How hard should the mattress be to rest well?

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One of the main factors in choosing a mattress is the plate hardness that according to his characteristic stiffness, allows a more or less significant reaction force against our weight. In this guide, I show you how choose the hardness of the mattress depending on your sleep and your body.


1. What is meant by stiffness/hardness of the mattress?

2. Hardness classifications

3. Differences between soft, medium or hard mattresses

3.1 Soft mattress

3.2 Medium mattress

3.3 Hard mattress

4. Mattress hardness and sleeping position

4.1 Sleeping on your back

4.2 Sleeping on the side

4.3 Sleeping on your stomach

5. Are the stiffness and support the same?

6. The best compromise, a hybrid mattress of medium resistance

7. Alternatively, a mattress topper to correct stiffness

What is meant by stiffness/hardness of the mattress?

Buying a mattress is never easy because on the one hand there are personal needs to be met and on the other hand technical characteristics that influence sleeping comfort. Of these, stiffness should be carefully assessed based on sleeping habits, body weight, and any physical issues.

The impossibility of trying a product before buying it forces you to make decisions based on the seller’s advice, any opinions found on specialized sites and the sensations felt during these few minutes spent lying on a show model. Fortunately for us, there are a few standard parameters to use in order to choose a mattress with the right degree of stiffness for different needs.

Hardness is often an unclear aspect for the consumer, who tends to make mistakes or have misleading ideas. With simple words, we can identify it with the degree of hardness. When we lie on the mattress, we have to pay attention to the sensation felt, that is, if we seem to sink or feel good support. In any case, stiffness remains somewhat subjective, so a mattress considered hard by one person might be soft by another.

Hardness classifications

In order to help the consumer to understand the level of stiffness and to have comparative values ​​between different models, manufacturers have introduced classification systems. The first method has the following three classes:

  • H1indicates the lowest degree of rigidity so the mattress is rather soft and is especially suitable for light people;
  • H2distinguishes mattresses with intermediate rigidity and recommended for people weighing between 60 and 90 kilograms;
  • H3 it is the stiffest class suitable for people weighing more than 100 kilograms.

Some companies are also adding H4 and H5 classes to better diversify stiffness and try to give the consumer a wider choice.

Other manufacturers use a classification based on different numerical values ​​that can range from 1 to 6 or of 1 to 10. The number 1 indicates the softest mattress, to gradually increase to 6 or 10 obtaining maximum rigidity.

However, I must specify that we hardly find extreme products, that is to say classified 1 or 6/10, it would be excessively soft mattresses without a minimum of support or so hard that they prevent a comfortable rest . Much easier to come across intermediate values ​​that distinguish balanced and versatile models.

Differences between soft, medium or hard mattress

Net of classifications, mattresses can be divided between models soft, tender, medium And hard.

Soft mattress

THE mattress soft, tender Above all, they use memory foam sheets in the top layers to provide greater hospitality by molding to the body shape. Additionally, padding is added in the outermost layer to increase comfort.

These are generally models suitable for light people or those who sleep on their side or who want more softness in the area of ​​the shoulders, hips and lower back.

medium mattress

THE medium firm mattress they usually consist of a base made of high-density foams or pocket springs, while softer materials are preferred for the top layers.

The initial sensation may still be a slight dip, but these are patterns that tend to maintain a good balance of support and relief at the points of greatest pressure. For these reasons, they are mattresses suitable for a wide audience of people, but they can be particularly effective for those who sleep on their backs.

Hard mattress

Finally, there are the hard mattresses that provide maximum support and almost completely eliminate the sinking feeling. Entire blocks of high resilience foam or a more or less numerous series of plates of different materials are used, but always with the aim of supporting even very heavy people or those who wish to feel a certain rigidity under the body.

Obviously a mattress too hard it is often guilty of hip and shoulder pain.

Mattress hardness and sleeping position

At this point it is easy to understand that there is no ideal degree of stiffness, but it is a very personal choice. In this respect, it is interesting to analyze the correlation between the position taken at rest and the rigidity of the mattress.

sleep on your back

From the point of view of stiffness, the category of those who sleep on their backs falls exactly in the middle between those who rest on their sides and those who prefer to sleep lying on their stomachs.

Choosing a mattress that is too firm creates unnecessary tension on the back and especially in the lower back. Conversely, if the model is too soft, this could promote misalignment between the hips and shoulders. Therefore, the right choice is to rely on a mattress with an intermediate degree of stiffness.

In this way we obtain adequate support for the spine which will be aligned and at the same time we relieve pressure where it is most needed. A valid solution for those looking for a mattress with medium rigidity is to evaluate hybrid models, that is, with the body in independent pocket springs and the addition of viscoelastic foam layers.

sleep on the side

Resting on your side usually requires a softer mattress. This position generates pressure points on the shoulders, hips and lower back that must be properly accommodated. The choice of a multi-zone model with differentiated support allows greater softness on the shoulders but at the same time adequate rigidity on the hips, in order to guarantee additional support in the lumbar area. Memory foam mattresses represent a valid solution because they are able to adapt to the shape of the body, allowing you to sink only where you need to relieve pressure.

Sleep on your stomach

In this case, the mattress must provide some support to keep the body lifted. Very rigid models guarantee correct breathing and prevent the user from sinking and generating dangerous back flexions. Sleeping on your stomach also requires good comfort, so the mattress must combine a rigid inner part with a sufficiently soft surface layer.

Are the stiffness and support the same?

Often the two terms are considered synonymous and used instead of each other. In fact, they refer to completely different aspects. Stiffness, as I have already pointed out, represents the immediate sensation felt the first time we put our body on the mattress.

Support, on the other hand, refers to the ability of the mattress to keep the spine aligned, an essential quality for getting up in the morning without pain. This means that a model can offer more or less support regardless of the degree of stiffness.

A concept that is not very intuitive, however, given the ease with which it is assumed that a rigid mattress, which does not cause the body to sink, is also capable of keep your back straight from shoulders to hips. Correct alignment of the spine means that depending on the sleeping position, the mattress performs the correct lifting action of the body depending on the pressure exerted on the various points.

It is very important to always keep in mind that stiffness and support are not the same and must be analyzed separately. Certainly, both aspects significantly affect the quality of sleep.

The best compromise, a hybrid mattress of medium resistance

At this point, we should have all the information we need to choose a mattress that best suits our sleeping habits. However, it is no wonder that we are still puzzled and not sure what to buy.

In case of indecision I suggest betting on a mid-grade hybrid mattressthat is, the best compromise between stiffness and softness, as well as the ability to adapt to different conditions.

I also recommend being very careful to choose very soft models. It is easy to associate softness and comfort and to think that an enveloping mattress is the absolute guarantee of a comfortable sleep. That may be true, but in my experience there are more times when we wake up in the morning with back pain.

Alternatively, a mattress topper to correct stiffness

The mattress topper is made up of one or more sheets of memory foam capable of correcting the stiffness of your mattress, this solution is quite interesting because it allows you to obtain good results while maintaining your mattress.

In my opinion, the most versatile mattress topper currently is made by the German company Emma, his mattress topper it consists of two sheets of memory foam with different characteristics. The first side, composed of high density memory increases the rigidity of your mattress, while turning it over, the second side composed of highly adaptable memory increases its softness.

Health tips

This article was produced under the direction of Dr. Pierpaolo Camellispecialized in Physiotherapy and Rehabilitation Osteopathy.

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