Plush vs Firm Mattress - Picking the Right Comfort Level for You | Saatva (2023)

Choosing between a plush and firm mattress can be a difficult task.There's no industry standard or uniform specification used to measure firmness.

In fact, many manufacturers have a uniquemattress firmness scale, meaning grades of softness and firmness can vary widely by brand.

Firm, plush, soft, and their many variations (think: cloud-like, cushiony, or in-between descriptors like medium firm)are subjective qualities meant to describe how a mattress might feel to any one individual.

So what's a mattress shopper to do?

First, understand a little bit more about what "plush" or "firm" in a mattress really means and how it differs from that other essential quality, support.

Below, learn about the differences between plush and firm mattresses, whether your mattress being plush or firm factors into sleep, and get answers to your most commonly asked questions about mattress firmness.

Plush vs. firm mattresses: What’s the difference?

A firm mattress is any mattress that provides you with strong support, while a plush mattress offers more cushioning and feels easier to sink into. The level of firmness you need in your mattress depends on your body weight, sleep style, joint health, and personal preference.

It’s important to note that whether a mattress feels plush or firm varies from brand to brand and individual to individual.

“Mattress firmness is a comfort term," says Robert Oexman, North Carolina-based chiropractor and director of the Sleep to Live Institute, which leads research on how the sleep environment affects sleep quality.

Plush vs Firm Mattress - Picking the Right Comfort Level for You | Saatva (1)

One company's “medium firm" mattress could be just as firm as another's “extra firm" mattress. “When an elephant lies down on a mattress, for example, it's going to feel different than when a mouse lies on that same mattress," says Oexman.

While there's no definitive standard, many mattress companies (including Saatva) rate the firmness of their products on a 10-point scale.

Typically the higher the number, the firmer the mattress, from 3-4 at the low end to 7-8 at the high end.

Plush vs. firm mattress comparison chart

Here's how plush and firm mattresses stack up against each other:

Mattress type

Pros

Cons

Good for

Plush

-Helps reduce pressure points

-May not provide enough support for proper spinal alignment

-Side sleepers

-People with shoulder pain, hip pain, or lower back pain

-Lighter weight people

Firm

-Helps promote neutral spinal alignment

-May be uncomfortable for people with back pain or bad joints

-Stomach sleepers

-Back sleepers

-Heavier people

Different sleeping positions need different comfort levels

When it comes to mattress firmness, one important consideration isyour typical sleeping position.

If you're aside sleeper, for example, you have concentrated pressure points in contact with the mattress: your shoulder, hip, and outside of your knee and foot. In that case, asofter mattresslets you sink in and provides better pressure relief.

(Video) Firm Vs Soft Mattress - Which Is Best?

If you're astomach sleeper, you'll probably do betteron a firmer mattress,which will help prevent arching in the back (and potential pain later on).

Plush vs Firm Mattress - Picking the Right Comfort Level for You | Saatva (2)

And if you're aback sleeper, count yourself lucky. You will likely sleep well on mosttypes of mattresses, as long as it's not so soft or firm that it throws your spine out of neutral alignment. (Here's more advice onhow to match your mattress to your sleep position.)

A mattress doesn't need to be firm to be supportive

A plusher mattress can still be supportive. Support comes from the core of the mattress—the denser bottom layers of foam infoam mattressesand the spring system in aninnerspring mattress—not from how firm or plush the surface layers, or "comfort layers," feel.

Oexman defines support as the ability to adopt a variety of positions throughout the night while maintaining your spine in a relatively “neutral" horizontal position.

In other words, you want to avoid the U-shaped curve you'd get from sleeping in a hammock, as well as the unnatural bend you'd experience if you lie on your stomach on the floor all night. Instead, your spine should be supported in its natural S-shaped curve and your ears, shoulders, and hips should be aligned.

A soft or ultra-plush bed can still provide plenty of support, Oexman says, so long as the layers underneath are appropriate for the person who's sleeping on it. “You can still go ahead and sink into it enough to get the support you need," he says. (Here'show to match your mattress to your body type.)

The bottom line: Whether you're waking up with aches and pains or it's simply time for a new mattress, think of support first.

Then, for your best night's sleep, focus on mattress comfort. Choose the firmness or softness that feels most comfortable to you, and you can't go wrong.

These Saatva Mattresses Are Available in a Variety of Comfort Levels

Zenhaven Latex Mattress

100% natural latex responds to every curve for pressure-free support and responsive comfort. Natural latex is supple, resilient, and durable, for the ultimate in elevated sleep. (It's naturally hypoallergenic too.)

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Saatva Classic Innerspring

Our flagship luxury mattress is expertly engineered with coil-on-coil construction for durability, a layer of memory foam for enhanced back support, and a cushiony Euro pillow top for extra comfort.

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Premium memory foam, handcrafted in the U.S., with eco-friendly materials. Breathable organic cotton, cooling spinal gel, and layers of high-density support foam assure a cool, comfortable night's sleep.

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Zenhaven Latex Mattress

100% natural latex responds to every curve for pressure-free support and responsive comfort. Natural latex is supple, resilient, and durable, for the ultimate in elevated sleep. (It's naturally hypoallergenic too.)

Shop

(Video) Mattress Buying Guide: Comfort Levels Explained
Saatva Classic Innerspring

Our flagship luxury mattress is expertly engineered with coil-on-coil construction for durability, a layer of memory foam for enhanced back support, and a cushiony Euro pillow top for extra comfort.

Shop

Premium memory foam, handcrafted in the U.S., with eco-friendly materials. Breathable organic cotton, cooling spinal gel, and layers of high-density support foam assure a cool, comfortable night's sleep.

(Video) Nolah Evolution Hybrid Mattress Review - IS PLUSH TOO SOFT?

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Zenhaven Latex Mattress

100% natural latex responds to every curve for pressure-free support and responsive comfort. Natural latex is supple, resilient, and durable, for the ultimate in elevated sleep. (It's naturally hypoallergenic too.)

Shop

Mattress firmness FAQs

Are plush mattresses good for back pain? Are firm mattresses uncomfortable? We're answering your most commonly asked questions to help you decide on the right firmness level for you.

Are plush mattresses good for back pain?

Softer mattresses can be a good alternative for someone who's having back pain with their existing medium firm or firm mattress. They can also be a great choice for side sleepers who are having back pain with their existing mattresses.

Is a firm mattress good for your back?

Firm mattresses can be a good option for people who have lower back pain. A firmer mattress can offer support that keeps your lower back from sinking—and it can help distribute your weight evenly.

However, a firm mattress isn’t always best for back pain. Other factors come into play, like sleep style and body type.

Do plush mattresses wear out faster?

A quality plush mattress should last anywhere from seven to 10 years, which is about the same range as firm mattresses. A mattress’s lifespan doesn’t rely on firmness level as much as quality and materials used.

Are plush mattresses good for side sleepers?

Plush mattresses can be a good choice for side sleepers. The softer feel allows the mattress to contour to the curves of your body and spine to deliver more pressure relief under shoulders and hips.

Are firm mattresses uncomfortable?

This is really a matter of preference. While firm mattresses aren’t usually as soft or flexible as plush mattresses, they can certainly be very comfortable—especially for those who prefer a firmer mattress.

Is a firm or plush mattress better?

Whether you prefer a firm or plush mattress depends on factors like sleep position, body type, and personal comfort preferences. Again, the quality of your mattress will have more to do with the brand you choose and the materials used in its construction.

It’s hard to say one type is definitively “better” than another.

Plush vs. firm mattress: What's the best mattress for you?

While lack of support is what causes you to wake up with back or shoulder pain or feeling like you didn't get agood night's sleep,Oexman says, comfort plays a role in how quickly you fall asleep versus how much you toss and turn once your head hits the pillow.

(Video) Saatva Firmness Options - Plush Soft vs Luxury Firm vs Firm Models

So, consider both the support you need as well as what is most comfortable for you to find your perfect mattress.

Our mattresses come in a variety of firmnesses to suit every sleep style. Try a new Saatva mattress for 180 nights to see if one of our plush, medium firm, or firm mattresses is right for you. If you decide your initial selection isn't right for you, you have the option to exchange your mattress for another firmness during the trial period.

FAQs

How do you know if I need a firm or plush mattress? ›

Generally speaking, heavier people prefer firmer mattresses. Soft foams may sink in too much for comfort and adequate support. Conversely, lighter sleepers may sink in less and find firm beds to be uncomfortably hard, so they generally prefer soft to medium firm options.

Is it better to sleep on a firm mattress or plush mattress? ›

For those not experiencing troublesome back pain, a firm mattress is will generally be more comfortable. When sleeping on a firmer surface, the bones absorb most of the pressure, meaning there is less stress on muscles, veins and arteries. Muscles are less strained, and circulation is improved.

What comfort level is a plush mattress? ›

What is a Plush mattress? The Plush comfort level is the softest. It offers the highest level of conformance to the body which relieves the most pressure from the body's pressure points. This is recommended for those who sleep on their side, as doing so can put more pressure on the shoulders and hips.

Who should use plush mattress? ›

The more you weigh, the more you'll sink into a soft mattress. That's why petite sleepers who are less than 130 pounds may find plush mattresses most comfortable; the mattress will contour their body without sagging too much.

Do hotels use firm or plush mattresses? ›

What firmness of mattresses do hotels use? In most cases, you'll find a medium to a medium-firm mattress in your hotel room. And for a good reason. Medium-firm mattresses are generally good for any type of sleeper or any body type.

Is a plush mattress good for side sleepers? ›

Therefore, the best mattresses for side sleepers are often plush to minimizes discomfort around the shoulders and hips while promoting proper spinal alignment. If you change positions throughout the night, a plush mattress can work in your favor.

Why do people prefer firm mattress? ›

Firm mattresses are more supportive than soft mattresses and hold up the body, rather than letting it sink in too far. Lying on a firm mattress, most people will feel like they are sleeping “on top” of the mattress, and they should have no real issues moving around on the mattress.

Can side sleepers sleep on a firm mattress? ›

Is a firm mattress good for side sleepers? Side sleepers should actually avoid a firm mattress. It simply does not provide the right amount of give for this sleeper. Think about laying on hardwood floors on your side, it's not comfortable because you feel pressure against your shoulder and hip.

Should side sleepers have a firm mattress? ›

In general, soft, medium or medium-firm beds are preferred by side sleepers, as firm mattresses can cause pressure points where the surface doesn't give. If you're a side sleeper who regularly wakes up with shoulder, hip or neck pain, your bed could be to blame.

Can a mattress be too plush? ›

A mattress that is too soft will cause you to sink and hurt your back and spine while you sleep. Persistent morning back pain is an indication that your mattress is too soft to firmly support your body.

What comfort level is best for side sleepers? ›

If a mattress scores a 3/10, it's usually built of memory foam, a gentle material known for deep pressure relief. This softness level is best for side sleepers.

Are hotel beds plush? ›

Do hotels use soft or firm mattresses? Most hotel beds have medium-firm mattresses, which fall roughly in the 5-8 range on the 1-10 mattress firmness scale.

Do plush mattresses cause back pain? ›

Is a soft mattress bad for your back? It is if it's so soft that it doesn't support your spine. If you sink into the mattress so that your hips are lower than your shoulders, your mattress may be too soft and could be contributing to back pain. Keep in mind that weight is a factor when it comes to mattress firmness.

Do plush mattresses wear out faster? ›

Do plush mattresses wear out quickly? Mattress durability isn't correlated to firmness, but rather the quality of materials. Better materials usually increase how long a mattress lasts. A high-quality plush mattress should last just as long as its firmer counterparts, so roughly about 7 to 10 years.

Are plush mattresses good for lower back pain? ›

A mattress that is too plush will sink the most where the body is the heaviest — the lumbar region and hips. Without enough support, an uneven mattress surface will cause the spine and hip joints to fall out of alignment, resulting in pain.

Is plush or medium firm better? ›

Petite and average-sized side sleepers will likely do best on a plush mattress (3 of 10 on the firmness scale). Heavier side sleepers and average-weight side sleepers who like a firmer feel should consider medium-plush mattresses (4 of 10).

Why are hotel mattresses so firm? ›

In a Nutshell. Hotel beds don't cater to individual preferences and are often quite firm because they need to be durable to be able to withstand the varying body weights of guests. There are ways that you can make a hotel bed that feels too firm feel softer and more comfortable.

Do doctors recommend a firm mattress? ›

Orthopedists recommend buying a bed that's as firm as you're able to comfortably sleep on. That's because over time, your mattress will begin to sink and get softer with consistent use. You don't want to end up with a bed that's too soft to sleep on after just 1 or 2 years.

Who are firm beds best for? ›

Our mattress tests have shown a firm feel usually means more support and less sinkage, which can benefit those who weigh more than 230 pounds. The back and stomach sleepers on our testing team also tend to prefer firmer mattresses that reinforce their midsections and reduce pressure points along their spines.

What mattress firmness is healthiest? ›

In general, side sleepers should look for Medium Soft to Medium Firm mattresses that can cushion their impact points. Back and stomach sleepers should look for Medium Firm to Firm beds that have only light conforming.

What happens if you sleep on too firm a mattress? ›

If your mattress is too firm, you might experience a few different symptoms. An overly-firm mattress can put excess strain on your pressure points (shoulders, hips, and torso) or cause spinal misalignment. You might also find that your body stays tense as you sleep, resulting in muscle, neck, or back pain.

Where do you put your arms when you sleep on your back? ›

If you lay mainly on your back, you can use a pillow to support your arm either by your side (pillow under arm) or out to the side (if your movement allows). Use a small pillow to support the weight of the arm. Many people need two pillows, one under the shoulder blade and one under the arm.

What firmness is best for side and stomach sleepers? ›

Generally speaking, side sleepers do better on foam or softer hybrid mattresses, since they offer more cushioning and pressure relief. Stomach sleepers often need a firmer hybrid or innerspring mattress for better support through the night.

Can a firm mattress cause side pain? ›

If your mattress is too firm, excess pressure on areas like your shoulders, hips, knees, side, and back can lead to aches and pains, Dr. Aouad says.

Can a firm mattress cause hip pain? ›

If a bed's firmness level isn't well-suited to a sleeper's body type or sleep position, it may create painful pressure points around the hips.

Why do people sleep with plush? ›

Forty percent of adults admit to still sleeping with a stuffed animal or blanket from their childhood. Just as it does for children, a stuffed animal can provide a sense of comfort and security to adults in times of extreme stress, Jagoo says.

Why does my plush mattress feel firm? ›

A brand new mattress will often be firmer – sometimes much firmer – than it will become over time after the “break in” period. This firmness is caused by the foam layers. As you continue to sleep on your mattress, the pressure from your body will relax the foam and mold it more and more into your sleeping form.

Do you need a softer mattress as you get older? ›

Should You Get a Firm Mattress? Seniors often need a mattress with excellent pressure relief to help reduce pressure points in key areas like the shoulders, hips and back. Generally, a medium to medium firm mattress will provide this optimal level of support and help alleviate back and joint pain.

Is a firm or soft mattress better for hip pain? ›

In general, a medium-soft to medium mattress is better for hip pain, while a firmer mattress is better for back pain. A softer mattress can help to relieve pressure on the hips and allow them to rest more comfortably.

What firmness is best for back pain? ›

When in Doubt, Go 'Medium-Firm' Research is limited, but in one study, researchers assigned new mattresses to more than 300 people with low back pain. They used either "medium-firm" or "firm" mattresses for 90 days. Those in the medium group reported the least amount of discomfort.

What is the difference between a firm bed and a plush bed? ›

A firm mattress is any mattress that provides you with strong support, while a plush mattress offers more cushioning and feels easier to sink into. The level of firmness you need in your mattress depends on your body weight, sleep style, joint health, and personal preference.

What does a plush bed feel like? ›

A plush mattress is a mattress with a soft feel. It's the type of mattress that you gently sink into, cradling and hugging you as you fall asleep.

What's the difference between luxury firm and plush? ›

Luxury Firm could also be defined as “Cushion Firm”. Luxury Firm Mattresses are typically recommended for Stomach and Back Sleepers. Plush Mattresses are best defined as medium comfort and a “compromise” between partners with different sleeping styles.

Is plush or medium better for side sleepers? ›

If you are a side sleeper, you should look into purchasing a plush or medium mattress. You will need the extra comfort layers to provide pressure relief for your hips and shoulders. Generally, people with a curvier figure need the added cushion found in plush mattresses.

Do plush mattresses get softer over time? ›

All mattresses get a little softer within the first 50 to 60 nights of regular use. This is called the natural break-in period. However, this natural break-in doesn't make it an uncomfortable mattress, rather it tempers down the extra firmness of a new mattress.

Which type of mattress is best for back pain? ›

Memory foam and latex mattresses are often considered the best options for back pain, as they conform to your body, cradling pressure points while supporting your spine and keeping it aligned.

How long does it take to break in a plush mattress? ›

It can take 30 days or more for most mattresses to break in completely, and become as soft as you'd expect them to be. It's worth the wait though, so allow the time for your body to adjust to your new bed and for your bed to settle into its intended comfort.

Do firm beds last longer? ›

Do firm mattresses last longer? Firmness doesn't determine the lifespan of your mattress. Instead, your mattress's lifespan is based on the quality of materials. Most mattresses last between 7 to 10 years, regardless of their firmness.

How do you know if your mattress is too hard? ›

Here are a few of the main signs that your mattress is too firm for you:
  1. It doesn't contour to your body.
  2. It feels uncomfortable.
  3. You wake up with back or neck ache.
  4. You get a better sleep when you sleep on a softer mattress elsewhere.

What thickness of mattress is best for back pain? ›

Mattresses in the 8 to 12-inch range with a medium-firm feel are good for back pain sufferers. These beds are firm enough to support your back and prevent mattress sinkage while being soft enough to conform to the natural curvature of your spine.

What kind of mattress is best for lower back and hip pain? ›

If you sleep on your side or on your back, a medium-firm memory foam mattress may provide enough support to keep your spine straight through the night and help relieve hip pain. But if you sleep on your stomach, a pillow top mattress or hybrid with an innerspring might fit your needs better.

Do plush mattresses hurt your back? ›

Plush mattresses can be good for back pain sufferers who are lightweight or sleep on their side. For these sleepers, a plush mattress lowers tension and relieves pressure points located along the back and spine. However, plush mattresses aren't ideal for all sleepers who have back pain.

Why do some people prefer firm mattresses? ›

Firm mattresses are more supportive than soft mattresses and hold up the body, rather than letting it sink in too far. Lying on a firm mattress, most people will feel like they are sleeping “on top” of the mattress, and they should have no real issues moving around on the mattress.

What level of firmness is best for side sleepers? ›

If a mattress scores a 3/10, it's usually built of memory foam, a gentle material known for deep pressure relief. This softness level is best for side sleepers.

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