Here are some things you can do if your mattress feels too firm:
  • Try adding a soft mattress topper
  • Consider a heated mattress pad
  • Use a more flexible base

If you prefer a plush sleep surface, trying to sleep on a hard mattress can be a frustrating, uncomfortable experience that prevents you from getting the healthy sleep you need. Fortunately, there are some inexpensive solutions to modify the feel of your sleep setup without buying a new mattress.

Before you try to change the feel of your bed, it’s helpful to dial in your ideal firmness based on your body type and preferred sleeping position. We’ll discuss recommended firmness levels, then share some tips on how to tweak a mattress’ feel.

Mattress Firmness

Mattress firmness is how hard or soft a mattress feels when you lie down on it. Though not the only important consideration when mattress shopping, firmness plays a huge role in whether you feel comfortable in bed. 

The significance of firmness goes beyond just comfort. It can also affect your physical well-being. Too much impact against an extremely firm mattress may cause aches and pains, while too much sinkage into a plush mattress can leave the spine with insufficient support. 

Mattress firmness levels range from extremely plush to very firm. To help compare mattress options, we rate firmness on a 10-point scale.

Firmness LevelFeel
1Extra Soft
4Medium Soft
6Medium Firm
9-10Extra Firm

How to Determine the Right Firmness Level for You

Finding the right firmness can be a key step toward more restorative sleep. Although many sleepers prefer mattresses in the middle range of our firmness scale, your body weight, sleeping position, and personal needs and preferences will ultimately dictate the firmness level that benefits you the most.

Side sleepers typically need a mattress that offers ample cushioning and at least moderate pressure relief. Back sleepers generally benefit from a bed that lightly cushions the lower back and supports its natural curvature. Stomach sleepers usually require firmer support and limited contouring to prevent the midsection from sinking too deeply.

That said, a sleeper’s body type also impacts their mattress needs, with heavier individuals typically needing a firmer sleep surface for stronger support and lightweight sleepers generally requiring greater contouring to prevent pressure points.

Here are our recommended firmness levels by body weight and sleeping position.

Under 130 lbs.Between 130 and 230 lbs.Over 230 lbs.
Side SleepersSoft (3) to Medium (5)Medium Soft (4) to Medium (5)Medium Firm (6) to Firm (7)
Back SleepersSoft (3) to Medium (5)Medium (5) to Firm (7)Firm (7-8) to Extra Firm (9)
Stomach SleepersMedium Soft (4) to Medium Firm (6)Medium (5) to Firm (7)Firm (7-8) to Extra Firm (9)

Tips for Making a Mattress Softer

Finding a softer sleep solution doesn’t have to be an expensive ordeal. We’ve compiled a few sleep hacks to make the most out of an unideal mattress.

1. Try a Mattress Topper

A mattress topper is a simple, affordable way to change the feel of your existing mattress. Toppers are usually 1 to 4 inches thick and come in a variety of materials and firmness levels. Soft mattress toppers offer sleepers additional contouring and pressure relief through materials like memory foam, polyfoam, latex, or down. Memory foam toppers are a popular choice for making a mattress feel softer because of their ability to cradle the body and its pressure points.

2. Warm It Up

Some popular mattress materials, especially memory foam, are sensitive to temperature and soften in response to heat. This allows the foam to mold more closely to your body. It also means that foam can become more stiff in cold environments.

If your foam mattress is a bit too firm, a heated mattress pad may help soften up the top layers. These thin mattress coverings contain an electric-powered heating element, typically either a network of wires or water channels. Of course, a heated pad may be an unsuitable solution during hot summer months or for people who live in a warm climate year-round, since a comfortable bedroom temperature has been shown to be an important contributor to sleep quality.

3. Give It Time

If you’ve recently unpackaged a mattress, remember that it can take time for it to decompress and achieve its intended size and expected firmness level. A new mattress can take as long as 30 to 60 days to break in, especially when dealing with high-density foam. Sleeping on the mattress for at least a few weeks gives time for an adjustment period so you can truly know if the mattress is the right fit for your firmness needs.

Check Your Sleep Trial

Online mattresses usually come with a sleep trial, which is a window of time when you can return the mattress if you aren’t happy with it. It’s helpful to confirm the terms of your sleep trial so you know how long you have to test out the mattress. If you can’t get comfortable on the bed, you can make a return before the sleep trial ends and get a refund of the purchase price. Some companies may send you a free mattress topper if you want to try adjusting the comfort level without going through the hassle of returning the mattress.

4. Replace the Base 

Before assuming your mattress is the problem, you may want to consider what’s supporting it. Certain bed bases can make a mattress feel softer or firmer. Hard, inflexible bases, including many box springs and solid platform beds, can make a mattress feel firmer. A base with less rigid slats may have more give, allowing your mattress to feel softer. 

If All Else Fails, Buy a Softer Mattress 

Despite your best efforts, sometimes a mattress remains too firm for your comfort. When this happens, the cause is almost certainly the bed’s materials and construction, which you can’t reasonably change. Rather than spinning your wheels trying to make a very firm mattress feel softer, you may be better off replacing your current model with a high-quality soft mattress

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