One of the main factors for choosing a mattress is the hardness of the slab which, based on its characteristic rigidity, allows for a greater or lesser reaction force against our weight. In these guide I tell you how to choose the hardness of the mattress based on how you sleep and your body.
What is meant by mattress stiffness / hardness?
Buying a mattress is never easy because on the one hand there are personal needs to be met and on the other technical characteristics that influence sleeping comfort. Among these is the rigidity to be carefully evaluated based on the sleeping habits, body weight and any physical problems.
The inability to try a product before buying forces you to make decisions based on the seller’s advice, any reviews found on specialized sites and the sensations experienced during those few minutes we spent lying on top of an exhibition model. Fortunately for us, there are some standard parameters to be used in order to choose a mattress with a degree of rigidity suitable for different needs.
Hardness is often an unclear aspect to the consumer, who tends to get wrong or otherwise misleading ideas. With simple words we can identify it with the degree of hardness. When we lie down on the mattress we must pay attention to the sensation experienced, that is if we seem to sink or feel good support. In any case, rigidity remains a somewhat subjective element, therefore a mattress considered hard by one person could be soft for another.
In order to help the consumer understand the level of rigidity and have comparative values between different models, the manufacturing companies have introduced some classification systems. The first method has the following three classes:
- H1, indicates the lowest degree of rigidity, therefore the mattress is rather soft and suitable, above all, for people who are not very heavy;
- H2, distinguishes mattresses with intermediate stiffness and recommended for people weighing between 60 and 90 kilograms;
- H3 is the most rigid class suitable for people weighing more than 100 kilograms.
Some companies also add classes H4 and H5 to better diversify stiffness and try to offer the consumer a wider range of choice.
Other manufacturers use a classification based on different numerical values that can range from 1 to 6 or from 1 to 10. The number 1 indicates the softest mattress, to progressively rise up to 6 or 10 obtaining maximum rigidity.
However, I must point out that we can hardly find extreme products, ie classified with 1 or 6/10. It would be excessively soft mattresses without a minimum of support or so hard as to prevent a comfortable rest. Much easier to come across intermediate values that distinguish balanced and versatile models.
Differences between soft, medium or hard mattress
Net of the classifications, the mattresses can be divided into soft, medium and hard models.
Soft mattresses use, above all, memory foam sheets in the upper layers to offer greater comfort by modeling themselves to the shape of the body. In addition, padding is added in the outermost layer to increase comfort.
They are usually models suitable for light people or those who sleep on their side or want more softness in the areas of the shoulders, hips and lower back.
Mattresses with medium stiffness generally consist of a base made with high-density foams or pocket springs, while softer materials are preferred for the upper layers.
The initial sensation may always be a slight hollow, however they are patterns that tend to maintain a good balance between support and relief at the points of greatest pressure. For these reasons they are mattresses suitable for a large audience of people, but they can be particularly effective for those who sleep on their backs.
Finally, there are firm mattresses that ensure maximum support and almost completely eliminate the feeling of sinking. Entire blocks of high resilience foam or a more or less numerous series of plates of different materials are used, but always with the aim of supporting even very heavy people or those who want to feel a certain rigidity under the body.
Obviously, a mattress that is too hard is often guilty of pain in the hips and shoulders.
Mattress hardness and sleeping position
At this point it is easy to understand that there is no ideal degree of rigidity, but it is a very personal choice. In this regard, it is interesting to analyze the correlation between the position taken during rest and the stiffness of the mattress.
Sleeping on your back
From the point of view of stiffness, the category of those who sleep on the back is placed exactly in the center between those who rest on their side and people who prefer to fall asleep lying on their stomachs.
Choosing a mattress that is too firm creates unnecessary tension on the back and especially in the lumbar area. Conversely, if the model is excessively soft it could favor a misalignment between the hips and shoulders. Consequently, the most correct choice is to rely on a mattress with an intermediate degree of rigidity.
In this way we obtain adequate support of the spine which will be aligned and at the same time we relieve the pressure where it is most needed. A valid solution for those looking for a mattress with medium stiffness is to evaluate hybrid models, that is with the body in independent pocket springs and the addition of layers of viscoelastic foam.
Sleeping on your side
Resting on your side usually requires a softer mattress. This position generates pressure points on the shoulders, hips and lower back which must be appropriately accommodated. Choosing a model with multiple zones with differentiated support allows for greater softness on the shoulders but at the same time adequate rigidity on the hips, so as to guarantee extra support in the lumbar area. Memory foam mattresses represent a valid solution as they are able to self-model themselves to the shape of the body, allowing you to sink only where you need to relieve pressure.
Sleeping on your stomach
In this case, the mattress must provide some support to keep the body lifted. Very rigid models guarantee correct breathing and prevent the user from sinking and generating dangerous bending of the back. Sleeping on your stomach also requires good comfort, so the mattress must combine a rigid inner part with a sufficiently soft surface layer.
Are stiffness and support the same?
Often the two terms are considered synonymous and used one instead of the other. In fact, they refer to completely different aspects. Stiffness, as I have already pointed out, represents the immediate sensation experienced the first time we lay our body on the mattress.
The support, on the other hand, refers to the ability of the mattress to keep the spine aligned, which is an indispensable quality for getting up in the morning without pain. This means that a model can offer more or less support regardless of the degree of stiffness.
A concept, however, not so intuitive given the ease with which it is assumed that a rigid mattress, not causing the body to sink, is also able to keep the back in a straight line from the shoulders to the hips. Correct alignment of the spine means that, depending on the sleeping position, the mattress performs a correct lifting action of the body based on the pressure exerted in the various points.
It is very important to always keep in mind that stiffness and support are not the same and must be analyzed separately. Certainly both aspects significantly affect the quality of sleep.
The best compromise, a medium-strength hybrid mattress
At this point we should have all the information necessary to choose a mattress that best suits our sleeping habits. However, it is no wonder that we still harbor some perplexity and are not sure what to buy.
In case of indecision I suggest to focus on a hybrid mattress with an intermediate grade, that is the best compromise between stiffness and softness, as well as the ability to adapt to different conditions.
We also recommend that you pay close attention to choosing very soft models. It is easy to associate softness with comfort and to think that an enveloping mattress is the absolute guarantee of a comfortable sleep. This may be true, but in my experience there are more times we get up in the morning with a sore back.
Alternatively, a topper to correct the stiffness
The topper consists of one or more memory foam sheets capable of correcting the stiffness of your mattress, this solution is quite interesting because it allows you to obtain good results while maintaining your mattress.