The Best Firm Mattresses 2021Updated on January 27, 2021 While all product recommendations are chosen independently, we may receive compensation for purchases made through our site. Learn more about our affiliate program here.
How to Find the Best Firm Mattress for You
Choosing a mattress is a significant decision. It affects the quality of your sleep, health, and life. Not only is it an important decision, but also very subjective. Everyone experiences sleep differently, and the mattress that’s best for you won’t be best for someone else.
This guide will help you explore the pros and cons of a firm mattress, who can benefit from a firm mattress, the choice of materials, our top picks, and firm mattress reviews to help you decide. Armed with this information, you’ll be ready to choose and buy your mattress.
How is Firmness Measured?
Mattress firmness is rated on a numerical scale of 1-10. However, what feels medium-firm to you may be a hard mattress to someone else. Your body mass index (BMI), physical sensitivity, your sleep position, whether you run “hot” when you sleep, and if you sleep alone or with a partner all matter.
Although firmness is about your perception of comfort, mattress manufacturers rate products on the numeric scale to help guide customers. Mattress firmness rankings run from extremely soft to extremely firm along this general scale:
|1||Extremely soft||These are plush mattresses that give the sensation of “sinking in.”|
|2-3||Soft||These are soft with the “sinking in” quality.|
|4-6||Medium||These middle-ground mattresses are plush but with less “sinking in.”|
|7-9||Firm||These are harder and offer limited sinking and less soft sensation.|
|10||Extremely firm||These are very hard with no plushness, sinking, or softness sensation.|
Our Top Picks for Firm Mattresses
|Helix Twilight Luxe||Hybrid||Firm (7)||$1,849|
|Joybed LX||Hybrid||Firm (7)||$990|
|Spindle Mattress||Latex||2 choices: Medium (5), Firm (7)||$2,500|
|Plank by Brooklyn Bedding||Foam||Firm (7) on one side; Extra Firm (9) on the other||$899|
|Birch||Hybrid||Medium Firm (6.5)||$1,499|
*Price varies by mattress size from twin up to California King (prices listed are for queen). Optional pillowtop accessories may increase price in some models.
Best Firm Mattress Reviews
When choosing the best firm mattress for you, it’s a matter of personal preference, sleep style, health concerns, and your budget. Below is a review of our top five firm mattresses with details on each including pros and cons, information on construction and materials, and why this could be the best mattress for you.
Why we like it:
- Firm feel with pillow-top cushioning
- Thick foam layers reduce pressure and isolate movements
- Zoned support for the lower back
- 2 free pillows with purchase
Helix Sleep offers an extensive line of hybrid mattresses, each model specifically designed for different sleepers based on their body type, sleep position, firmness preferences, and shopping budget. While the company offers a few different firm models, the Helix Twilight Luxe is our top pick from this collection due to its sophisticated design and ultra-sturdy support system.
The Twilight Luxe is constructed with a pillow-top padded with memory foam, which allows for some cushioning as you ease into bed without compromising the firm feel. A transitional layer of dense polyfoam and pocketed coil support system reinforce the comfort layers and create a somewhat responsive surface. The coils also provide push-back along the perimeter to reduce sinkage and help you feel secure sleeping close to the edges.
Overall the mattress is quite stable and highly suited for anyone who weighs more than 230 pounds, particularly back and stomach sleepers, as well as lighter people who prefer a more supportive feel from their bed. Like other hybrids, the Twilight Luxe also sleeps quite cool thanks to steady airflow through the coil system.
The Twilight Luxe has a price-point that is on par with that of the average hybrid, though shipping is free throughout the contiguous U.S. and you’ll receive two Helix Pillows free of charge with your purchase. For shoppers on a budget, Helix Sleep also offers a standard Twilight hybrid at a much lower cost. This model shares many of the same features as the Twilight Luxe, as well as a firm feel, but does not include the pillow-top.
Why we like it:
- Innovative “foam-free” design
- Excellent breathability and temperature control
- Organic, natural, and ethically sourced materials
- Strong edge support
The Joybed LX is a great option for sleepers seeking a mattress with a firm feel and a non-traditional design. This “foam-free” model does not contain any polyurethane, latex, or other materials normally used to provide comfort and cushioning in today’s mattresses. Instead, the top layers are composed of cotton batting and natural wool.
These components create a plush feel without conforming very much, so the mattress is also quite responsive. A support core of pocketed coils adds extra bounce to the surface and protects the perimeter from excessive sinkage when you sleep near the edges or get in and out of bed.
Breathability is another strong point of the Joybed LX. The cotton batting and wool layers wick away moisture without absorbing too much body heat, so the mattress should sleep noticeably cooler than models with foam comfort layers. The cover is composed of organic cotton for added temperature control on the surface, while the coils promote airflow throughout the interior of the mattress.
Given its unconventional design and high-quality materials, the LX has a very reasonable price-point. Animal-conscious shoppers should also take note that the wool has received certification from Oregon Tilth, indicating the sheep are treated humanely and the wool is sustainably sourced. Each order includes a 120-night sleep trial and 10-year warranty.
Why we like it:
- Exceptionally durable all-latex design
- Ventilated laters promote consistent breathability
- 2 firmness options
- Adjustable firmness and hassle-free layer replacements
If you are looking for a firm mattress that is also coil-free, then you’re probably a good candidate for an all-latex model. Latex cushions the body much like foam but it tends to feel more responsive and conform less, creating a firmer feel without sacrificing pain or pressure relief. The Spindle Mattress is a great pick thanks in part to its firmness selection. The firm (7) feel provides great overall reinforcement, but a medium (5) feel might be a better fit if you want more contouring.
The mattress measures 9 inches thick and consists of three individual latex layers, each one ventilated with small holes to ensure excellent airflow and cooling from top to bottom. A top layer of eco-wool batting and an organic cotton cover provide added breathability on the surface.
Another benefit of the mattress is adjustability. The firm model includes two firm latex layers and one medium latex layer. You can unzip the cover and rearrange the order of these three layers to change the overall feel of the mattress. Spindle also offers a 365-night sleep trial to allow plenty of time for experimenting with different layer configurations.
Like other mattresses made from premium latex, the Spindle is a bit expensive. That said, the expected longevity coupled with its adjustment options make the mattress a high-value investment. You’ll also receive a 25-year warranty should you decide to keep the mattress. The warranty allows you to buy additional latex layers at a 30% discount to ensure a reasonable lifespan.
Why we like it:
- Flippable with 2 firmness options
- Long expected lifespan
- Good motion isolation for couples
- 120-night trial
Many flippable beds offer contrasting feels, typically a soft side and a firm side. The Plank by Brooklyn Bedding is a flippable mixed-foam mattress designed for sleepers who prefer exceptionally firm settings. One side is firm, or a 7 on the 1-10 firmness scale, while the other side is extra firm (9). This makes the Plank particularly well-suited to heavier back and stomach sleepers.
Each side of the bed is constructed with comfort layers of quilted polyfoam, and the Firm surface has an extra foam layer for added padding. A shared, high-density support core reinforces both sides to prevent sagging and indentations that compromise support.
Because firmer mattresses tend to outlast softer models, the Plank has a longer-than-average expected lifespan compared to other all-foam beds. It also isolates motion transfer for couples and does not make any noise when bearing weight.
The Plank has is priced very affordably for a flippable mattress. Brooklyn Bedding also offers free shipping in the contiguous U.S., as well as a 120-night sleep trial and a 10-year warranty.
Why we like it:
- Made from natural and organic materials
- Exceptional durability and support
- Relatively low-priced
- 25-year warranty
The Birch Mattress is a luxury hybrid made from sustainably sourced materials. Its components include an organic-cotton cover, natural and organic wool batting, and a Talalay latex comfort layer. These materials create a responsive, medium-firm (6.5) surface that provides moderate yet consistent body conforming for sleepers in all positions.
The Birch Mattress is also a good option for hot sleepers. Air flows freely through the pocketed coil support core, allowing the surface to remain cool, while the top wool layer helps wick away moisture and regulate the sleeper’s body temperature.
Durability is another key strength. Thanks to its natural components, the Birch Mattress has a much longer expected lifespan than most beds made with foam or synthetic latex. The bed is fairly responsive, as well, making it good for sex.
The bed has a lower-than-average price compared to other latex hybrids and Birch Mattress offers free shipping to all 50 states. The mattress comes with a 25-year warranty that includes 10 years of nonprorated coverage.
Is a Firm Mattress Right for You?
What feels extra firm to you might not feel firm at all to someone else, because comfort is subjective. Your weight is also a factor. A heavier person will experience a mattress differently than a lighter person. The important thing is to determine if a firm mattress will give you a good night’s sleep and how firm of one you need. Your sleep style, overall health, age, and other factors should influence your decision.
If your current bed is not firm and you have pain or soreness upon waking that goes away after stretching and being active, your bed might be the problem. You might need a firmer sleep surface. This guide will walk you through firm mattress options so that you can decide if you’re ready to change your bed to improve your sleep. Here are some considerations.
Firm to medium-firm mattresses are better suited for:
- Stomach sleepers
- Back sleepers
- High BMI people
- Hot sleepers
- Back pain sufferers
- Arthritis sufferers
Stomach sleepers are a rare breed. Research by Professor Chris Idzikiwoski of The Sleep Assessment and Advisory Service in the UK surveyed 1,000 people and learned that just 7% sleep on their stomach. The study calls this the “freefaller” position. Firm mattresses are better for stomach sleepers because if you sink in too deeply, your spine’s curvature will misalign.
Back sleepers are also relatively rare and may benefit from a firm mattress to support the “S” curve of the spine while sleeping. If you can slide a hand between your lumbar region (pictured) and the mattress, you might need a different sleep surface. The University of Rochester Medical Center suggests back sleepers put a small pillow under their knees to help alignment.
Back sleepers usually find they are best suited to a mattress in the medium-firm range rather than an outright firm bed. A medium-firm mattress – depending on body type – allows for some sink in the hip/pelvic region to help maintain the natural curve of the lumbar area, while being stiff enough to support the upper back.
Heavier people, gauged by Body Mass Index (BMI), often benefit from a firmer mattress. A study by the Sleep to Live Institute found those with greater BMI (30 or higher) sleep less, have a lower quality of sleep, less energy in the daytime, and more daytime sleepiness.
Studies suggest that those with higher BMI benefit from firmer mattresses that prevent excessive “sinking in” or “hammocking” effects. A heavier person will automatically dig further into any mattress than someone of a lower BMI, so a firmer bed will help to offset that natural sink.
Hot sleepers are more commonly women than men as women experience hormonal surges at mid-life, but anyone can wake up sweating. A study from Sleep Medicine Reviews showed a link between higher body temperature at night and insomnia. Hot sleepers benefit from firmer mattresses that don’t let you sink into soft materials that insulate and increase body temperature.
Back pain sufferers benefit greatly from firmer mattresses. Studies from Harvard Medical School show that medium-firm to firm beds are best for those with low back pain while another study in Canada concluded medium-firm was preferable. The evidence is clear that soft mattresses are typically not good for those with back pain.
Children sleep better on firmer surfaces. The sleep patterns of children evolve significantly as they age and can change rapidly. Healthy Children reports that firm mattresses are safer for children. Also, growing children are less able to regulate their body temperature while they sleep and firmer mattresses are cooler and may help children sleep better and through the night.
Arthritis sufferers may benefit from a firm mattress with a soft upper comfort layer, according to an expert from The Cleveland Clinic. Keeping the spine properly aligned helps ease arthritis aches and pains while sleeping. Firm mattresses allow you to shift position more easily so that your joints won’t stiffen as you sleep. Mattresses that are too soft can increase arthritis pain.
Firm to medium-firm mattresses may not be a fit for the following:
- Side sleepers
- Low BMI people
- Older people
- Sleep apnea sufferers
Side sleepers are the most common position. The UK sleep study mentioned above found that almost 70% of people sleep on their sides. Firm mattresses are less comfortable for side sleepers. Discomfort in the pressure points of your shoulders, neck, and hips may not be cushioned enough by a firm mattress. Softer mattresses may support side sleepers better.
Thinner people may find firm mattresses uncomfortable because they don’t weigh enough to get a “sink in” effect. Those with a Body Mass Index of less than 18.5 are considered underweight. If you’re very thin, you may need a cushier sleep surface. The top layer of a mattress – called the comfort layer – won’t help if you don’t weigh enough to sink into it.
Older people might not benefit from a firm mattress. Softer mattresses may be preferable for seniors because the materials retain heat and better relieve pressure thanks to the “sinking in” of richer comfort layers. Seniors with certain medical conditions, such as arthritis, might be better with a firmer surface, but in general, older joints, bones, and muscles benefit from more cushion.
Sleep apnea sufferers are strongly recommended to sleep on their sides. SleepHealth.org reports that 20% of Americans suffer from sleep apnea. On your side is the best sleep posture for apnea relief and that means a softer mattress may be better. The latest CPAP masks are soft and flexible enough to allow beneficial side sleeping while using the life-saving gear.
Benefits of a Firm Mattress
While your choice of mattress is deeply personal, there are some confirmed benefits of choosing a firm mattress over a softer one. These benefits include:
Less sag in your sleep.
A comfortable mattress lets you sink in a little, but too much softness can turn into sagging. If you sink into the bed too deeply, your spine won’t stay aligned, and it can be tough to change position. Excess sagging can lead to a “hammock effect” that’s unhealthy for your spine and can have you waking in pain.
Better air flow.
If you live in a warm climate or are naturally a hot sleeper, a firm mattress will be better for you. Because you’re not sinking down into the structure of the mattress, you’ll have better airflow which can keep you cooler. Studies show that sleep temperature is critical to your quality of sleep and running too hot can lead to insomnia.
Optimal edge support.
Firmer mattresses have better edges which are important if you’re someone that sleeps near the side of your bed. Soft sides can send you tumbling to the floor. A firm mattress supports you when you sit on the edge of your bed to stretch, put on socks and shoes, read, relax, fold laundry, etc. Softer beds don’t offer this benefit.
Better for sex.
Mattresses aren’t only for sleeping. Firmer mattresses are shown to have better bounce and are more reactive during sexual activity. Soft mattresses that allow you to sink in too deeply can inhibit amorous activities. Edge support on a firm bed is also better for sex. Firmer mattresses are usually more durable, which is also a plus.
Depending on your sleep position, a firm mattress may offer improved spinal alignment. Keeping your ears, shoulders, and hips aligned is recommended no matter in what position you sleep. If you’re a stomach or back sleeper, you’ll likely find alignment easier to attain on a firm mattress supplemented with high-quality pillows.
While shopping for a mattress, the variety may seem overwhelming. Every manufacturer has many models, and salespeople use buzz words that might not mean much to you. The important thing to know is that there are four basic types of mattress materials. Once you know this, it simplifies the options and lets you cut through the industry hype.
The four basic types of mattresses are: