Many think of soft mattresses when they think of a comfortable night’s rest, but a firm mattress might be the better option to keep your spine aligned and prevent back pain. The best firm mattresses provide excellent lumbar support and prevent sinkage, but are still comfortable enough to relieve pressure.
The best mattress for you depends on your sleeping position, body type, health conditions, and if you sleep alone or with a partner. Our buying guide will help you find the right mattress firmness for you—and to start you off, we have four mattress recommendations for you to consider.
|Mattress||Highlights||Price for a queen|
|Amerisleep AS2 Hybrid||HIVE® technology and hybrid coils provide zoned support||$1299|
|Amerisleep AS1||Bio-Pur® more responsive and cool than traditional memory foam||$999|
|Bear Mattress||Graphite gels wick away heat||$800|
|Love & Sleep||Energex™ foam, phase-change cover||$699|
Amerisleep has recently unveiled a line of hybrid mattresses, with the AS2h as its medium-firm option. Its consistent feel and bouncy support make it a great choice for back sleepers and some stomach sleepers.
The AS2h contains four layers.
On top is 2 inches of Bio-Pur® memory foam. There’s more air space between the Bio-Pur® particles than in traditional memory foam, creating a more breathable comfort layer. Bio-Pur® is also more responsive than traditional memory foam, preventing you from ever feeling trapped in your bed.
Underneath is an inch of Affinity with HIVE® technology, which provides you with targeted support. HIVE® has hundreds of hexagonal cutouts grouped in five areas—your head, shoulders, back, hips, and feet.
The hexagons are spaced farther apart in your hips and shoulders areas to give them more space to expand as your body compresses the mattress, creating a softer feel. The hexagons are closer together under your head, back, and feet, preventing sinkage and adding support to these areas.
The bed’s support comes from the third layer— 8 inches of coils grouped to create zoned support. Your back is better supported, while extra cushion is added underneath your neck, head, legs, and feet.
An inch of base foam lines the bottom of the mattress for added resilience.
The sides of the mattress are filled with firm foam for greater durability and to provide edge support, which makes it easier for you to get in and out of bed.
All Amerisleep mattresses include a cover made with a soft, breathable fabric designed to keep air flowing throughout the mattress so you always sleep cool and comfortable. The cover is also removable and completely washable so it is easy to keep your mattress clean.
A queen-size AS2 hybrid is $1299 with free shipping. Every Amerisleep mattress includes a 100-night sleep trial and a 20-year warranty. Under the warranty, Amerisleep assumes full financial responsibility for the first 10 years; afterward, the customer pays a percentage of the original price to repair or replace the mattress.
The AS1 is Amerisleep’s firmest and thinnest memory foam mattress. The feel is best for back and stomach sleepers who want a supportive, durable bed. The 10-inch AS1 has two foam layers.
The top layer is 2 inches of Bio-Pur® memory foam, which we mentioned is more cooling and responsive than traditional memory foam. Despite the bed’s firmness, the memory foam still contours to your body for excellent relief. It’s thinness limits sinkage, which helps to keep your spine in neutral alignment.
The support layer is 8 inches of Bio-Core®, a sturdy material that provides the mattress with its durability. The Bio-Core® base is why Amerisleep can offer a lengthy 20-year warranty.
The cover is made with a lightweight fabric to keep you cool all night. You can also remove the cover for washing, making it really easy to keep your mattress clean and in good condition.
A queen size AS1 mattress is $999 and comes with a 100-night sleep trial and a 20-year warranty. Amerisleep covers the costs of repairs and replacements for the first 10 years, while customers pay part of the costs for the next 10 years.
3. Bear Mattress
The first Bear Mattress model was designed to promote athletic recovery. While Bear has released two other mattress models, its original memory foam mattress remains a popular and affordable choice. The Bear Mattress has a medium-firm feel, with a touch of softness that cradles a sleeper.
The 10-inch Bear Mattress has three foam layers. All foams in a Bear Mattress are CertiPUR-US® certified and held together by water-soluble glue.
First, a 2-inch comfort layer of memory foam infused with graphite gel. The graphite wicks heat away, while the memory foam molds to your body to ease pressure on your back, hips, and shoulders.
Next, a 2-inch layer of responsive transition foam adds pressure relief and support.
The base layer contains 6 inches of high-density support foam to deter sagging.
A Celliant® cover encases the Bear Mattress. Celliant® absorbs excess body heat and converts it into infrared energy, which penetrates the body and promotes local blood flow.
A queen size mattress is $800. The Bear Mattress comes with a 100-night trial and a 10-year warranty.
4. Nest Bedding’s Love & Sleep Mattress
The Love & Sleep Mattress comes in firm or medium. The mattress’s materials are GREENGUARD Gold certified, and it has a 4.8 rating on Nest Bedding’s website, averaged from 511 reviews.
The Love & Sleep Mattress contains three foam layers.
The comfort layer contains 3 inches of Energex™ foam, which is “a high performance, durable and breathable hybrid foam,” according to the company website. Energex™ relieves pressure, prevents you from feeling “stuck,” and absorbs motion at the point of impact.
Second, a 1-inch SmartFlow Air Flow layer. The foam helps the bed conform to you and cool you down.
At the bottom is 6 inches of high-density foam to support the top two layers and keep the bed structured.
The cover includes phase-change cooling fabric. Phase-change materials absorb body heat, stopping when it reaches a set temperature limit. As your body temperature lowers in the deeper stages of sleep, the material releases heat across the mattress.
A queen size Love & Sleep Mattress costs $699. A Nest Bedding mattress purchase includes a 100-night sleep trial and a limited lifetime warranty. Defects covered under warranty include sagging greater than an inch and manufacturing flaws in the mattress cover.
Who Should Sleep on a Firm Mattress
A soft mattress sounds nice, but they may leave certain groups of sleepers in pain come morning. Firm mattresses can provide a good night’s sleep for:
- Back sleepers: Back sleepers need a firm mattress to keep their torso lifted. Otherwise, the hips could sink into the mattress and cause back pain.
- Stomach sleepers: Stomach sleepers can stretch their spine out of alignment if the mattress’s softness lets their stomach sink.
- Heavy people: If you weigh more than 230 pounds, you place more pressure on a mattress than the average person and need more support to compensate. A firmer bed stands up better against the pressure, reducing the risk of misalignment.
- Back pain sufferers: If you have regular back pain or another chronic pain issue, a too soft mattress may worsen your pain. A 2015 review found a medium-firm mattress is the best firmness option for reducing back pain and promoting spinal alignment.
Conversely, side sleepers and petite people under 130 pounds may want to reconsider buying a firm bed. Side sleepers need a soft mattress to relieve pressure points on their side. Lightweight sleepers sink less into a mattress than a sleeper of average weight, so they need a softer mattress to feel comfortable.
How Is a Mattress’s Firmness Measured?
When you see a mattress labeled “firm” or “medium-firm,” you might wonder how that label is determined. Most companies rely on the firmness scale.
Firmness is measured on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 as the softest option and 10 as the firmest. Most mattresses on the market fall between 3 to 8, though you can find a few extra soft and extra firm mattresses.
If you’re looking for a firm mattress, look for a mattress rating that’s 7 or higher.
A mattress’s Indentation Load Deflection (ILD) rating is the most objective method of measuring a mattress’s firmness. Many companies don’t openly advertise a mattress’s ILD rating, as the firmness scale is easier to comprehend—if you want to know it, you might have to reach out to customer service.
The ILD rating indicates how much weight a mattress can handle before it indents to 25 percent of its original thickness. A higher ILD rating means a firmer mattress.
Finding the Right Firmness
Everyone has a different firmness that’s best for them. Your ideal firmness is influenced not only by your comfort preferences but by your sleeping position and body type.
We discuss sleeping positions in the next section; as for body type, it influences how much pressure you place upon a mattress. Sleepers who weigh more than 230 pounds compress the mattress’s comfort layer, while sleepers who weigh less than 130 pounds place less pressure on the bed.
If you’re looking for a firm mattress, be careful of labels such as “luxury firm” or “plush firm.” These mattresses have enough extra cushioning that their feel is closer to medium than firm.
Mattress materials not only determine the cost and durability of a bed, but its feel as well. Some beds are firmer and bouncier than others, recovering their shape quickly when pressure is removed. The type of mattress best for you will depend on your sleep preferences and budget.
Manufacturers create memory foam by processing polyurethane with additives that cause it to become pliable under pressure and heat. The resulting material molds itself to your body for complete pressure relief. Memory foam can soothe chronic pain conditions such as back pain, hip pain, and arthritis as it gives way to the body rather than press up against it.
Memory foam mattresses contain between two to four layers—a top comfort layer of memory foam, a rigid foam for support at the bottom, and one or two transition layers to improve the bed’s feel, responsiveness, and durability. However, many firm mattresses do not contain transition layers.
Memory foam lacks the inherent firmness of latex or innersprings, but you can still find firm or even extra firm memory foam beds. The average memory foam mattress lasts about 7 or 8 years, although high-quality mattresses can last up to 10 years.
Latex mattresses have a contouring feel like memory foam, but the manufacturing process is different.
Natural latex is an eco-friendly material made from rubber tree sap. There are two types of natural latex—Dunlop and Talalay. Dunlop is firmer and denser, so it’s often used in a mattress’s base layers, although some firm mattresses do use it in their comfort layers. Talalay latex takes a few more steps to produce than Dunlop, so it’s the more expensive option.
Manufacturers produce synthetic latex by combining organic chemical compounds to create a material that feels like latex. It’s not eco-friendly, but it is a good option for those with a latex allergy.
Both natural and synthetic latex are bouncier and firmer than memory foam. Natural latex is the more expensive and durable option, with some natural latex mattresses lasting between 10 to 20 years.
Innerspring mattresses contain a support core of coils, sandwiched between thin layers of foam or fabric. This gives an innerspring mattress a firm yet bouncy feel that keeps you lifted. As most of the bed is made of coils, an innerspring is one of the more cooling mattresses you’ll find.
Although innersprings have a naturally firm feel, many owners find the beds can’t contour well enough to provide pressure relief. Many customers give innerspring mattresses low satisfaction scores. The mattress type also has one of the lower average lifespans, typically lasting between five to six years.
Hybrid mattresses combine the design of an innerspring with a foam mattress to eliminate the drawbacks of both. To qualify as a hybrid, the mattress must have 2 to 3 inches of foam and an underlying coil support system. Most hybrid mattresses use pocketed coils, with each coil wrapped in foam or fabric for better motion isolation.
Hybrids can be one of the more expensive types of mattresses, as they are a mix of disparate parts. Many find the bouncy lift and cushioning foam layers worth the price, however. The average hybrid mattress lasts between six to seven years.
Your sleep position influences how your body weight is distributed across the mattress and what parts of the body need to be supported—so the best firmness levels change depending on the position.
Side sleeping is a popular position with a few health benefits. It opens up the airways, reduces pressure on the heart, and promotes better circulation.
As mentioned earlier, side sleepers should avoid firm mattresses. The best mattresses for side sleepers are soft to medium, as the hips and shoulders need room to sink in—if their hips and shoulders cannot sink, the spine may bow upward and leave the sleeper with a sore back.
A side sleeper’s arms may also go numb if they rest too long on a firm mattress.
Back sleeping may be the best position for your spine, as it keeps your posture close to what it would be if you were standing up straight.
Back sleepers often snore or risk developing sleep apnea since this position allows gravity to push down on the soft tissues at the back of the throat, blocking the airway. You can reduce the risk of snoring by sleeping on a wedge pillow, which elevates your shoulders and head.
Back sleepers should look for a medium-firm to firm mattress. The mattress should have enough plush give to meet the four curves of their spine (two curving inward, two outward). Also, stay away from comfort layers more than 3 inches thick, as they can cause your spine to bow into the mattress.
If you’re a stomach sleeper, we strongly advise switching to side sleeping or back sleeping. Stomach sleeping can cause chronic back pain and neck pain.
When a stomach sleeper lies on a soft mattress, gravity can push the stomach into the mattress’s comfort layer and extend the spine out of neutral alignment. Stomach sleepers further stress the spine by needing to twist their neck to the side for hours, so they can breathe while asleep. Gravity can also create pressure points in the limbs, causing a sleeper to wake up with aches or numbness.
If you can only fall asleep by lying on your stomach, try using a firm mattress to prevent sinkage and spinal misalignment. Keep a pillow under your stomach and consider skipping the pillow under your head.
You’re now armed with plenty of knowledge about mattresses, but there are a few more key points to consider before you choose your next bed.
Firm mattresses use less material than softer mattresses, making them one of the more affordable mattresses. A queen mattress typically costs between $800 to $1200, with materials and features determining its price.
Common features that increase a mattress’s price includes:
- Temperature regulation: A mattress with gel memory foam or other cooling infusions, advanced open-cell foam, and cooling cutouts often raise the price.
- Hybrid coils: Hybrids cost more than all-foam beds because they contain a mix of high-quality materials. Most hybrids use a wrapped coil system to prevent motion transfer, which costs more than unwrapped coils.
- Eco-friendly materials: Mattresses containing natural latex, organic cotton, or plant-based foam typically cost more because of the care and certifications involved in their production.
You can find a few mattress gems for less than $700, but many inexpensive mattresses lack the durability, support, and comfort of a higher-quality mattress. If you’re looking for a high-quality, affordable mattress we suggest considering bed in a box mattress brands, as they sell direct-to-consumer and offer their top-rated products for a budget-friendly price.
If you need a firmer mattress but can’t afford a new bed at the moment, consider a mattress topper. A topper adds extra layers of foam to your bed to change its feel.
Reviews and Ratings
As you look at mattresses online, don’t neglect to check out the reviews and ratings it has. Most companies include customer reviews and an average rating on their website, but you should also read mattress reviews on third-party websites. Reviews can also give an idea of how the company solved a customer’s problems, such as quickly replacing a defective mattress or handling a shipping difficulty.
It’s a red flag if you have difficulty finding reviews on the company’s website or can’t find any positive reviews. Both are signs of a company that isn’t eager to take on customer feedback, and you should consider shopping elsewhere.
When you’re researching to find your next mattress, don’t forget to take a close look at the companies as well. Companies should be open about how their mattresses are manufactured and what materials are used. If you can’t find that information on the company’s website, reach out to a customer service representative.
Double-check a company’s certifications and claims. For example, if a mattress company says CertiPUR-US® certified their foams, you can check the official list of companies approved by CertiPUR-US®.
Sleep Trial, Warranty, and Return Policy
A sleep trial, warranty, and return policy offer you peace of mind, giving you the chance to exchange or return an unfavorable mattress. We strongly suggest you avoid any mattress that doesn’t come with at least one of these three policies, as it’s a sign the company won’t back its product.
A sleep trial lets you try out a mattress at home for 90 to 120 days, usually from the day of delivery. Many sleepers need 30 days to adjust to a new mattress, so some companies ask that you spend a month on your new mattress before returning or exchanging. If you exchange your mattress during the sleep trial period, you may or may not receive a trial extension to test out your new mattress.
A mattress warranty covers manufacturing and workmanship defects, as such defects impact the bed’s support and comfort. Most warranties cover sagging, tears or cracks in the foam, burst coils, damage to the cover, and ripped seams. A standard mattress warranty covers 10 years.
A warranty can offer you an idea of the mattress’s quality, as companies test a mattress’s durability to determine its warranty coverage.
A good return policy can substitute for a sleep trial as long as you have at least 30 days to make a return. A return policy also outlines the condition the mattress must be in to be eligible for a return and any hidden fees such as shipping or restocking fees. We recommend a return policy where the company takes on the financial burden of picking up and disposing of the mattress.
What is the best firm mattress to buy?
We recommend the Amerisleep AS2 Hybrid, as it has a firm feel with an extra bit bounce to better support you. If you don’t love the mattress, you can always exchange it for one of Amerisleep’s other hybrid or memory foam models.
How should I sleep to relieve back pain?
The best way to alleviate or prevent back pain depends on your preferred sleeping position:
- Side sleepers should sleep with a knee pillow between their legs to keep the hips aligned.
- Back sleepers should keep a wedge pillow underneath their knees to reduce pressure on the lower back. A small back cushion or a rolled-up towel can support the small of your back if your mattress can’t contour to it.
- Stomach sleeping can misalign the spine and cause or aggravate back pain. We recommend switching to a different position, but if that’s not possible, try sleeping with a pillow under your stomach.
Read More: Best Mattresses for Back Pain
How do I know if my mattress is causing back pain?
Old mattresses are a common source of morning back pain, as the materials provide less support as they wear out. Take a look at the condition of your bed—if it’s sagging, lumpy, or otherwise losing its shape, it may provide the support your back needs.
If you want to be confident your mattress is behind your back pain, try spending a night on a hotel bed or even on your couch. If you feel better after a night’s rest somewhere other than your mattress, it’s probably time to replace it.
Should your shoulder be on the pillow when sleeping?
No. Placing your shoulders on the pillow causes a gap to form between your pillow and neck, which negates your pillow’s neck support. In other words, you’re likely to wake up with a sore neck if you keep your shoulders on the pillow.
Ready to Find Your Best Firm Mattress?
Firm mattresses can relieve back pain and provide extra support, which help many customers get a better night’s sleep. If you weigh less than 130 pounds or sleep on your side, you might want to reconsider buying a firm mattress—but back sleepers, stomach sleepers, and heavy sleepers can all sleep comfortably on a medium-firm to firm mattress.
If you’re still uncertain if a firm mattress is right for you, look for a lengthy sleep trial that will let you exchange or return a mattress if it’s uncomfortable.