Mattress Firmness by Body Weight

October 27, 2021

Mattress Firmness by Body Weight

Did you know that your body weight is an important factor when choosing the ideal firmness level for your mattress? Sleeping on the wrong mattress comes with many health-related issues. Such problems include low back pains, sleep apnea, and pain in your hips, shoulders, and neck.

The American Chiropractic Association reports that 31 million people in America suffer from low back pain, and sleeping on the wrong mattress is one of the main causes of such pain. For this reason, chiropractors recommend a medium-firm mattress, depending on a sleeper's body weight, to minimize the pressure exerted on the spine and other parts of the body.

Here's all you need to know about the impact of your body weight on your choice of mattress.

What is Mattress Firmness?

Mattress firmness describes how soft or hard a mattress feels. The standard terms most manufacturers use to describe the firmness levels of a mattress are:

  • Soft
  • Medium-firm
  • Firm

However, there are several other ways mattress companies refer to the firmness level of their different mattresses. For example, some manufacturers may describe their mattress as being plush to mean comfortably soft.

Although these descriptions may sound very easy to comprehend, it's not always true that every sleeper has the same feeling while lying on a certain mattress. For example, a firm mattress may feel like a rock to a lightweight sleeper, while a heavier sleeper may perceive the same mattress as cotton soft.

The description of the firmness level of a mattress depends on many factors. But unfortunately, many mattress manufacturers don't put much effort into helping buyers understand how different firmness levels work.

Besides, there isn't any universally accepted standard of describing the firmness of a mattress. In fact, some companies don't indicate anything about firmness, leaving shoppers in a selection dilemma.

Mattress Firmness Scales Explained

Some mattress companies use a scale, usually ranging between 1 and 10, with the highest score being the firmest. Because this scale isn't standard, different manufacturers have their preferred way of ranking their mattresses. Bear in mind that different mattresses have their own unique feel, even if ranked on the same level on the scale.

For example, a memory foam mattress is generally soft compared to a latex mattress.

So before we even discuss how your body weight will help you choose the right firmness, here's an overview of the firmness scale and labels used by different mattress companies.

Extra Soft Mattresses

Many mattresses companies don't have mattresses in this category because idyllically soft mattresses have weaker support. Such mattresses rank between 1 and 2 on the scale, and have a higher risk of sinking to the pressure exerted by a sleeper's body.

Soft Mattresses

Most mattresses under this category rank between a 3 and 4 on the firmness scale. These mattresses offer a lot of cushioning, and deep body shape contour primarily associated with memory foam mattresses. They are also best known for pressure relief, and are mostly preferred by side sleepers.

Medium-Firm Mattresses

Ranging between 5 and 6, or in some cases 7, these mattresses are the most popular and comfortable for many sleepers. Sleep experts highly recommend Medium-firm mattresses because they have the right amount of support and comfort.

Medium-firm mattresses also contour the shape of a sleeper's body, without sinking in too deep like the soft and extra-soft mattresses. This balance makes them ideal for all types of sleeping positions.

Firm Mattresses

This category features mattresses ranging between 7 and 8. They have greater support in the middle and all-around their edges than the mattresses in the lower categories.

Firm mattresses also barely contour a sleeper's body, and for this reason, most sleepers don't feel the plush comfort provided by softer options. Thus, in most cases, sleepers who pick firm mattresses often do so out of preference, rather than general comfort and support.

Extra-Firm Mattress

These mattresses are on the extreme end when it comes to firmness ratings, ranging between 9 and 10 on the scale. As a result, they are usually ideal for sleepers who don't like a body-hugging mattress, or simply prefer a hard sleeping surface.

However, these mattresses aren't ideal for all types of sleeping positions. For example, side sleepers would feel a lot of pressure on the shoulders, hips, and joints while sleeping on these types of mattresses. On the other hand, the tremendous support these mattresses provide is ideal for stomach sleeping.

In a nutshell, since this mattress scale isn't universal, you may notice a slight difference in how different mattress companies categorize their mattresses. For example, some companies will only stick to the three basic soft, medium, and firm levels, without any numbering. Others may use different names to describe these levels.

How to Choose the Optimal Mattress Firmness by Body Weight

Your body weight is the most important factor when selecting the right firmness level for your mattress. Here's how different mattress firmness levels affect sleepers of different body weights.

Lightweight Sleepers

Sleepers weighing about 130 lbs are often comfortable on softer mattresses because they don't sink too deep into the mattress. In addition, these mattresses offer pressure relief, regardless of their sleeping positions.

As mentioned earlier, softer mattresses tend to sink more than the other types of mattresses. As a result, they cause restricted airflow around a sleeper's body, making them feel too hot while sleeping. This may be so uncomfortable, especially when sleeping on mattresses that aren't great at thermoregulation, such as memory foam mattresses.

Average Weight Sleepers

This category is for sleepers who weigh between 130 and 230 lbs. This group is often comfortable on mattresses with a good balance between comfort and support, most of which range between medium soft and medium firmness levels. Fortunately, this range of mattresses works well with all types of sleeping positions.

There are numerous mattresses in the market today that suit sleepers in this category. However, if you belong in this category, you may want to consider other factors while selecting your ideal mattress. For example, if you sleep hot, it's advisable to choose latex foam or hybrid mattresses over memory foam mattresses.

Heavy Weight Sleepers

Sleepers weighing over 230lbs have a more challenging time finding a comfortable mattress. Generally, firmer mattresses are the ideal option for this group of sleepers because of the amount of support they provide.

However, these sleepers may also have to consider other factors, such as their preferred sleeping positions and the type of mattress before making their decision.

For instance, heavier side sleepers can be comfortable on medium to firm mattresses. On the other hand, those who prefer sleeping on their backs and stomachs get better support from medium-firm to firm mattresses.

Even though firmer beds are suitable for heavy-weight sleepers, mattresses that feel too hard on the surface may not be so comfortable. Therefore, mattresses that score a 10 out of 10 on the firmness scale are harder to find, and also not recommended. For better sleep, heavier sleepers may improve the comfort of their bed by using sleep accessories such as pillows or mattress toppers.

Mattress Firmness vs Support of a Mattress

Mattress support refers to the mattress's ability to hold a sleeper in place by evenly distributing the body weight, and easing pressure points. On the other hand, firmness is simply the softness or hardness levels of a mattress. Usually, a mattress that has poor support is often associated with softness.

Despite this correlation, it's not necessarily true that a firm mattress can't be soft, or a soft mattress can't have enough support. Many mattress companies maintain a supportive core of a mattress while creatively blending the mattress's top layer with soft materials such as cotton and wool. As a result, such a mattress offers excellent support while providing sufficient cushioning.

Body Weight, Back Pain, and Mattress Firmness

One of the common reasons for back pains is sleeping on a mattress that doesn't have adequate support for your weight. By now, you already know which type of mattress suits you depending on your weight.

To put that into perspective, here's a depiction of how your body behaves when sleeping on the wrong mattress.

Back pains resulting from a bad mattress occur due to bad spinal alignment. Naturally, the spine forms an S-shaped curve when resting in the right position. However, when sleeping on the wrong mattress for your body weight, your body will exert pressure on different parts of the spine, distorting this natural curve. As a result, you'll experience back pain.

When a lightweight sleeper lies on a firmer mattress, they don't experience the body-contouring effect a soft mattress offers. That means that their spine will be forced to support their weight while resisting gravity. This strain on the spine causes low back pains.

Conversely, heavier sleepers sink deeper into softer mattresses, causing their spines to bend in the wrong direction. As a result, they will also experience back pain resulting from bad spinal alignment.

Striking a balance between comfort and support is often difficult, especially for sleepers on the extreme sides of the weight scale. That's why chiropractors recommend a medium-firm to firm mattress for sleepers experiencing back problems.

Sleep Position Preferences and Body Weight

Different sleeping positions expose the body to different pressure points. Here's how the weight of the body impacts different sleeping positions.

Back Sleepers

Lying flat on your back is considered the best overall sleeping position by some because of the health benefits it offers, including protecting and supporting the spine. However, the main challenge sleepers experience is picking the ideal mattress according to their body weight.

Lightweight back sleepers are always comfortable on softer mattresses because they don't sink too deep into the mattresses. Some good options for these mattresses include memory foam or hybrid mattresses.

As for heavier back sleepers, the ideal type of mattress ranges between medium-firm to firm mattresses. The best mattresses for such sleepers are hybrid and latex foam mattresses because of their tremendous support and responsiveness.

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers expose their shoulders, hips, knee, and ankle joints to pressure from the mattress. Ideally, this category of sleepers needs a softer surface to ease these pressure points.

For this reason, mattresses that are too soft make such sleepers feel unsupported, while those that are too firm are harsh on the pressure points. Therefore, medium-firm mattresses are ideal for side sleepers, regardless of their body weight.

Stomach Sleepers

Stomach Sleeping exposes the spine to pressure that causes back pains. This is why it's advisable for stomach sleepers to use firmer mattresses. However, considering that lightweight sleepers are more comfortable on softer mattresses, a medium-firm hybrid or latex mattress would be a comfortable choice. Heavier stomach sleepers, on the other hand, would be more comfortable on any firmer mattresses.

Combination Sleepers

The ideal firmness level for combination sleepers is medium-firm to firm. Mattresses in these categories are compatible with all sleeping positions and different body weights.

In addition, these sleepers can choose mattresses depending on their availability in the market and sleep-related benefits. For example, latex mattresses suit sleepers who don't prefer heat-trapping memory foam mattresses.

The Right Firmness Level of a Mattress for Couples

Couples often have different preferences when it comes to the firmness level of a mattress. That makes it difficult to point out one single mattress that's best for couples. Shopping together may help in decision-making, but it would still take several sleep trials before finally settling for one mattress.

The good news is that twin-size mattresses are designed to solve this problem. These mattresses consist of the same length, thickness, and materials that fit one bed but have different firmness levels. Another option is airbeds that allow sleepers to customize the firmness level of their side of the bed by increasing or reducing air in the various pockets of the mattress.

Mattress Toppers by Body Weight

A mattress topper is a layer of foam that alters the firmness level of a mattress. So, if your bed is firmer, you can use a softer mattress topper, and vice versa, instead of buying a whole new mattress. Although a topper is thinner and cheaper, it's not always easy to shop for one.

Mattress toppers range between 2 and 4 inches of thickness, and come with varying firmness levels. Here's what to consider when shopping for a mattress topper.

Mattress Toppers for Heavier Sleepers

A heavier sleeper would be more comfortable on thicker mattress toppers than thinner ones, regardless of the firmness level. Chances are that such a sleeper already has a firmer mattress with excellent support. However, the mattress may be too firm, especially if the sleeper prefers lying on their sides.

In that case, a softer but thicker mattress topper would be a great choice. On the other hand, if the sleeper's mattress is too soft, then the best mattress topper choice would be thick, but firm.

Another factor to consider is the type of foam the topper is made of. Generally, memory foam toppers feel softer than latex foam toppers, and may not provide adequate support where needed.

Mattress Toppers for Lightweight Sleepers

In most cases, lightweight sleepers invest in mattress toppers to make their mattresses feel softer. Since these sleepers don't exert too much pressure on their mattresses, a 2-inch topper is ideal for providing the necessary support they need.

How to Test the Firmness Level of a Mattress

It's difficult to tell how a mattress feels just by looking at it, especially when shopping online. The firmness scale also doesn't make it easier because it's not universal. That leaves you with only one option; physically testing the firmness level of the mattress.

However, the main disadvantage of physical testing is that the two to three minutes of testing time is not sufficient to make the right decision. Naturally, a new mattress takes a few days to adjust to a sleeper's body. Similarly, the sleeper takes just as much time to fully conform to their new mattress.

That's where the sleep trial period of a mattress comes in handy.

The sleep trial period is the time within which a sleeper tries out a new mattress for a couple of nights to determine whether it has the right firmness level. Then, depending on the policies of the mattress company, the sleeper may return the mattress for an exchange or refund if not satisfied.

Here's how to test the mattress during the sleep trial period.

If you're a back sleeper, lay down on the mattress and slide your hand beneath the small curve on your lower back. If your hand easily slips through, the mattress is probably too firm. And, if your hand doesn't slip under the curve, the mattress is probably too soft.  The ideal mattress should let your hand through, but also have some resistance while doing so.

For side sleepers, you'll need to lay down on the mattress, and watch the alignment of your back, preferably by taking a picture of it. The picture should showcase the perfectly contouring shape of the spine, not too straight or too curved.

Stomach sleepers should pay attention to how their backs feel when they sleep on the mattress. Any straining and pressure on the back indicate that the mattress isn't the best choice.

Ultimately, you need to sleep long enough on your mattress during the trial period before deciding to contact the mattress company for an exchange.  Also, compare the new mattress to the older one, noting changes such as how you feel when you wake up and sleep.

Eco Terra Beds Mattress Firmness Options

Eco Terra Beds are designed to cater to all types of sleepers and their preferred sleeping positions with only two firmness levels of mattresses; medium and medium-firm.

Orthopedic and chiropractic experts highly recommend these mattresses for comfortable, rejuvenating, and healthy sleeping habits. In addition, the medium firm Eco Terra Hybrid Latex Mattresses are ideal for sleepers who prefer softer mattresses with great support.

Eco Terra Beds are available in six different sizes, ranging from Twin to Cal King sizes. The best part about these mattresses is that they are made with natural latex, and organic cotton and wool.

They also have a fabric-encased core that improves the support and breathability of the mattresses, not forgetting their soft covers made from cotton and wool.

And, that's not all; you can adjust the firmness level of your mattress with the Eco Terra Beds' 100 % natural latex toppers, available in soft, medium, and medium-firm firmness levels. For this reason, you won't have to worry about sleeping hot with these latex toppers.

Did you know that you can experience these sleep-related benefits of Eco Terra Beds mattresses and sleep accessories within seven days of placing your order? Our company offers free shipping, a 90-day sleep trial, and a hassle-free return if you're not satisfied with our products!

Is Mattress Firmness the Same as Mattress Support?

No. Mattress firmness is the softness or firmness of a mattress, while mattress support is the ability of the mattress to hold the body in place while sleeping.

How Will I Know if My Mattress is too Soft?

If your mattress is too soft, you'll most likely experience body aches and pains caused by poor spinal alignment, especially after waking up.

What are Cal King Mattresses?

Also known as California King mattresses, these mattresses are usually wider, longer, and ideal for tall people and couples as well. Some of their benefits include fitting in narrower rooms, accommodating more than one sleeper, and being compatible with various sleep accessories.

Now that you know how to choose the ideal mattress based on your body weight, Eco Terra Beds has plenty of options to choose from at affordable prices! Not convinced yet? Check out some Eco Terra Beds reviews online!

Patrick Gunther

Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 13 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.