturb your sleeping partner as you move. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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