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Which is better: a firm mattress or soft mattress? There are two major factors involved here: your personal preference and whether or not you have back pain. Many people like to lie on a soft mattress, but just as many prefer the support a hard mattress gives them. If you are not sure which is best for you, then here is some advice along with a few tips on how to choose.
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Firm vs. Soft Mattresses: Which is Which?
We are often asked what types of mattress are hard and which types are soft. This is not an easy question to answer. Some foam mattresses are softer than an innerspring mattress, while other foam mattresses are harder. Another issue is what is the ‘average’ innerspring mattress? How hard or soft is it?
You cannot always go by the manufacturer’s advice. One mattress manufacturer’s soft mattress could be harder than another’s hard mattress! It’s all relative to what your standard is and what your own expectation is. A mattress you find reasonably soft may be a bit too hard for another person.
Manufacturers and regulators have tried to come up with some form of measurement that resolves this issue. Does it work? Sometimes! Hardness is described using a number of different terms. Density, hardness and firmness are not the same thing when it comes to foam mattresses. Foam density is measured in Kilograms of foam per cubic metre.
Spring units are manufactured to take a specific weight tolerance. That means that a firm mattress to you could be a soft mattress to somebody much heavier than you. The springs are made to take a specific weight to compress them, and that weight can vary between manufacturers. So it’s not easy to choose whether a specific innerspring mattress will be hard, medium or soft for you unless you try it first.
If you have an innerspring mattress with a memory foam top, then it will modify the feel of the mattress. A hard mattress can seem softer while still giving excellent support. So when it comes to innerspring mattresses, rather than 100% foam, then the top layers lying over the innerspring unit will likely have a greater effect than the springs on how soft or hard the mattress feels.
It would be expected that higher density foams would be harder than lower density equivalents. Not so – and that is one of the confusing difficulties people face when trying to choose between mattresses. Here is a brief explanation of what these different terms mean.
Density measures how much foam you get for your money in Kg for a cubic metre of foam. The higher the density the more foam you get – but how soft or hard is that foam? One type of foam might weight more than another – it may be denser, but not necessarily harder. However, foam density is one way of determining whether a mattress may be softer or harder than another.
The hardness of a foam is not the same as its density. This measurement lets you know how hard the foam feels when you lie on it. Hardness is calculated by measuring the force needed to compress the foam to 40% of its thickness. This force is displayed in units known as newtons (N). So 80N means that it takes 80 newtons to compress the foam to 40% of its original thickness. The higher the newton’s figure, the more force is needed and so the firmer the foam.
So How About the Firmness of a Mattress?
Foam density and hardness can give you an idea of the firmness of a foam. However, it goes beyond that. A memory foam is not very springy or ‘bouncy’. A lot depends on the reason why you want a softer or firmer mattress. A firm foam can absorb your weight quickly, while another, equally firm foam, may not and will seem to have more bounce to it. Great for night games but not for bad backs!
However, let’s get back to initial question! Is a firm mattress or a soft mattress better for you? Many believe a firm mattress to be best for those with back problems. This is not necessarily so. If you have issues with your spine, a softer mattress will allow your spine to take up its natural curvature.
A firm mattress will tend to hold up your pressure points: shoulders and hips and allow the rest of your body to sag. That’s because your body has support only at the pressure points. It does not support your lower back, or lumbar region, so your spine in that area could lose its curvature to get better contact with the mattress. A softer mattress takes up your natural spinal curvature as you sleep. However, eventually, the lack of support may allow the rest of your body to sag, and again take up a poor sleeping posture.
A memory foam mattress molds itself around your body, and so supports all of those pressure points equally, while also offering support to the small of your back. That’s why many of the best mattresses use memory foam. Tempurpedic mattresses consist of memory foam and offers excellent all-round support. However it not exactly an average affordable mattress. Neither does it answer the main question: Which is better: a firm mattress or soft mattress?
Firm Mattress: Pros and Cons
If you are considering a regular latex foam or an innerspring mattress, then think twice before purchasing a firm mattress. It has some positive benefits. One is that you don’t feel like you are sinking into it and feel your movement restricted. However, you lack support in your lower back which may flex down during the night and give rise to back pain.
- Good pressure point support if you have no issues with your back. If you sleep on your side, then a hard mattress helps you keep a neutral position with regard to your spine.
- They are best if you like to use pillows as props under you back or between your knees
- They help to keep your lower back straight, and not collapse lower than your upper body and hips. This collapse would make it more difficult to breathe while you sleep.
- Not the best option for those with certain lower back issues such as arthritis, scoliosis and rheumatism.
- Your body weight can create indentations in the mattress that cannot be smoothed out.
- A hard mattress can put painful pressure on specific pressure points such as your shoulders and hips, while not properly supporting your lower back.
Soft Mattress: Pros and Cons
A soft mattress can feel very comfortable to start with, but as you sink into it you can feel hot during the night. Soft mattresses offer less support than their harder equivalents.
- A soft mattress help reduce back pain, particularly with the elderly
- A soft mattress is good if you sleep on your side or in the fetal position.
- Most soft mattresses are fine for lighter weight people – they may be too soft for heavier sleepers.
- Because a soft mattress provides less support, your spine can settle down into a misaligned shape.
- Most mattresses can often become softer with time and wear out long before hard mattresses.
- Soft mattress can become lumpy or sag much quicker than harder equivalents.
Firm Mattress or Soft Mattress: Firm vs. Soft Mattresses Conclusion
In the firm mattress or soft mattress debate, most experts agree that unless you have a pressing need, or a distinct preference for a soft mattress, then a hard mattress is better for you. A soft mattress is good if you are fairly lightweight, though there are ways to make either type more suitable for you.
A soft or memory foam mattress topper can provide extra comfort to a hard mattress that feels a bit too hard. The same applies to too soft of a softer mattress. A thin harder topper or a memory foam layer on top can help offer you more support while you sleep.
Use the Amazon Trial Period
If you are not sure whether a firm mattress or a soft mattress is best for you, many mattress suppliers offer a test period. If you purchase from Amazon, you will also generally be offered a trial period of a specified number days. If you don’t like the mattress, then return it for a full refund. Then choose a harder or softer alternative.
If you choose the wrong mattress then it can not only make any existing orthopedic problems worse but also create some that you never had previously. Firm vs. Soft Mattresses: take your time and choose wisely.
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