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Mattress Firmness - Essential Tips So You Get It Right

This mattress firmness guide will help you navigate the wide variation in opinion that exists when it comes to determining the best firmness for a mattress. 

The general perception has aways been that a firm mattress is the best option in terms of support, despite a lack of conclusive scientific evidence supporting this.

For a long time people have been recommended to sleep on a firm mattress for back pain.

However recent research into mattress firmness has proved this untrue. Medical studies have shown overwhelmingly that a medium-firm mattress is the overall best. Click here to visit the published findings.

Too firm a mattress will not allow enough give for your pelvis and your shoulders. This will cause unnecessary pressure on those heavy points.

Get too soft a mattress and those heavy points in your body, the pelvis and shoulders, will sink too far causing your back to arch.

Ideally you want a mattress that supports your body whilst allowing for your natural contours, curves and arches. This is what medium-firm does.

Soft Is Comfortable But Not Necessarily Supportive

mattress firmness
image by M Glasgow

When you go to a store and lie on a few mattresses it is easy to be suckered into getting too soft a mattress.

Lying on soft mattresses feels great when you do it for ten minutes.

But spend a whole night on one and you will rapidly change your mind.

When a mattress is too soft your body won't get enough support. Without adequate support you will wake up feeling stiff and sore.

What a mattress feels like when you are lying on it awake and what you need from a mattress during the night are two different things.

That is why ten minutes in a store is not enough to determine if a mattress is suitable. You need to sleep on it for a few weeks before determining if the firmness is right. That's why it is so important to buy a mattress with a return policy.

This is also why you shouldn't be scared to buy a mattress on the internet. Firmness isn't something you should determine with a ten minute test. You are more likely to get it right if you do your research and make an informed, calm and unpressured purchase online.

The Way You Sleep Dictates The Mattress Firmness

There is no "one right mattress firmness" that is applicable to everybody. Every person has a different body, different preferences and different needs. Take the medical recommendation of medium-firm as a standard to work from and go firmer or softer depending on your personal needs.

Back Sleepers: If you sleep on your back you should be looking for something at the firmer end of the scale. The reason for this is that the spine needs to be kept straight. If the mattress has too much give it will cause your spine to arch too much and thow it out of alignment. 

Yet you don't want to be sleeping on a slab of concrete either. You need a little bit of give in order for the hips and shoulders to sit nicely and to allow for a slight natural arch.

Side Sleepers: Side sleepers have less of their body actually in contact with the mattress during the night than back sleepers. A back sleeper can spread his or her weight out across their whole back, while a side sleeper concentrates it all into on half of the body.

This means side sleepers need a slightly softer mattress. Too firm a mattress will put undue pressure on the hip and shoulder that are taking the weight. They need to be able to sink in a little further so that the mattress can support your torso along the natural arch from hip to shoulder.

Side sleepers should look for a mattress with a firm core but softer padding on the top.

Stomach Sleepers: Stomach sleepers are like back sleepers in that they can spread their weight for evenly across their entire body. For that reason a stomach sleeper should tend towards a firmer mattress. If the mattress is too soft the hips will sink causing the back to arch.

If you don't know what kind of sleeper you are then you can do one of two things. Either take note of what position you are normally in when you wake up. This will be your dominant sleeping position. Alternatively ask your sleeping partner to observe you. They will see how you sleep.

What Has Worked For You In The Past?

The best way to figure out what mattress firmness works for you is to consider what has worked in the past. 

Is your old mattress is making you feel stiff and sore? Then you need to make a change and go for something new.

However if you were happy with the support your old mattress provided then go for more of the same.

If you are looking into mattress firmness because of back pain then it is one factor that can help you. However for a holistic overview of back pain I recommend you have a look at the book "Lose The Back Pain" by Jesse Cannone.

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