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Should a mattress be hard or soft?

13 Nov, 2023
Johnno van den Brink

For a very long time, it was assumed that a mattress had to be hard. It is not so, or better, not always so anyway. Sleeping systems that are too hard and also too soft are not good for your back. Whether a mattress should be hard or soft actually depends partly on your own preferences, but largely on your build. Your sleeping position also affects this choice. Side sleepers often benefit from a softer mattress, while people who sleep on their backs or stomachs often benefit from a firmer one. We are happy to explain a little more.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a hard mattress?

Hard mattresses have the following advantages and disadvantages:

Benefits of a hard mattress:

  • Provides good support for heavier people, including getting in and out when less mobile
  • Lots of freedom of movement, you don’t sink in
  • Abdominal sleepers in particular, depending on abdominal volume, often find firm mattresses more comfortable

Disadvantages of a hard mattress:

  • Can put pressure on certain parts of the body, causing, for example, shoulder and hip pain, especially for side sleepers
  • Lumbar area is under-supported, more noticeable in side sleepers.
  • The above causes often cause you to change your posture too much during sleep
  • Often not suitable for light-skinned people

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a soft mattress?

Soft mattresses also have their own pluses and minuses:

Benefits of a soft mattress:

  • Gives a conforming feeling, i.e. your body looks like it was molded into it
  • You feel like you are on a cloud and feel very relaxed
  • Relieves pressure in the shoulders and hips, especially if you sleep on your side

Disadvantages of a soft mattress:

  • Sometimes causes problems with the alignment of your spine, e.g., a banana shape can occur
  • The hips of stomach sleepers may sink too far into the mattress, leading to stretching of the spine
  • Too soft can lead to the so-called hangmate effect and that leads to very little range of motion
  • Mattresses that are too soft have more skin contact and therefore often become too warm as well

What should you consider when determining the firmness of your new mattress?

So a firm mattress is not necessarily better than a supple mattress, it really depends on the situation. There are a few factors to consider in determining the perfect firmness for you. Below we list them.

Body Building

Your physical size, height and weight affect how the various firmness levels feel. Heavier people, for example, often prefer a harder mattress. This is because a soft material sags too much for them, severely restricting freedom of movement. We move regularly during our sleep and that is good. But if you are hindered in this your sleep is interrupted. On the contrary, lighter-built sleepers often find firm beds uncomfortable and therefore choose a soft mattress. They often experience shoulder and/or hip pain. The pain they experience causes them to change sleeping positions more often than necessary. This also keeps them awake unnecessarily.

Comfort preferences

This factor is very subjective, but obviously important. After all, it could be that, according to all the guidelines, it is best to choose a firm mattress, but you simply find a softer one much more comfortable. So choose that! Even if sometimes at the expense of sustainability. Better sleep well and change your mattress a little more often. It is good to know that comfort is often a matter of habit as well. Often people find it difficult to change habits. Remember that it can take up to a month to get used to a new mattress. So allow yourself a little time as well.

Sleeping position

Your sleeping position also affects your choice of firmness. In general, back and stomach sleepers prefer a harder mattress because it offers more support. On the contrary, those who sleep on their sides usually prefer a softer bed. It is worth noting that these preferences are not universal, so it could be that as a side sleeper you do prefer a firm mattress. Again, it is good to reiterate that we often change sleep positions during the night. If you slept well, you obviously don’t know it. We sleep on our sides, backs or in between positions, changing positions up to 40 times a night. We often remember our positions to fall asleep and think, wrongly, that we always sleep them too. Nay, a side sleeper really does also sleep on the back or adopt an intermediate position. Yes, you too!


Do you share your bed with a partner? Then you have additional points to consider when buying a new mattress. This often makes the choice more difficult as there is little chance that you have the same sleeping position, body weight and comfort preferences. Thus, we see that most couples find a compromise. They choose two separate mattresses or partner mattresses. With a partner mattress, you have the appearance of one large one but find two separate mattress cores inside the cover. And increasingly, couples are also daring to admit that they sleep separately. Less romantic but if you are not comfortable sleeping together then better alone. It really doesn’t have to be a barrier to having a happy relationship.

how is firmness of mattress measured

How is the firmness of a mattress measured?

If you want to buy a new mattress, it is of course important to lie on it for a while. This says a lot about how hard or soft the mattress is, but you can also look at a letter with a number for this. In fact, mattress firmness is often measured on a scale from H1 to H4. Here is a handy overview of hardnesses. Important to keep an average body height in mind. Because when you are smaller, you distribute your body weight less across your height than when you are tall.

H1H1 is the softest. Such a soft mattress is especially suitable for side sleepers and people who weigh between 40 and 70 kilograms.
H2H2 is smooth but offers much more support. Suitable for people who weigh between 60 and 80 kilograms.
H3We recommend a mattress with firmness grade H3 for sleepers between 75 and 100 kilograms.
H4H4 is the firmest firmness grade and is often preferred by heavier people because their bodies need more support. Do you weigh more than 100 kilograms? If so, be sure to choose H4.

How do you know if your mattress is too hard or too soft?

Doubting whether your current mattress is right for you? You obviously don’t want to buy a new one right then, since it’s not exactly cheap. Fortunately, you can check if the firmness of your mattress suits you well.

Do you feel like you are in a pit? The mattress is then really too soft, although this can also happen because it has sagged. This is a good reason to bring in a replacement anyway. It is also possible to check if the mattress is too hard. To do this, slide your hand between the mattress and your lower back. Is this going to be easy? The mattress is then too hard. Want to check if your mattress has sagged? Then lay your mattress on the floor, if possible without a mattress cover. Place a straight object, such as a brush handle, on the mattress and check for visible potholes. When your mattress lies on your bed base, it makes sense that shoulder and hip zones are visible. This is called contouring, and it is perfectly normal.

Should a mattress be hard or soft: Frequently Asked Questions

Many people think that a hard mattress is the best way to avoid back pain. This is not quite the case. Most people with chronic back pain are primarily looking for good support, according to research. Maintaining correct ergonomic posture becomes easier when you choose the right firmness for your body.

A harder mattress is especially better for heavier people because your body is better supported. Also, if you sleep mostly on your stomach, a firmer mattress may be more comfortable. A harder mattress offers more stability so you can get in and out of bed smoothly.

How hard your mattress should be really depends on your preferences and build. For example, heavier people are better off choosing a firm mattress, as are people who sleep on their stomachs. Do you weigh fairly little or are you a side sleeper? Then choose a softer mattress.


So whether you should buy a hard or soft mattress really depends on your situation. We can’t determine this for you; you must decide for yourself what you are comfortable with. Above all, take the time to try out mattresses in stores or opt for an exchange guarantee or no-quibble money-back product if you buy online. So in addition, you also need to consider your physique and sleeping position when you want to buy a new mattress. In addition, don’t forget to consider your partner’s preferences when buying a hard or soft mattress! And remember that an experienced and professional advisor can often give you useful tips.