Sleeping on the right mattress is a pathway to better sleep — and if sinking into a soft mattress gives you nightmares about back pain, you definitely need a medium-firm or extra-firm mattress. We’ll also note that a firm bed is the ideal mattress type for preventing — or alleviating — pain, especially if you’re a larger person or a combination sleeper.
Prepare to be overwhelmed by options if you’re looking to buy a new mattress, from a traditional innerspring mattress to memory foam to gel memory foam to natural latex or Talalay latex, each with a different firmness level. Before we really dive in, let’s first start by saying that a firm mattress doesn’t have to be a hard mattress. Firmer mattresses have extra layers of foam or cushioning to support your body weight and prevent the bed from sagging, which keeps your spine properly aligned while you sleep. Some firmer mattresses even drift into the luxury mattress space, coming with a cushy comfort layer or mattress topper so that you get coziness along with the spinal alignment that comes with an extra firm mattress.
Finding a new mattress that feels comfortable and offers ample support can be a delicate balance. The firmness level is key — you don’t want to sink into the mattress, but you do want to have enough cushion to help alleviate pressure, namely on your shoulders and hips. There’s a difference between a firm mattress and hard mattress, after all. You also want to consider factors like motion transfer (if you share your bed), whether you’d want an adjustable base to optimize your sleep position and mattress type (foam, gel memory foam, hybrid mattress, etc.). Luckily, there are a wealth of firm mattress options available online and many a mattress brand to choose from. We’ve put together this list to help you sort through the options and find the best firm mattress for your needs.
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The Casper Original is a true memory foam mattress constructed of three layers — a base of traditional memory foam, a second layer of specialized zoned memory foam and a top layer of perforated memory foam. That top layer serves two purposes: it expertly conforms to your body and it allows more air to circulate, which meant I felt cool and comfortable all night.
The Casper also features Zoned Support — it’s divided into three separate “zones” that have varying levels of firmness. The foam underneath the shoulders and upper body has a softer mattress feel, so it gives much-needed pressure relief in those areas. The foam near your hips, waist and lower back has a firmer mattress feel, to provide the proper firmness level of support to keep your body and spine aligned, so you don’t sink or sag into the mattress. Basically, you get the best of both worlds. When I woke up in the morning, I didn’t have any lingering aches and pains — something that I had been dealing with with my previous mattress.
Read our Casper Original review.
Somehow both firm and soft, the Intellibed Signature Matrix Grand is really the best of both worlds. Squeezed between latex and foam layers, it features a Gel Matrix, an elastic gel that flexes and moves to contour to your shape and evenly distribute body weight. I don’t know how Intellibed does it, but the firmness of the mattress provides ample support to keep your spine in proper alignment, while the softness allows the right amount of give to alleviate pressure without sagging.
As soon as I settled into the mattress, I could feel the pressure leaving my body. And after a few weeks on it, I was sleeping through the night and waking up free of pain.
Cocoon by Sealy
Cocoon by Sealy says that most sleepers prefer a mattress that has ample support, but isn’t too firm — something that I definitely found to be true with me — so in response to that, it made a specialized memory foam that’s designed to provide the perfect firmer bed fit. The Perfect Fit memory foam, as it’s aptly named, adapted to my body, providing pressure relief and support where I needed it most.
This Perfect Fit memory foam sits on top of another foam layer, a responsive comfort layer, that provides a little bit of extra plushness (something many traditional memory foam mattresses are missing) and some extra support so the mattress never sank or sagged. And the stretch-knit cover that encompasses these layers is made of a proprietary material that absorbs and dissipates heat, so I stayed comfortable and the mattress remained cool to the touch.
The Saatva mattress is constructed of layers of innerspring coils with luxury latex foam and cushioning that’s reminiscent of a pillowtop. This provides just enough cushioning to make the mattress comfortable, but not too much that you feel like you’re sinking in and out of alignment. It also has memory foam in the center of the mattress that provides special lumbar support, so your spine stays aligned, affording pressure relief, especially when you’re sleeping on your side — something that many other firm mattresses fall short on.
With the Saatva mattress, there are two firm options — firm (rated an 8 out of 10 on the standard mattress firmness scale) and luxury firm (rated a 5 to 7 out of 10) — and two mattress heights — 11.5 inches and 14.5 inches. If you go with the deeper mattress, make sure you’re also getting deep pocket sheets.
Rated a 6 to 7 out of 10 on the firmness scale, the Ghostbed is classified as a medium firm mattress. It’s made of a combination of latex-like memory foams that have a soft, springy feel, but also provide enough support so you don’t feel like you’re sinking into the mattress (and then waking up in pain). It also has two rows of reinforced coils around the edge of the bed that hold the layers up and contribute to excellent edge-to-edge firmness level support.
Out of all of the firm bed options on this list, the Ghostbed mattress brand felt most like a traditional spring mattress, in all of the right ways. Another thing I really liked about this mattress is that it always felt cool to the touch. The quilted cover has cooling fibers that are directly woven in and help disperse body heat.
The Helix Plus, rated a 7 to 8 out of 10 on the firmness scale, is designed to offer extra support for heavier sleepers, although it’s an excellent option for sleepers of any size and shape. It’s made of wrapped coils and several layers of memory foam in varying densities, but the real star of the show is a 4-inch layer of high-density foam. This extra foam held up the other layers, providing adequate support, but also adding some cushioning that provided relief for my shoulders and hips.
Because the mattress is thicker — it’s 13 inches tall — it will feel firmer if you have a lower body mass index, but I thought it had just the right amount of give. It was comfortable in any sleeping position (even for a stomach sleeper or combination sleepers) and isolated motion really well, so I didn’t bounce around, even when my boyfriend moved in the middle of the night.
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The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.