Is a Soft Mattress Bad for Your Back?
Depending on your sleep position and body type, a soft mattress can be beneficial for your back. Side sleepers often need a softer mattress with good pressure relief in the hip and shoulder areas to maintain proper sleep posture and prevent back pain.
Soft mattresses are only bad for your back if you sink too deeply into the bed, which can cause problems with your posture. Stomach sleepers and those weighing more than 230 pounds are especially prone to sinking and should consider a firmer mattress.
How to Determine the Right Firmness for You
Every sleeper is slightly different. When determining the best mattress firmness for you, it’s important to consider your body type and preferred sleep position. A soft mattress provides a unique, enveloping sleep experience that typically suits side sleepers and people under 130 pounds. But all sleepers should consider a variety of factors when choosing their preferred mattress firmness.
Our Firmness Scale and What Makes a Mattress Soft
We rate all the beds we test on a 10-point firmness rating scale, with 1 being the softest and 10 being the firmest. Soft mattresses fall between 1 and 5 on our scale. A 1 is an extra soft bed that offers no pushback, and a 5 is a medium firmness that has a moderately soft feel and light contouring.
The level of softness that helps you achieve quality sleep depends largely on your body weight and build, along with your sleep preferences. We’ve found that people under 130 pounds generally sleep better on mattresses on the softer end of the scale, while sleepers between 130 and 230 pounds often prefer the firmer support of a bed with a 4 or 5 rating.
Innerspring and hybrid mattresses often have a higher firmness rating, while memory foam mattresses typically feel the softest. Some airbeds can also be adjusted to exceptionally soft levels.
Based on Your Sleep Position
People who prefer to sleep on their side can benefit from a soft mattress that cushions the body at high-pressure spots to keep the spine aligned.
Back and stomach sleepers typically prefer a firmer mattress with a more supportive design. They don’t require the same level of pressure relief as side sleepers, and if they sink too far into the mattress’ surface, they risk spinal misalignment and muscle strain.
Based on Your Body Type
Due to the nature of their construction, soft mattresses have a tendency to sag under weight. While the plush, sinking feel of a soft mattress is exactly what many sleepers need and want out of their bed, a soft mattress may not be the optimal choice for people who weigh more than 230 pounds — especially if they sleep on their back or stomach
How Can I Tell if My Mattress Is Too Soft or Too Firm?
If you sink deeply enough into the mattress to harm your posture, your mattress may be too soft. If you feel like you’re sleeping on hard ground or your bed doesn’t contour enough for comfort, the mattress may be too firm.
That said, if you’ve just purchased your new bed, you may need to give it time. There’s an adjustment period with all new beds, which is why many companies have a mandatory break-in period before a mattress can be returned.
How to Make Your Mattress Softer
If you already own a firm mattress and want to make it softer rather than buying a new bed, you may want to try a contouring mattress topper or pad. Both of these bedding accessories can make your sleep surface feel much softer. This is especially true of toppers, which may contain up to 4 inches of plush cushioning material.
If your mattress is relatively new, allow for a break-in period before making a change, since the surface may feel firmer than expected at first. You should also examine your mattress’ sleep trial and return policy to see what options are available to you. If the mattress doesn’t meet your needs and the company allows returns within a certain period of time, you could exchange it for a mattress with a different firmness level or try another model.