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If you’re searching for a new mattress, there are many things to consider. First of all, what type of mattress should you get? What brand is best? Do you want to spend a little bit more money to get an eco-friendly mattress, or are you going to opt for a cheaper option? All of these questions are important to answer when you’re looking to buy a mattress.

However, one of the biggest questions people wonder about is the level of firmness. If you’ve owned a mattress for many years, you probably got used to the level of firmness. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it suits you best.

Having the right mattress firmness can be life-changing. If you get a mattress that’s too soft, you can have trouble falling asleep, and feel unsupported. If you get a mattress that’s too firm, you can feel uncomfortable, and wake up with sore muscles and joints. So, you may be asking yourself: What’s best; a Firm mattress, a Medium mattress, or a Medium-Firm mattress? What stands out when you compare a Firm vs Medium mattress?

What Makes for a Comfortable Mattress?

Although not everybody will find the same mattress ideal for their body type, there are factors that make comfort more than just something based on preference.

Support

Support is a major factor that contributes to the comfort of a bed. If you’ve ever slept in a bed where you feel unsupported, you probably had a difficult time falling asleep. To feel supported, a few things need to happen. First, your spine must be in a neutral position. A neutral position is one that supports the natural curvature of the spine.

Secondly, your pressure points need to be supported and cushioned. When you sleep on a mattress that helps with pressure relief, it takes the burden off of your joints, and you may have the feeling that some people describe as “melting”.

Thirdly, your body weight is evenly distributed. When your weight is distributed throughout the bed, the pressure from your weight is dispersed, allowing for more comfortable sleep.

If you sleep on a mattress that meets these three support-related needs, then you’ll find yourself very comfortable, and falling asleep will be much easier.

Personal Factors

While some mattresses are more supportive than others, there are specific factors that relate to individual people, which determine whether or not you’ll find a mattress that is comfortable for you.

For example, your body type and sleep positions play a role in support and comfort level. These factors will determine whether or not you prefer a Soft mattress, a Medium mattress, or a Firm mattress.

Generally, Soft and Medium beds are better suited to side sleepers. This is because side sleepers' body weight is more concentrated. So if a side sleeper sleeps on a Firm mattress, they may feel more pressure on their pressure points, and have a less comfortable sleep. However, we’ll get more into the specifics of Firm vs Medium beds below.

Firm vs Medium Mattress

Knowing the differences between Firm and Medium mattresses will help to inform your decision when you buy a new mattress. Most people only have an understanding of firmness levels relative to other beds they’ve slept on. So, understanding the differences will help you to decide what your sleep position, body weight, and preferences require for the best sleep.

Mattresses are usually rated on a firmness scale of 1 to 10. The softest mattresses are a 1 on the firmness scale, and the firmest beds are a 10; Firm mattresses usually lie on the firmness scale from 8 to 10. A true Medium mattress is rated 5. A Medium-Firm mattress is somewhere in between Firm and Medium on the firmness scale.

Firm Mattresses

Firm mattresses often get a bad rap. While they may be uncomfortable for some people, they’re exactly what others require for a good night's sleep.

Firm mattresses are known as mattresses that are very stable, and don’t have much give. In other words, you don’t sink into a Firm mattress as easily as you would with a Soft bed.

Advantages of Firm Mattresses

Great for Back Sleepers

Back sleepers need their body weight to be evenly distributed, and keep their spine aligned with their shoulders. Firm mattresses more efficiently distribute the weight of back sleepers while they sleep when compared to other levels of mattresses. When your weight is evenly distributed on your back, no single point receives more pressure than the rest, allowing you to sleep soundly and comfortably. Firm mattresses also keep the lower back lifted and supported, which helps to reduced back pain.

Great for Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers have an exaggerated curve in their spine while they sleep. If stomach sleepers’ beds are too soft, their chest and stomach will sink into the bed, causing the spine to curve even further, which can result in misalignment, back pain, and neck pain. Therefore, stomach sleepers need a firmer mattress that keeps their stomach and hips lifted, and maintains the proper spine alignment. So, if you and your partner are stomach sleepers, you may want to consider a Firm or Medium-Firm bed.

Great for Heavy Sleepers

Heavy sleepers are usually defined as people who weigh 250 pounds or more. Because of their weight, they're more prone to sinking further into a bed. The sinking feeling can make sleeping uncomfortable by reducing mobility and circulation of the blood. Firmer mattresses prevent sinking, and keep the chest aligned with the shoulders. Also, they’ll help you breathe easier during the night, without feeling stuck.

Better for Circulation

Firmer mattresses don’t cradle the body as soft mattresses do. When the body is cradled in a soft mattress, it can restrict movement, which results in poor blood flow, along with aches and pains. Firm mattresses keep you lifted on the surface of the bed, preventing sinking, and supporting proper circulation.

Keeps You Cool

Softer mattresses contour your body more. Some describe it as receiving a small hug. While this is just what some people need, it usually results in less airflow and overheating, especially for hot sleepers. Hot sleepers may feel even hotter and more uncomfortable on a Soft bed, because there is less room for your body to breathe as you sink into the mattress.

Disadvantages of Firm Mattresses

Although there are many significant advantages to sleeping on a Firm mattress, that doesn’t mean they’re for everyone. Consider these disadvantages when looking at a Firm vs Medium mattress.

Side Sleepers

Where Firm mattresses are great for stomach and back sleepers, they’re usually not ideal for side sleepers. Side sleepers have more weight concentrated on a smaller area, which can result in your shoulders and hips bearing most of your weight, resulting in sore muscles and joints.

Also, Firm mattresses won’t allow you to sink as far into the bed on your side. For side sleepers, this means that their spine may curve out of its natural alignment, and result in additional discomfort.

Light Sleepers

In this case, light sleepers refer to body weight. So, if you are a particularly light person (130 pounds or less), Firm mattresses may not be great for you. Firm mattresses are suitable for heavy sleepers because they have little give that allows heavy sleepers to feel supported, without sinking into the mattress too much. People who are light, however, may not feel like the mattress has any give whatsoever, and therefore may feel unsupported, or like they’re sleeping on a hard surface.

Arthritis

People with arthritis require a neutral spine alignment even more than others. This is because proper alignment helps to relieve muscle tension, whereas improper spine alignment can make muscle tension worsen.

That being said, the mattress still needs enough support to provide pressure relief, so this isn’t always the case.

Medium Mattresses

If Soft mattresses aren’t quite what you need, but Firm mattresses are too firm, than Medium beds might be suitable for you.

Medium beds compress and sink a little bit when you lie down on them, but they don’t suck you in like Soft beds do. They offer a middle ground that supports you, while also providing a little bit of give.

Advantages of Medium Mattresses

Great for Most Body Types

Medium beds offer a middle ground between Soft and Firm beds. Whereas Soft beds are too soft for many people, and Firm beds are too firm, Medium mattresses offer that "Goldilocks" level of firmness that is just right for most sleepers.

Medium beds provide enough response to inhibit average sleepers, those between 130 pounds and 250 pounds, from sinking into the bed, and placing additional pressure on the spine. Also, for light sleepers, they provide enough compression that allows the bed to contour to their body shape and spine. Medium beds accommodate the widest range of body types, and most people will find them suitable for their needs.

Great for Side Sleepers

When you sleep on your side, your hips and shoulders carry most of your body weight, and absorb most of the pressure on the bed. If you’ve ever slept on your side on a firm bed, you’ll likely find it difficult to fall asleep. Also, you may wake up with aches, pains, and sore muscles.

In addition, the bed needs enough give that will promote proper spinal alignment, and allow your back muscles to relax. For side sleepers, a Firm mattress will not provide the right amount of give. On the other hand, a bed that is too soft will allow side sleepers to sink too far into the bed, causing the spine to curve. Medium beds offer the perfect mix of give and support to make side sleepers comfortable.

Great for Combination Sleepers

Combination sleepers are people who sleep in more than one position throughout the night. Therefore, if you sleep on your side and back for example, a Firm mattress will not provide enough give when you’re on your side. For this reason, combination sleepers usually feel most comfortable on a Medium bed.

Great for Couples

If you sleep with a partner, there’s a decent chance that you both have different preferences when it comes to mattresses. Rather than letting one person have their way, and the other sleep poorly, Medium beds offer a suitable compromise for both parties. Similar to the benefits of a combination sleeper, Medium mattresses offer enough give and support for multiple sleeping positions, making them ideal if you sleep one way, and your partner sleeps in another.

Also, Medium mattresses have less motion transfer than Firm beds. This means that if you or your partner get up during the night, or move around while they sleep, it shouldn’t bother the other party as much.

Great for Sex

If you’ve ever had sex on a Soft memory foam mattress, you know that the type of mattress can play a major role in the physical aspects of sex. Medium beds offer a significant amount of responsiveness. This makes them better than Soft mattresses when it comes to intimate activities between you and your partner. Rather than sinking into the bed during sexual activities, Medium mattresses will provide you and your partner with enough responsiveness and bounce to make sex easier and more enjoyable.

Pressure Relief

Medium beds feel more soft and plush than a Firm mattress, which allows them to better cushion your body, and protect it from pressure build up and pain. Medium mattresses provide enough compression for contouring, but not so much that you feel extra pressure. So, for many sleepers, they will find that Medium mattresses afford them cushioned joints, a neutrally-aligned spine, and an overall weightless sleep.

Disadvantages of Medium Mattresses

Although Medium mattresses are a great option for most sleepers, they are not made for everyone.

Heavy Sleepers

Heavy sleepers may find that Medium mattresses aren’t stable and supportive enough to account for their weight. A heavy sleeper may find that they sink too deeply into a Medium mattress, which can cause their spine to curve in an unnatural position while they sleep.

Back Pain

People who suffer from back pain may find that their lower back collapses on the bed, resulting in additional discomfort. Medium-Firm mattresses may be a better option for those who suffer from chronic back pain, as it provides additional support to the lower back. If you do suffer from back pain, ask your medical professional if they have any recommendations when it comes to selecting a new mattress.

Medium-Firm Mattress

Firm and Medium mattresses may not be exactly what you need, and that’s perfectly fine, because there are Medium-Firm mattress options. Typically, a Medium-Firm mattress is ideal for those who find Medium mattresses a little bit too soft, and Firm mattresses slightly too firm. Medium-Firm mattresses are great for people who are average to heavy sleepers, and who suffer from back pain.

Think of Medium-Firm beds as a middle ground. They may not be ideal for petite sleepers, but Medium-Firm is a better option than a Firm bed. Consider Medium-Firm if the advantages for both Medium and Firm mattresses don’t completely meet your needs.

Mattress Types

Every mattress type provides support a little bit differently, so it’s worth exploring different mattress types that most match your sleep style.

Memory Foam Mattresses

Memory foam beds are best known for being plush, and providing contouring. Memory foam beds allow you to sink into the bed easily. While they do come in firmer options, traditional memory foam beds are known for being on the softer side. Therefore, heavy sleepers may find that memory foam mattresses are not great for them, while light sleepers are more likely to be happy with a memory foam mattress.

Innerspring Mattresses

Innerspring mattresses are known for being bouncy and responsive. They don’t allow you to sink into them as deeply as memory foam mattresses do. Heavy sleepers, and those with back pain, may find innerspring mattresses a good option.

Hybrid Mattresses

Hybrid mattresses are a blend of two mattress types. While technically a hybrid mattress can combine any two types of mattresses, they are commonly a blend of memory foam and latex, innerspring and memory foam, or innerspring and latex foam.

Generally, hybrid mattresses have a Firm core made of a more stable material, like Firm latex or innerspring. Then, on top, they have a more plush layer like memory foam or Medium/Soft latex to provide extra comfort. They are usually Medium or Medium-Firm mattresses

Latex Foam Mattresses

Latex foam mattresses come in a variety of options. First of all, there is natural and synthetic latex. Natural latex is more supportive, durable, safe, and eco-friendly than synthetic latex; however, natural latex mattresses are usually more expensive.

Natural latex mattresses come in many different levels of mattress firmness. Also, there are two main types of natural latex that may affect the mattress firmness. Talalay latex is usually softer, while Dunlop latex is usually on the Medium or Firm side. However, within these two types of latex, the mattress firmness can vary further.

Natural latex is responsive, and supports pressure relief. Also, it is extremely durable, so it doesn’t deteriorate, or form lumps until after many years of use. Natural latex beds are a suitable option for every sleep style and body type. Heavy sleepers can opt for a Medium-Firm mattress, or Firm latex bed, while light sleepers can sleep comfortably on Medium, or Soft latex beds.

Latex For Less

Latex For Less is a latex mattress manufacturer that provides mattresses with superior support and comfort for every type of sleeper. Every mattress is made from 100% natural latex.

2-Sided Natural Latex Mattress

The 2-Sided Natural Latex Mattress is perfect for anyone who still isn’t quite sure what level of firmness they want. You can do all of the research, and still end up with a mattress that is too Firm or too Soft. With this mattress, you won’t have to choose. It is 2-sided, so each side has a different level of firmness. This gives you more options, and allows you to try each side out to find which one is best for you.

Hybrid Latex Mattress

The Hybrid Latex Mattress from Latex For Less is made from organic latex. It combines the contouring support of its innerspring core, with the comfort and pressure relief of its organic latex top layer. This mattress comes in Medium and Firm options.

Organic Latex Mattress

The Organic Latex Mattress uses the highest quality organic latex mattress to provide any sleeper with the support and comfort they need for a good night’s sleep. This mattress comes in 9 or 12 inches, and Soft, Medium, and Firm options. 

Latex Mattress Topper

If you want a firmer or softer mattress, you don’t necessarily need to buy a new one. Latex For Less offers a latex topper that comes in Soft, Medium, or Firm. The topper will change the feel of the bed to better match your sleep position and preferences. So, if you want your existing mattress softer or firmer, you can easily buy the topper that accommodates your needs.

Elizabeth Magill

Elizabeth Magill is a professional freelance writer and editor who holds an MBA. Liz specializes in writing about health news, medical conditions, healthy living, small business, career and work, personal finance, and green-living, including news and trending topics in these specialties. Her clients include Healthline, The Motley Fool, GoBanking Rates, LIVESTRONG.com, Big Interview, HealthNews, Intuit Small Business Blog, Intuit Health, American News Report, Travels.com, IFX Medical, and many others. She’s also a published eBook author and ghost writer for various clients in the health, medical, career, small business, and personal finance niches.