Mattresses come in a range of firmness options, from soft to extra firm. For most sleepers, a medium mattress strikes the right balance between comfort and resistance.

Sleepers with more specific needs (or even just a preference) may look to firmer mattresses instead. A firmer mattress can be beneficial for such people as heavier sleepers, sleepers with back pain, and sleepers who sleep hot.

When opting for a firm mattress, it’s important to know the pros and cons before you make a purchase. Firm mattresses can offer a dramatically different sleep experience, so it pays to know what you’re in for.

In this guide, we look at the benefits and drawbacks of a firm mattress and give you our top choices for the best firm mattresses of 2019.

Our Top Picks: Summary

The Best Firm Mattresses: Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Plank Mattress
Plank Mattress

A two-sided firm mattress to suit sleepers who want options.

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Why We Picked It

The aptly named Plank mattress is a flippable, two-sided mattress at the top end of the firmness scale. Designed for sleepers who can never find a firm enough bed, the Plank is a mixed foam mattress featuring a 2-inch layer of proprietary TitanFlex gel-infused polyfoam and 7 inches of high-density base polyfoam.

Both sides have a quilted top, with .75-inch layer with zero loft on one side and a 1.5-inch layer on the other, with minimal loft.

The Plank mattress comes with a 10-year warranty and 120-night sleep trial, which has a mandatory break-in period of 30 days. Free shipping is available in the contiguous US.

Keep in Mind

The sleep trial, while generous, has a mandatory break-in period.

In a Nutshell

  • Flippable for firm and extra firm sleep experiences
  • Optional cooling cover
  • 120-night sleep trial
Best Value: Allswell Luxe Hybrid Mattress
Allswell Luxe Hybrid

An affordable firm mattress with premium features.

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Why We Picked It

The Allswell is an affordable firm mattress option offering premium features for its price. The bed features a 2-inch layer of copper gel-infused memory foam, beneath which is a 1-inch layer of high-density foam for added support. The base of the bed is made up of individually-wrapped coils to provide support and minimize motion transfer. This is all topped with a plush-quilted top panel. The Allswell is a medium-firm bed, so it will suit most sleepers.

The Allswell comes with a 10-year limited warranty and a 100-night trial. Shipping is free within the contiguous U.S. with an option for white glove delivery.

Keep in Mind

While affordable, the bed’s medium-firm rating may not be enough for customers looking for maximum firmness.

In a Nutshell

  • Medium-firm
  • White glove delivery available in contiguous US
  • Cheaper than many firm beds
Best Luxury: Brooklyn Bedding Mattress
Brooklyn Bedding Mattress

Firm sleeping without compromising on luxury.

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Why We Picked It

The Brooklyn Bedding Aurora is a 13 ½-inch hybrid mattress. Its top layers are a luxury weave featuring TitanCool benefits and a phase changing CopperFlex layer that helps keep sleepers cool. The copper infusion also has antibacterial properties. Beneath these are two layers of memory foam on a base layer of 1,189 individually wrapped coils.

The Aurora is an excellent hybrid and the firm option is perfect for sleepers who aren’t satisfied with a medium mattress.

The Aurora mattress comes with a 120-night trial and a 10-year warranty.

Keep in Mind

Hybrid mattresses can be on the heavy side thanks to their innersprings, but this isn’t unique to the Aurora.

In a Nutshell

    • Soft, medium, and firm options available
    • Individually encased coils create natural zones of support
    • 10-year warranty
Best Hybrid: Winkbeds Mattress
Winkbeds Mattress

A hybrid mattress with two firmness options

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Why We Picked It

The WinkBed comes in an array of firmness options, but its Luxury Firm and Firmer options will appeal to sleepers looking for a firmer bed.

The WinkBed is a hybrid mattress with complex construction, including a Euro-pillow layer on top of a layer of Micro Airsprings. Beneath that is a base layer of individually-wrapped coils, separated into 7 support zones.

The WinkBed employs a proprietary system to encourage spine alignment while sleeping, and motion isolation technology to promote a good night’s sleep. It also boasts Extra-Edge anti-sag support, which increases the sleepable area by 15%.

One of the biggest selling points of the WinkBed is that it comes in four possible firmness options and one of these four options is a Plus model for heavier sleepers. The firmer options will be perfect for sleepers looking for a firm bed.

The WinkBed comes with a Full Replacement Lifetime Warranty, 120-night trial period, and free shipping & returns.

Keep in Mind

Generous sleep trial but with a mandatory 30-day break-in period.

In a Nutshell

  • 4 firmness option to suit different sleeping habits and body types
  • Plus firmness available for heavy individuals
  • Lifetime warranty
Best Memory Foam: Loom and Leaf Mattress
Loom and Leaf Mattress

Firm memory foam with a supportive design.

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Why We Picked It

The Loom and Leaf mattress is a 12-inch memory foam mattress. Its top layer is made of organic cotton, with a cooling gel “Spinal Zone” layer underneath. Beneath these are multiple layers of memory foam support.

We picked the Loom and Leaf for its incredibly supportive construction. The multiple memory foam layers add up to excellent support with the choice between relaxed firm and firm options, while the cooling layer helps with temperature control.

The Loom and Leaf comes with free white glove delivery and old mattress removal, along with a 120-night trial period.

Keep in Mind

Like many memory foam mattresses, the Loom and Leaf is a little lacking in edge support, but this doesn’t compromise the overall quality of the mattress.

In a Nutshell

  • Multiple layers of memory foam for excellent comfort rating
  • Cooling gel for temperature control
  • Multiple firmness options

How We Chose the Best Firm Mattresses

To choose our top mattress picks, we look at the key categories that help us put together an overall rating for the mattress. Here’s a quick look at the categories we use—you can find out more about our process here:

  • Material Quality
  • Durability
  • Conforming
  • Edge Support
  • Temperature Neutrality
  • Off-gassing
  • Motion Isolation

What is a Firm Mattress?

To understand firm mattress options, it’s helpful to define what we mean by “firmness” and to explain what it’s not. For one thing, firmness doesn’t define a bed’s ability to support a sleeper. Firmness describes a bed’s relative comfort. Firmness can be thought of as the bed’s resistance to your applied weight. The more resistance (and the less the mattress deforms) the firmer the bed.

Firmness is somewhat subjective, however. People of different body weights will experience the same firmness level in different ways. Similar caveats apply depending on your sleep position and personal preference.

For instance, light sleepers experience some of the most noticeable discomfort on a firm bed. Without the body weight to push down against the firm mattress, they’ll find that the mattress offers no comfort at all.

Firmness is typically measured on a scale of 1 to 10. In the following table, we define the firmness levels and the typical subjective experience of each.

Firmness RatingSleep Experience
1-2Extra soft. Incredible degree of sink, not much resistance.
3-4Soft. High degree of sink but has some resistance.
5-6Medium. A balance between soft and firm, suitable for most sleepers.
7-8Medium-Firm. Suitable for sleepers looking for a slightly firmer sleeping surface.
9-10Firm to extra firm. Almost no sink, very resistant surface.

Who is Well-Suited for a Firm Mattress?

A firm mattress definitely isn’t for everyone. Here are a few types of sleepers who might benefit from a firm mattress.

Back Sleepers 

Back sleepers tend to benefit from a firm mattress because they rest in a posture that naturally keeps the spine in good alignment. With their body weight distributed evenly across their surface area, they also don’t need as much pressure point relief as side sleepers (for example).

Stomach Sleepers

Stomach sleepers can often find their midsection sinks too deeply into a soft mattress. Choosing a firm option may help to keep the spine in alignment, reducing the chance of developing pain and leading to a more comfortable sleep.

Heavier Sleepers

Heavier sleepers often stand to benefit the most from buying a firm mattress. Even medium mattresses that suit a wide variety of sleepers can cause a heavy sleeper to sink too deeply into the mattress. This compromises both its comfort and its ability to provide effective support.

With a firm mattress, heavy sleepers can create a experience that more closely resembles the sleep experience of softer mattresses for most sleepers.

Sleepers with Back Pain

If you have back pain, sleeping on a soft mattress could be making it worse. A soft mattress can throw off your spinal alignment and worsen your pain.

Using a medium-firm to firm mattress seems to be the best way to maintain spinal alignment while sleeping.

Kids

For safety reasons, infants should have a firm mattress to ensure they can move, breathe, and regulate their temperature properly. A firm mattress keeps the infant “on” the mattress rather than “in” it.

Older kids can benefit from the increased resistance to wear and tear offered by a firmer mattress, too. Kids tend to put a bed through its paces with play, so a mattress that can take a beating can save a lot of money in the long run.

Hot Sleepers

For sleepers who can’t seem to shed heat as they sleep, firm mattresses provide some potential relief. When a mattress conforms too close to the body, it can prevent heat dissipation, which can lead to an uncomfortable night’s sleep. A firm mattress conforms less, allowing for better temperature regulation.

Who is not Suited for a Firm Mattress?

A firm mattress could be the right choice for some sleepers who haven’t yet found the right mattress for them. However, a firm mattress isn’t suited for everyone. Here are a few types of sleepers who may find a firm mattress less than ideal.

Side Sleepers

Side sleepers have prominent pressure points when they sleep. Where back and front sleepers spread out their body weight across most of their surface area, side sleepers concentrate it through bony areas like the hips and shoulders. A softer sleeping surface can cushion pressure points and spread the weight, but a harder surface will only make it more obvious.

Lightweight Sleepers

Mattresses work on a reactive principle. As your body weight pushes down on a bed thanks to gravity, the mattress pushes back to create support and wraps to create comfort.

If your body weight isn’t enough relative to the firmness of your mattress, that principle fails to activate. Instead, the mattress remains where it is and becomes more like a tabletop. So a lightweight sleeper may find themselves sleeping on a hard surface that doesn’t support them or offer any comfort.

Older Sleepers

Our bodies become less resistant to stress as we age, which tends to exaggerate discomfort into pain and pain into long-term problems. Older sleepers sleeping on a firm mattress may experience joint pain, particularly on pressure points. Older sleepers are also more likely to have existing health conditions that may be worsened by sleeping on a firmer mattress.

Pros and Cons of Firm Mattresses

Firm mattresses aren’t for everyone and choosing a firm mattress may mean certain trade-offs. In the table below, we outline some of the major pros and cons of choosing a firm mattress.

ProsCons
Firm mattresses are denser, which has the natural effect of making the mattress more durable.Firm mattresses often lack the comfortable “hug” of a softer mattress. They can create the feeling of lying on a table or slab instead of a bed.
Firm mattresses often have better edge support than a comparable softer mattresses thanks to their rigidity.In a couple, partners may disagree on mattress firmness, with most sleepers preferring a medium-to-medium-firm surface.
A firm mattress supports the body, maintaining the alignment of the head, neck, and spine.It can be hard to adjust to a firm mattress if you’re used to something softer.
Firm mattresses can suit heavier sleepers who may not get the required support from a softer mattress.A firm mattress can exacerbate some health issues, such as arthritis.
Sleepers in lighter weight ranges may find a firm mattress has almost no comfort factor at all.

Tips for Buying a Firm Mattress

When buying a firm mattress, there are a few more things you should consider:

Sleep Trials

Reading the specifications of a mattress and even the experiences of other sleepers can never truly communicate whether a mattress is right for you. At best, it can help you whittle down the options and reduce your chances of ending up with a dud. The proof will be in the pudding.

It can also take some time for your body to adjust to a new mattress. Choosing a mattress with a generous sleep trial and easy returns can help you find the right bed for you. If things don’t pan out, you can always return it and shop around for something else.

Mattress Toppers

Mattress toppers can be used to control the firmness of a mattress in finer detail. This can be useful for people who want to small alterations to a mattress or who may be outside of the sleep trial but need a different level of firmness for their mattress.

Flippable Mattresses

Your mattress preference may shift over time. A change in body weight, preferences, or health status could leave you wanting a different firmness level. Varying your mattress firmness could also even out stresses on the body.

A flippable mattress offers two firmness options, so purchasing one allows you to switch between multiple firmness levels with ease.

Pillows

High loft (height) pillows are usually preferred for customers with firmer mattresses. A thick pillow with high loft will provide a level of cushioning to make up for the relative lack of it in your mattress.

Related Resources

If you’ve found this guide useful, take a look at some of our other in-depth guides for sleepers:

Daniel James