Best Firm Mattress
Choosing a Firm Mattress Is a Significant Decision
When shopping for a new mattress, knowing what you want is foremost. If you’ve decided a firm mattress is best for you, that’s a great starting point. Choosing a mattress is one of the most important decisions you’ll make about your quality of life and health, yet most people spend lots more time researching products they use much less.
Consider how much time you spend deciding which new flat screen TV to buy or how intensely you might debate iPhone versus Galaxy or Google Home versus Amazon Echo. One study shows you’ll spend almost 15 hours researching which car to buy. Did you know that couples devote a whopping 132 hours a year deciding what to eat? Isn’t a good night’s sleep just as important?
Considering that you spend 1/3 of your life in bed (far more than you spend driving or eating), choosing the best mattress is crucial. This guide will arm you with the information you need to select the best firm bed for you. We’ll take you through mattress construction, terminology, sleep styles best suited for a firm bed, and our top five picks for the best firm mattress.
Let’s get started.
Firmness vs. Comfort
Before you buy a firm mattress, you should understand what firmness means. Mattress companies rate their beds on a scale of firmness, but you shouldn’t take this as the sole criteria. First, firmness is entirely subjective to how a bed feels to you. Second, mattress components, how they’re arranged, and the thickness or density of those materials determine firmness.
The two parts of a mattress explained
There are two main parts to a mattress: the support layer and comfort layer(s). The support layer is down deeper in the bed and is what keeps your spine aligned as you sleep. The comfort layers are up top and should offer comfort and relief of the pressure points of your body including shoulders, neck, and hips. Mattresses may be designed with several components within these two functional layers.
Mattress firmness by the numbers
Mattress firmness is usually rated on a scale from 1-10 with 10 the firmest and 1 the softest. A mattress at either end of the spectrum is not likely to suit your needs. Even those that think they want a firm bed might benefit instead from medium-firm depending on sleep position, body weight, and health concerns.
Next, we’ll take a quick look at our top picks, then cover the pros and cons of firm mattresses, who may benefit from a firm mattress, types of firm mattresses, and then detailed reviews of our top five best firm mattress picks.
Pros and Cons of a Firm Mattress
There are benefits and downsides to a firm mattress, so it’s important to understand these when choosing your next bed. If you’ve always slept on a firm mattress and get a good night’s sleep doing so, sticking with firm is probably best. However, if you’re not currently sleeping on a firm bed but want to change, you should consider carefully how your sleep experience will change.
Here are some pros and cons to consider when deciding if a softer or firmer bed is best:
|Firmer||Keeps your body straighter and spine aligned
Reduces pressure on the circulatory system
Better oxygen flow via lower back support
Tends to sleep cooler
|Offers less pressure relief
May irritate low back problems
May require an adjustment period
|Softer||Cushions joints better
Offers “sinking in” sensation
More comfortable to the touch
|Can push the spine out of alignment
May get softer over time
May cause “hammock” effect
It’s also important to note that mattress firmness isn’t down to a choice of soft versus firm. As we showed you with the scale above, mattress firmness is a spectrum. Most people find that medium-firm is better than extra firm because it offers the benefits of both softer and firmer beds and fewer drawbacks than if you opt for a more rigid sleep surface.
Next, we’ll look at who will best benefit for a firm mattress and who may not appreciate it as much.
Is a Firm Mattress Best for You?
If you know from experience that a firm mattress works for you, then you’re ready to shop. However, if you’re looking to change from a softer to a firmer mattress, there are some things to consider before you radically change your sleep surface. Here are some questions to ask yourself before you buy.
What’s your current sleep experience and how firm is your current bed?
If you have a firm bed and sleep great on it, that’s awesome. However, if you wake up achy, toss and turn during the night, or have a partner that complains about the bed, a change is in order. It could be that your current bed is just breaking down or it could be that you need a different firmness.
What’s your sleep position?
Most people shift around at night but have one predominant sleep position. One sleep study showed that almost 70% of people engage in some form of side sleeping. If that’s you, you might not want to go too firm on your mattress because it may not relieve your pressure points as well.
However, those that sleep on their back or stomach may benefit greatly from a firmer bed. Stomach sleepers need a firm surface, so they don’t sink in and strain their neck or make it hard to breathe. Back sleepers also do better with firmer beds, so their spine doesn’t sag down into the bed.
Do you sleep hot or cold?
Some people run hotter at night by nature, and for others, it may be a health condition or hormones. No matter the reason, the hotter you sleep, the firmer bed you may want. A softer bed that lets you sink into it radiates your body heat back at you and can disrupt sleep or make you wake sweaty.
Do you have lower back pain?
If you have lower back pain, a softer bed that lets you sink into it can throw your spine out of alignment. But if you go too firm, you won’t have pressure relief and can also wind up achy. Research from Harvard University shows a medium-firm mattress is optimal for those with low back pain.
How much do you weigh?
If you’re heavier, you’ll likely benefit from a firmer mattress. If you go too soft, you can sink in deeply creating a hammock effect that throws your spine out of alignment and can cause pain. Conversely, if you’re light, a firm mattress might not offer enough pressure relief.
Do you sleep with a partner?
Sleeping with a partner means you must consider their needs. If you sleep differently, if one of you is light and the other heavy or one has back pain, those issues should be addressed. The solution may be a dual design bed with each half constructed differently or a compromise at mid-range firmness.
Do you move around a lot at night?
If you sleep alone, this may not be so important, but when co-sleeping, if one partner moves around a lot, it can disrupt sleep for the other. Motion transfer is the energy transferred when you move that can shake the whole mattress. Firmer beds usually have greater transfer of movement.
Do you have joint pain?
Joint pain sufferers usually benefit from a thicker comfort layer and may do better on a softer bed. If you have both joint and back pain, you may want to stick with a firmer support layer under a richer comfort layer that offers enhanced pressure relief on your sore joints.
Choosing the best mattress for you
Answering the above questions will inform your mattress choice, but the only way to know what firmness is right for you is to sleep on it. Lying on a bed in a mattress showroom for five minutes won’t tell you enough. In fact, a recent study by nonprofit health advocate RTI found that nearly 40% of consumers choose an incompatible mattress after an in-store lie-down.
That’s why sleep trials are important. This is your test window to determine if the mattress works for you. A mattress is a deeply personal purchase, and you might feel like once it’s in your home, it’s yours for good, but that’s not true. You can return a mattress purchased from a reputable online retailer for a full refund at any time during the sleep trial.
Often this is the best way to get the perfect bed for your best night’s sleep. Now let’s look at mattress materials, how these affect firmness, and what type of mattress you may want to consider.
Mattress Materials: Firmness, Comfort, and Cost
Some people go to great lengths to get a firm sleep experience from sliding a piece of plywood under their bed to moving their mattress to the floor. Some think using a platform bed or rigid box spring is the answer to a firmer sleep surface. In fact, none of these after-market adjustments will change a soft mattress to firm or salvage a mattress that’s sagging and uncomfortable.
Rather than tinkering with an uncomfortable mattress, educate yourself on what’s on the market, then toss the old bed and get yourself a better one. When buying a firm mattress, you should know that what determines firmness and comfort are the components inside the mattress that you won’t see unless you take off the cover to examine it.
A bed made of any materials can be soft or firm. What determines softness or firmness is the arrangement of the layers, thickness of the layers, quality of the components, and overall design of the bed. There are four types of beds you’ll see on the market whether you’re shopping online or in-store. These include innerspring, latex, foam, and hybrid, which is a blend of the other materials.
Here’s a look at what you can expect from each type of bed:
Springs are the oldest type of mattress construction and have been around more than a century. In the simplest terms, they are coils of wire attached to one another. With an innerspring support layer, you’ll see an overall firmer bed. If the comfort layers are thinner, you’ll feel greater motion transfer and bounce. There are four types of coils: Bonnell, continuous, offset, and pocket.
Most quality mattresses now use pocket coils which house the wire coils in fabric sleeves that are secured to each other by stitching or glue. Bonnell is the cheapest and least desirable. Innerspring beds are firmer, may benefit hot sleepers via better air circulation, and are more supportive for heavier people. However, they also offer less pressure relief which can be a concern.
Foam mattresses may be polyurethane foam (also called polyfoam), memory foam, or a blend of both. Memory foam is polyfoam that was made denser and thicker by additional processing. Some memory foams come with additional materials infused in them such as gel which promises to better cool or copper which offers some health benefits, but the research on that is still new.
Polyfoam can be regular, high density (HD), or high resiliency (HR). Regular foam is low quality, and you don’t want it in your bed. Foam beds range from soft to firm but tend to sleep hotter, particularly with memory foam. Gel memory foam may offer cooler sleep, but reviews vary. Foam beds contour nicely around pressure points and have less motion transfer but may not be as springy for sex.
Latex is the highest-quality and costliest mattress material. Natural latex is made from rubber tree sap while synthetic latex is created by a chemical process. Some latex beds have a blend of both natural and synthetic latex. Both types of latex have a similar feel and sleep experience. Latex beds come in a variety of firmness levels and sleep cooler than foam or hybrids, but not as cool as innerspring.
Latex offers nice bounce for sexual activity and contours to the body to relieve pressure points while also supporting the spine. If you’re a heavier sleeper, you might want to invest in latex because it’s very durable. Lower-quality materials tend to break down faster with more weight on them. If you can afford it, latex offers exceptional durability.
Hybrid beds are a blend of the above materials and usually have pocket coils as the support layer and foam or latex as the comfort layer. Some hybrids include both foam and latex on top of innerspring so that you can enjoy the benefits of all. Because of the innerspring layer, hybrids are cooler than foam-only beds. These transfer motion less than innerspring while offering outstanding support.
The coil support layer supports and aligns your spine while the comfort layers above cradle and comfort. Assessing the quality of a hybrid bed is a bit more complicated. You should consider the coil count, wire gauge, and angle while also evaluating the density and thickness of the foam and latex comfort layer. Hybrids are costlier than foam and innerspring, but cheaper than latex-only beds.
Best Firm Mattress Reviews
The best firm mattress for you is, of course, a matter of personal preference but one place to start your shopping journey is to look at reviews and mattress recommendations. Below are our top five firm mattress reviews including details on construction, materials, pros and cons, plus why the mattress made our list, and why you might want to consider it.
Loom and Leaf
The Loom and Leaf foam mattress is available in Relaxed Firm or Firm rated at 6 and 8 firmness respectively. The comfort layer is made with a thin cooling gel layer over memory foam under an organic cotton cover. The support layer is made of two levels of high-density foam with airflow channels.
The materials are eco-friendly with little to no off-gassing odor. The gel layer lets this bed sleep cooler as it’s similar to materials used in hospital burn units. The materials are high-quality. Loom and Leaf’s design allows a modest contour without a big “sink in” effect. There is very little motion transfer.
Loom and Leaf is a newer offering by Saatva which was founded in 2010. As a new model, there is little data on longevity and durability, but the materials are excellent quality for the price. If you weigh more than 250 pounds, you may want to consider the Firm over the Relaxed Firm.
Why Loom and Leaf Stands Out
Many customers compare this $1,099 Loom and Leaf mattress to the $4,800 Tempur-Pedic and say it’s of similar quality. L&L provides free white glove delivery and set-up on every purchase. The big differentiator is that it sleeps cooler than other memory foam beds without any loss of comfort.
Nest Bedding Alexander Signature
Under a cover of cool stretch fabric, you’ll find four layers in the Nest Alexander Signature foam mattress. A generous layer of gel memory foam tops a layer of traditional memory foam. Under that is a layer of air circulating foam atop a thick support base of foam designed for edge support.
At $1,199 for a queen, the Alexander Signature isn’t cheap, but it sleeps like a much costlier mattress. The memory foam is bouncier than most which is good for sex. The bed offers a good “sink in” feeling without feeling “stuck” in the bed, and it’s good for a range of body weights.
Nest’s site can be confusing because they rate their mattresses opposite the traditional scale with 1 being the firmest and 10 the softest. The Luxury Foam bed is rated 8 by reviewers for firmness, but on their site, it says 1.5-2. Because this is a newer bed, there are no reports yet of durability over time.
Why Nest Bedding Alexander Signature Stands Out
The Luxury Firm model of the Alexander Signature is rare for a firm mattress in that it rates well among side, back, and stomach sleepers and is extremely well-reviewed across the board. In addition to comfort with firm support, the bed is beautifully made with luxurious fabric ticking.
Novosbed’s firm mattress has four layers starting with a thin protective layer that wicks moisture and cools. Under that is airflow memory foam over a substantial layer of plush memory foam. Thick support foam is at the base, and it’s all wrapped in a washable, eco-friendly Tencel® cover.
The density of the memory foam speaks to quality and durability. Plus, the company has been around for nine years, so the bed has a substantial track record, unlike other online sellers. Motion transfer is minimal, and the firm bed works well even for heavier body types.
There is a bit of a “new mattress” smell when you first open it, but this quickly dissipates. Novosbed invented the 120-night sleep trial, but there is a mandatory 60-night breaking-in period before you can return it for a full refund if you don’t like the bed.
Why Novosbed Stands Out
Novosbed offers a unique satisfaction program. If the bed isn’t as firm or soft as you need, they provide a free Comfort+ adjustment kit that makes the bed firmer or softer. This can perfect the bed so you can avoid the hassle of a return. It’s a durable, comfortable bed and a great value at $1,099 for a queen.
SleepOnLatex Pure Green
The Pure Green bed is all-natural with a straightforward two to three-layer construction depending on whether you choose the 7” or the 9” bed. The base support layer is six inches of firm Dunlop latex under a thick quilted wool layer. You can get an optional 2” thick comfort layer.
SleepOnLatex uses only all-natural materials including 100% natural latex. The removable and dry cleanable cover is certified organic cotton over a thick layer of New Zealand wool. The bed is hand sewn with attention to detail. If you want very firm (rated at 9), the shorter version gets you there.
The company recommends the firm bed for only for stomach and back sleepers. The optional comfort layer is costly at $170 extra and adjusts the bed to medium-firm. As a newer company, they are still building a durability history and SleepOnLatex doesn’t publish density ratings of materials.
Why SleepOnLatex Pure Green Stands Out
The bed is heavy which speaks to quality materials and is bouncy for sexual activity while offering tolerable motion transfer. Pure Green is very affordable for a latex bed, and it’s even more impressive that the price point is for all-natural and organic materials.
Spindle is composed of three 3” thick layers of all-natural latex that are made using the continuous pour Dunlop method. Two of the three layers are breathable foam with holes for air circulation. A thick organic wool batting layer goes under the circular knit organic cotton cover.
The company takes an innovative approach to ensure you’ll love the mattress. Instructions tell you how to configure the layers to get the firmness you ordered. Spindle estimates 13% of customers need an adjustment to firmer or softer and tell you how to swap and flip the layers to change firmness.
The Spindle’s some-assembly-required design may frustrate a few, but reviews indicate putting the bed together is easy. The bed isn’t recommended for BMI greater than 30. The cover isn’t washable, but you can buy a replacement. At $1,349, the price is the highest on our list, but for high-quality materials.
Why Spindle Stands Out
Spindle doesn’t do a sleep night trial. Instead, they offer a 365-day money-back guarantee. They ask that you work with them to adjust the bed before you initiate a return. The reviews are impressive and a plus is that you can buy components (covers and latex layers) if your needs change.