Best Firm Mattresses

See our top picks for the best firm mattresses of 2019 and learn why a firmer mattress might be best for you

By Andrea Pisani Babich

Firm mattresses aren’t for everyone. In fact, the majority of sleepers prefer a medium-firm mattress. But for a few types of sleepers, a firm mattress is essential for blissful nights and pain-free mornings. And since there aren’t too many of you looking for a firm mattress, they might be harder to find than the more popular medium-firm beds.

We want to help you find the best firm mattress for your sleep style and body type because we know how important a good night’s sleep is for your health and wellness. We’ve tested over 100 different mattresses in our Mattress Advisor Lab and have selected the best firm mattresses based on our research and mattress reviews.

The 10 Best Firm Mattresses

Here are some of the highest-rated firm mattresses based on our own testing and customer feedback. Some of these mattresses are offered in one firmness level, while others offer the option to customize your firmness level, allowing you to choose a firmer model.

Mattress Name

Saatva

Description

Type: Hybrid: coil on coil and memory foam with euro pillow-top
Firmness: Available in plush soft: 3/10; luxury firm: 5.5-6.5/10; and firm: 8/10
Trial Period: 120 days
Warranty: 15-year limited warranty
Summary: Customizable luxury hybrid mattress

MA Score
8.7 / 10
Mattress Name

Plank

Description

Type: Memory foam
Firmness: Firm to ultra-firm: 7/10 and 9/10
Trial Period: 120 days
Warranty: 10-year limited warranty
Summary: Flippable mattress with firm and ultra-firm sides

MA Score
9.1 / 10
Mattress Name

Awara

Description

Type: Hybrid: Natural Latex and Pocket-Coils
Firmness: Medium-firm: 7/10
Trial Period: 365 nights
Warranty: Limited-lifetime warranty
Summary: Natural hybrid mattress that's great for side sleepers and those with allergies.

MA Score
8.8 / 10
Mattress Name

Puffy

Description

Type: Memory foam
Firmness: Medium-firm: 7/10
Trial Period: 101 days
Warranty: 10-year limited warranty
Summary: Memory foam mattress that is great for side sleepers

MA Score
9 / 10
Mattress Name

Alexander Signature Series

Description

Type: Memory foam
Firmness: Available in Medium or Luxury Firm
Trial Period: 100 days
Warranty: Limited-lifetime warranty
Summary: Great for combination sleepers

MA Score
9.1 / 10
Mattress Name

The Leesa Hybrid (Sapira)

Description

Type: Hybrid: pocket springs and foam
Firmness: Medium-firm - firm: 7/10
Trial Period: 100 days
Warranty: 10-year limited warranty
Summary: Luxury hybrid mattress by Leesa offering great edge support and motion isolation

MA Score
9.4 / 10
Mattress Name

Spartan

Description

Type: Hybrid: foam combo with microcoils
Firmness: Available in plush, medium, and firm
Trial Period: 120 days
Warranty: 10-year limited warranty
Summary: Luxury hybrid mattress designed specifically for athletes

MA Score
9.2 / 10
Mattress Name

Casper Wave

Description

Type: Foam combo
Firmness: Medium-firm - firm: 7/10
Trial Period: 100 days
Warranty: 10-year limited warranty
Summary: Higher-end Casper model with advanced pressure relief

MA Score
8.7 / 10
Mattress Name

Brooklyn Signature

Description

Type: Hybrid: memory foam and pocket coils
Firmness: Choose your preference: Available in soft, medium or firm
Trial Period: 120 days
Warranty: 10-year limited warranty
Summary: Responsive hybrid mattress

MA Score
9.1 / 10
Mattress Name

airweave

Description

Type: Proprietary airfiber
Firmness: Firm - 9/10
Trial Period: 100 days
Warranty: 10-year limited warranty
Summary: A Japanese mattress made with proprietary airfiber known for its extremely firm surface

MA Score
7.8 / 10

How Firm Is Firm? 

Because mattress firmness is largely a subjective measurement — what feels to firm to one may feel just right to another — it can be tricky to find the right mattress without sleeping on it. (That’s why it is crucial that you only buy a mattress that has a generous trial period and a reasonable return policy. More on that later.)

To help you sort out the myriad mattresses on the market, the industry developed a firmness scale that rates mattress firmness from 1 to 10, with 1 being the softest and 10 the firmest.

Most mattresses fall within the 5 to 7 range and are described as medium to medium-firm.

When we talk about a firm mattress, however, we’re referring to a mattress that is rated 7 to 8 out of 10. Sleeping on a firm mattress is more like floating on the mattress rather than sinking into bed. A firm mattress does not conform to your body, so you won’t get the “hug” you would feel with a softer mattress. But remember, the firmness scale is just a starting point in your search for the perfect mattress. It tries to give an objective measurement of a feature that is largely a matter of preference.

You might think that if a firm mattress is good for you, then a very firm mattress would be very good for you. But be careful. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. A mattress that is too firm will not yield enough to support your back in a neutral position or relieve pressure points.

Try this test: If you sleep on your back, you should be able to slide your palm between the mattress and the small of your back fairly easily with no gap. If there is a gap, your mattress is too firm. Without a sufficient comfort layer that gently supports the natural curve of your lower back, you may wake with back pain not to mention soreness on your joints.

A stomach sleeper on a mattress that is too firm may feel too much pressure on their chest making it hard to breathe. If you sleep on your side, you should steer away from firm mattresses because they will exert too much pressure on your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles and you’ll wake with soreness on these pressure points.

We recommend that you avoid mattresses at the far end of the firmness scale. They will be too hard to provide the comfort you need to sleep well and wake refreshed.

Reasons to Love a Firm Mattress

You might not be sure if a firm mattress is right for you. Here are a few features that people like about a firm mattress.

  • Supports a neutral spine alignment. There is little chance of your spine twisting out of alignment on a firm mattress because it will provide even support for the entire length of your body. Maintaining the natural curve of your spine is crucial to sound sleep and pain-free mornings. 
  • Easier movement. Since a firmer mattress prevents your body from sinking in, you can change positions and climb out of bed more easily than on a soft mattress. This is especially important for older people and people with mobility issues, both of whom appreciate more push back from their mattresses when they roll over or get out of bed.
  • Sleeps cooler. Because a firm mattress will contour your body less than a soft mattress, it allows for better air circulation. Better airflow means less heat buildup and a cooler night’s sleep.
  • Better edge support. If you regularly sit on the edge of your bed to dress or put on shoes, you know what I’m talking about. You may also find yourself sleeping near the edge of your bed, especially if you sleep with a partner. If your mattress lacks sufficient edge support, the mattress will easily collapse and make it difficult to stay on the mattress surface. Firmer mattresses generally have better edge support, which can improve your comfort as well as increase the durability of your mattress.
  • Minimal motion transfer. Motion transfer occurs when movement on one side of the bed disturbs the sleeper on the other side of the bed. The best kind of mattress, especially for people who sleep with a mate or pet, will absorb other sleepers’ movements and allow you to sleep through position changes and bathroom breaks. Soft or medium-firm mattresses also reduce motion transfer, but because a very firm mattress does not respond significantly to movement or pressure, it will isolate movement and keep disturbances to a minimum.

What’s Not to Like about a Firm Mattress?

A firm mattress is not all a bed of roses. There are some issues that may be deal breakers for some people and should be considered as you shop for a firm mattress.

  • Less relief on pressure points. The downside of all that firmness is that you may sacrifice comfort on your pressure points — the parts of your body that make the firmest contact with the mattress. That means shoulders, hips, knees, and heels, depending on your sleep position. You can increase pressure point relief by adding a plush topper or buying a mattress that has a significant comfort layer. But depending on your weight and the firmness of your mattress, you may still feel pressure at these contact points. 
  • Longer break-in period. Getting accustomed to your new firm mattress can take a while, especially if you are switching from a softer model. It can take as long as 30 days or longer to break-in a new firm mattress. If you are not sure that you really need a firm mattress, this break-in period may try your patience.
  • Poor motion isolation. We said firm mattresses can reduce motion transfer, but hear us out. Depending on the mattress material and the actual firmness rating of your mattress, it may not isolate motion as well as you might like. Make sure to test your mattress either with your partner or by placing a stack of books on one side of the bed. Lie down on your side and move around a bit to see if your partner or the books are disturbed.

Who Is a Firm Mattress Good For?

People with back pain

About 80% of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lives, with about 20% of them developing chronic pain. It was long thought that a very firm mattress was the best surface for back pain sufferers. But researchers have found that switching to medium-firm mattresses relieves back pain for many people. So, look for firm, but not too firm.

Larger sleepers weighing over 250 lbs.

Sleepers with above average weights need the push-back of a firmer mattress to prevent them from bottoming out. Sleeping on a mattress that does not evenly support their weight can cause a sinkhole that will strain the curvature of your spine and cause your mattress to wear prematurely. 

Stomach and back sleepers

A firm mattress is recommended for people who sleep primarily on their stomachs (about 16% of sleepers) or primarily on their backs (about 10%). Stomach sleepers need the firm push back to prevent their backs from curving up. Back sleepers also need a firm mattress to support the natural curve of their spine even while relieving pressure on their shoulders, hips, and heels. Because a firm mattress provides even support for the entire length of your body, both stomach and back sleepers can rest easy and wake pain-free.

Hot sleepers

While temperature control is largely a function of mattress material, a firm mattress can be cooler to sleep on than a softer mattress. A firm mattress allows more air circulation because sleepers sink in less than on a softer mattress. Better air circulation allows heat to dissipate, leaving you cooler as you sleep.   

People with mobility issues

Think of your mattress like the sand at the beach. It’s really hard to walk or run in the soft sand that gives way every time you try to push off. But the sand that has been packed by the waves down by the water’s edge does not yield so easily, so you can move with less effort. A firm mattress is most like that packed sand — it has significant push-back, making it easier to shift positions and get up from your bed.   

What if you don’t fall into any of these groups? Can a firm mattress still work for you? Yes, of course. But there are some people for whom a firm mattress is just not the right fit.

Who Should Avoid a Firm Mattress?

Side sleepers

Side sleepers usually find that a firm mattress does not yield to their shoulders and hips enough to relieve the pressure on these areas. The result is a fitful sleep and soreness in the morning.

People with sleep apnea

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, about 26% of adults between the ages of 30 and 70 years have sleep apnea. Sleep experts recommend these people sleep on their sides to facilitate breathing and reduce the risk of snoring. Side sleepers risk sore pressure points on firm mattresses and should steer towards softer models for better comfort.

Sinkers (people who like to feel hugged)

If you like the feeling of sleeping in your mattress rather than on it, you may not be comfortable on a firmer mattress. Even if a firm mattress has a comfort layer, it will only cradle you so far. If you prefer your mattress to yield under your weight and embrace your body, a firmer mattress is not for you.

Pain sufferers

If you suffer from joint pain, a firm mattress may not provide you with the pressure point relief you need to sleep comfortably and wake without additional pain. If your mattress doesn’t yield enough at your shoulders, hips, knees, and heels while still being supportive, you could find it hard to get comfortable and wake with soreness.

Smaller sleepers weighing less than 130 lbs.  

People who weigh less than 130 lbs. do not have the mass to compress a firm mattress sufficiently for comfort. The result is a feeling of floating on the surface of the mattress rather than relaxing into it.

More people sleep on medium-firm mattresses than any other type of mattress. If you think you want your mattress on the firm side but are unsure how firm, start your search with medium-firm mattresses.

How to Adjust the Firmness of Your Mattress

Your mattress may have the firmness rating you sought, but you may still not be totally satisfied. Different mattress materials and construction methods can cause mattresses with the same firmness rating to perform differently. But don’t give up on your mattress yet. There are a few ways to make adjustments to the firmness of your mattress before you up and ask for a refund.

Add a mattress topper

Whether you want to add firmness or make your firm mattress a little plusher, you can find mattress toppers that can add just the right amount of softness or firmness you’re looking for.

Cool it off

Is your mattress not firm enough? If your mattress is made with memory foam, lowering the temperature in your bedroom can help to keep it firmer through the night. Memory foam is designed to yield as it responds to body heat and pressure. It will yield less if it is kept cooler. You’ll sleep better not only because of the firmer bed but also because the ideal temperature for sleeping is around 65 degrees and can be as low as 60 degrees, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Shocking, right?

Return or exchange it

If all else fails, ask to exchange or return your mattress if you are unhappy with it for any reason. Only buy a mattress that allows a trial period of at least 100 nights and allows returns or exchanges without exorbitant fees. Since it can take several weeks to adjust to a new mattress and for the mattress to break in, make sure you give yourself sufficient time to make the adjustment before opting for a return.

Still need help finding the best mattress?

Take our mattress finder quiz and get personalized results based on your preferences and sleeping style.

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Sources
  • National Institute of Health: nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/sleep-deprivation-and-deficiency
  • ScienceDirect: sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673603147927
  • American Chiropractic Association: acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics
  • American Academy of Sleep Medicine: aasm.org/rising-prevalence-of-sleep-apnea-in-u-s-threatens-public-health/
  • PR Newswire: prnewswire.com/news-releases/national-sleep-survey-pulls-back-the-covers-on-how-we-doze-and-dream-184798691.html
  • National Sleep Foundation: sleepfoundation.org/bedroom-environment/touch/what-temperature-should-your-bedroom-be

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