One of the most important questions that people ask when looking for a new mattress is, “how does it feel?” This question gets to the heart of mattress firmness, which describes how hard or soft a mattress is. Also at the heart of mattress firmness is the fact that comfort is subjective – what feels right to one person may be too hard or too soft for someone else.
Some people know that what they want is an inviting and soft mattress, and this guide will help you in that goal. Shopping for a new mattress can take a lot of time and can easily lead to information overload, so we’ve simplified this for you by selecting our top 5 choices for the best soft mattresses, and we’ve also offered more background about mattress firmness to help you make an informed choice about which mattress is best for you.
Our Top Picks
Not everyone has time to dive deep into all of the information that’s out there about how to choose a mattress. It’s easy to become inundated with all the various products and types and retailers, so we’ve broken it down for you. The table gives you the nitty-gritty about our top 5 soft mattresses, and below it you can read more about why we’ve selected these options.
|BRAND||MODEL||MATTRESS TYPE||FIRMNESS LEVEL||PRICE|
|AS5||Foam||Soft (4-5)||$2,099 (Queen)|
Luxury Plush (4-5)
Gentle Firm (7-8)
|Alexander Signature Hybrid||Hybrid||Plush (4)||$1,199 (Queen)|
The Amerisleep AS5 mattress is built with 4 layers of foam, three of which make up the primary comfort and transition layers. This foam is high-density and responsive but made to have a soft feel with lots of give. This mix of factors allows this mattress to be durable, provide contouring, and have a plush feel at the same time. The company and mattress both have received many solid verified reviews.
The primary downside for the AS5 is that it is more expensive than many other foam mattresses, but for people who want a softer mattress, it’s worth it for its feel and the quality of its materials.
For people who like options, the Layla mattress is an intriguing product. It is a foam mattress that is built in a way such that each side has a different firmness level. As a result, customers need only flip the mattress over if they need a change. One side is quite soft (4-5 on the firmness scale), while the other side is firmer (around a 7).
Both sides feature memory foam, so no matter which side is facing up, the comfort layer is responsive and offers good pressure point relief. At an accessible price point under $1,000, the Layla mattress provides a desirable blend of plushness and contouring.
Like the Layla mattress, the Zenhaven has two different firmness feels on each side of the mattress; however, the Zenhaven is an all-latex mattress. All of the latex in the mattress is Talalay latex, which is known for feeling softer than Dunlop latex. One side is a 4 on the firmness scale while the other side is more firm, coming in closer to a 7.
The Zenhaven mattress comes with free delivery, installation, and haul-away of an old mattress. The mattress is made by the Saatva company, which also produces the Saatva and Loom & Leaf mattress. Across all these brands, this company has earned excellent reviews from customers when it comes to mattress performance and customer support.
Nest Bedding Alexander Signature Hybrid
The Nest Bedding Alexander Signature Hybrid is offered in three different firmness levels, but the Plush is the one that will call to people reading this guide. The mattress has a pillowtop that provides a luxurious level of plushness, but it provides this feel without sacrificing support. This is because of the responsiveness of the materials in the comfort layer as well as the support core of innerspring coils.
This hybrid offering has garnered strong reviews, and Nest Bedding is generally well-regarded by its customers. At a very affordable price point given the level of materials and workmanship, sleepers looking for a soft bed should give strong consideration to this mattress.
A key selling point for the Helix mattress is that the feel of the mattress is tailored to each customer. While the mattress is made with polyfoam, support foam, and micro-coils, the exact design can vary from person-to-person. As part of the mattress-buying process, you answer a series of questions (known as a sleep quiz) on the company’s website. The company inputs your answers into a proprietary algorithm that determines the specific construction of the mattress to fit your needs. If you’re seeking a softer mattress, then the company will ensure that is what you get based on this sleep quiz.
Even though it has this level of customization, the Helix is available for under $1,000 for a Queen, and as a result is an affordable and intriguing option for people who want a soft mattress.
All About Firmness
The Firmness Scale
Since it is about feel, which is inherently subjective, it can be hard to quantify mattress firmness. The typical “firmness scale” is a way of trying to accomplish that task and help people understand and compare the relative firmness of different mattress options.
This typical firmness scale goes from 1-10 with 1 being the absolute softest that a mattress can be and 10 being the absolute hardest. You will virtually never come across a mattress that is either a 1 or a 10. In general, on this scale, 2-4 is considered soft, 5-6 is medium-firm, and 7-9 is firm.
Firmness Versus Support
If you’re just starting your research into a new mattress, you may have seen the terms “firmness” and “support” and thought that they were describing the same thing. This is a common misconception. Firmness and support are different, and both are important to understanding the likely performance of a mattress.
Firmness is a term that describes how a mattress feels from the lens of comfort. Support is a term that describes how effectively a mattress encourages and maintains spinal alignment.
It is possible for a mattress to be comfortable but not supportive. If you’ve ever slept on a mattress that felt extremely plush and welcoming but then woke up with a back ache, you’ve experienced how this can occur. What may feel comfortable in one moment may not actually offer the cushioning that is needed to keep our body in alignment.
The most supportive mattresses are usually those that have a high level of responsiveness. This means that the mattress will compress proportionally to how the weight on it is applied. For example, a responsive mattress will give more cushioning to heavier pressure points like the shoulders than to lighter parts of the body. By contouring to the shape of the body, this kind of responsiveness can prevent the hips, spine, and neck from becoming misaligned.
Choosing Your Firmness Level
Selecting the right firmness level for a new mattress can be more complicated than it sounds. While some people know automatically what their preferred firmness level is, other people may need to think more about their optimal comfort feel. These considerations can help you narrow down to the firmness that is most likely to work for you.
- Past experiences: start by thinking about previous mattresses that you’ve owned in addition to any other mattresses that you’ve slept on (such as in a hotel or a guest room). From those experiences, reflect on what was most comfortable. For example, did you find it easiest to fall asleep and stay asleep on any of those mattresses? Were you able to wake up refreshed and without pain? If after thinking about this, you’re still unsure besides knowing that you lean toward wanting a softer mattress, select a mattress that is closer to a 4 on the firmness scale.
- Sleeping position: the optimal firmness level can vary based on your sleeping position. Side sleepers, for example, often find that a softer mattress is more comfortable as it creates less impact on the shoulders and hips. Some back and stomach sleepers, though, may find that a mattress that is too plush causes them to sink too deeply into the mattress.
- Weight: people who weigh more than 230 pounds may have more issues with a very plush mattress because the mattress may have too much give and “bottom out,” reducing comfort and durability. People who weigh less than 130 pounds sometimes find that they can more easily sleep on a very plush mattress without feeling as if they are sinking into the mattress..
- Sex: if a mattress is extremely plush, it is possible to feel stuck in the bed, inhibiting movement and sex. But, unlike a very firm mattress, a softer mattress can make impact on the bed during sex more comfortable. As a general rule, the closer the mattress is to medium-firm, the more likely it is to be able to facilitate sex without issues.
Types of Mattresses
What are foam mattresses?
Foam mattresses are made with only foam and not other materials. While they are 100% foam, these mattresses normally have multiple types of foam (such as memory foam, polyfoam, and latex foam) layered within the mattress. In the comfort layer, memory foam is popular because of its ability to contour to the body. Foams can be manufactured with specific characteristics, and then these foams can be stacked in order to adjust the feel of a bed. As a result, foam mattresses can be made to be very firm, very soft, or in-between.
Are foam mattresses good for people who want a soft mattress?
Yes, often. With so many foam mattresses on the market, there are also many different firmness options offered for this type of mattress. While a medium-firm feel is far-and-away the most common, many foam mattresses are made in softer models that can give support and plushness.
What are latex mattresses?
When a a mattress is composed only of latex rubber, it is described as a latex, all-latex, or true-latex mattress. There are two kinds of latex — Talalay and Dunlop — that differ based on their feel and production method. Talalay is known for being bouncier and softer. Both Talalay and Dunlop latex, though, are resilient, meaning that they rapidly bounce back to their normal shape when weight or pressure is removed. Given this resilience, latex may be perceived as feeling firmer in general, though it can still be produced to have a soft or plush feel.
Are latex mattresses good for people who want a soft mattress?
Yes, often. If the latex is produced and layered in a way to make it feel softer, especially in the comfort layer, then it can be plush, supportive, and resilient, but shoppers should be aware that many latex mattresses are designed with a medium-firm or firm feel.
What are innerspring mattresses?
Mattresses with a support core of metal coils are called innerspring mattresses. The layer of these coils is usually 6 or more inches thick, though this can vary from mattress to mattress. Above the coils, it is normal to find several layers of foam or a quilted pillowtop, and these layers can radically change the feel of an innerspring mattress. The springs in the support core, though, tend to offer a base level of firmness and resilience.
Note that for the purposes of classification, if a mattress has a comfort layer that is 3” or thicker, we consider it to be a hybrid rather than an innerspring.
Are innerspring mattresses good for people who want a soft mattress?
Sometimes. While coils themselves rarely give a plush feel, the comfort layers may offer a soft sleeping surface. Typically, though, innersprings have less “give” than foam mattresses. Overall, though, the comfort feel for an innerspring will vary substantially based on the exact design of the mattress, specifically its comfort layer.
What are hybrid mattresses?
A hybrid is a mattress built with a core of innerspring coils but that has a comfort layer above it that is 3” or greater. The comfort layer may be constructed with one or more of the following materials: latex, polyfoam, memory foam, or fiber (natural or synthetic). The goal of the hybrid design is typically to get the support and bounce of an innerspring alongside contouring from materials in the comfort layer.
Are hybrid mattresses good for people who want a soft mattress?
Yes, sometimes. The choice of materials in the comfort layer will usually determine whether a hybrid has a hard or soft feel. If softer materials are used, a hybrid may be a good way to get support (from coils) while preserving a plush and welcoming sleeping surface.
What are airbeds?
Airbeds are designed so that their firmness level can be easily adjusted. The inside of the mattress has an air chamber that can be inflated or deflated according to the sleeper’s preference. This can be done easily using a remote or a smartphone app, and it allows sleepers to “dial in” to their ideal firmness. A good number of airbeds supplement this air chamber with a comfort layer, though the thickness and material of this layer can vary.
Are airbeds good for people who want a soft mattress?
Yes, sometimes. Because of their adjustability, airbeds can be set to give the exact level of softness that some sleepers want. The downside, though, is that this softness may not come with support as the air chamber is generally not able to offer the kind of contouring or responsiveness that may be necessary for spinal alignment.