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Mattress Firmness Scale UK


Written by Lauren

Last Updated: 1st January, 2022

Finding the right mattress firmness can be essential in getting a comfortable and well-rested nights sleep. However, as online shopping increases in popularity, it can be challenging to determine which firmness is the most comfortable for your body and preferences.

To help you make the right decision, here is a complete guide to the mattress firmness scale. We will also delve into how different firmness ratings can appeal to varying individuals and how you can find the right mattress to suit your firmness preferences.

Mattress Firmness Scale UK Explained

The firmness of a mattress can be one of the critical elements in determining whether or not you get a good night’s sleep. However, despite most mattress companies labelling their mattresses with a firmness rating, it’s worth keeping in mind that firmness is mainly subjective. Factors such as weight, age and personal preference can impact how firm or soft a mattress feels to each individual.

mattress firmness scale

Despite being down to preference, mattress companies tend to use a firmness rating to give you an idea of how the mattress feels. Many mattresses are labelled with either firmness ratings or numbers; this can differ depending on the company. Generally, the scale below represents the rating system that can serve as a guide.

  • Soft (1-2)
  • Soft-Medium (3-4)
  • Medium (5)
  • Medium-Firm (6-7)
  • Firm (8-9)
  • Extra-Firm (10)

Good to know!
Finding the right mattress firmness can be essential for maintaining spinal alignment. The right mattress should support the head, shoulders and back to keep a straight line. Poor spinal alignment can lead to back pain, headaches and fatigue.

How Firm Are Different Mattress Types?

The materials used can play a big part in the firmness of a mattress. While firmness is subjective, the mattress type can alter the feel and comfort levels of each person. Below is a summary of the most popular mattress types and their different firmness levels. 

mattress firmness types
  • Open Coil: An open coil mattress consists of inter-connected springs which can move together as one. These traditional mattresses are known for being budget-friendly and can often offer a firm to extra-firm feel. However, it’s worth noting that open coil mattresses are not known for being durable or providing high levels of pressure relief. 
  • Pocket Sprung: A somewhat updated version of the open coil mattress, pocket sprung mattresses include individual springs encased in fabric pockets. The springs can offer a medium-firm to extra-firm feel. The pocket springs are also able to individually adapt to body movement while providing pressure relief and breathability. 
  • Hybrid: A hybrid mattress includes a combination of springs and foam layers to create a balance of support and comfort. Due to this balance, hybrid mattresses can range from medium to firm, depending on the amount of foam and springs. Hybrid mattresses are popular because the springs help add some airflow to the heat retentive memory foam layers.
  • Latex: The firmness of a latex mattress can vary depending on the materials combined with the latex. For example, a pillow top can bring the firmness rating down to a medium whereas high-density memory foam can add more firmness.  
  • Memory Foam: Memory foam mattresses are popular amongst many as they are able to mould to the body and provide plenty of cushioning. Despite being a dense material, memory foam can offer softness and comfort which often gives it an overall medium to medium-firm feel. 

Firm Vs Medium Vs Soft

If you’re purchasing a mattress online, it may be challenging to decide whether to opt for a softer or firmer mattress without the option of trying it out in-store. Below are some key differences between the different firmness ratings that could set you in the right direction. 

◻ Firm mattresses often contain springs, such as pocket sprung, open coil and hybrid mattresses. Spring mattresses can use different spring or foam layers to modify the firmness.◇ Medium feel mattresses can be available in a whole range of mattress types. Hybrid mattresses, in particular, tend to offer a good balance between firm and soft with the springs and foam.○ Soft to medium mattresses often consist of layers of foam that have been constructed to offer cushioning and sinkage. There are some soft hybrid mattresses available, but foam layers typically outnumber the spring layers.
◻ Due to the presence of springs in firm mattresses, the overall mattress can feel more breathable as air can flow throughout the springs.◇ If you tend to sleep hot and prefer a medium feel, a good option would be to get a hybrid mattress that can provide medium firmness from the foam and airflow from the springs. ○ As soft mattresses tend to contain a lot of foam, they could also be heat retentive, which may not be ideal for hot sleepers.
◻ For those who require more sturdy support or suffer from back pain, a medium-firm to firm mattress could be beneficial in relieving pressure.◇ A medium mattress can appeal to a wide range of sleepers as it can offer a balance of softness for pressure relief and firmness for support. ○ For those who prefer a cushioned feel, a soft mattress can provide sinkage and a hugging sensation due to the body moulding abilities of memory foam. 
◻ A firm mattress is generally preferable for front and back sleepers as it prevents the stomach and hips from sinking into the surface, which could cause problems with spinal alignment.◇ A medium to medium-firm mattress should be suitable for all sleeping positions. It can provide enough cushion for side sleepers, and a medium-firm mattress should offer enough hip support for front and back sleepers. ○ A soft mattress could be good for side sleepers as it can cushion the hips and shoulders. However, front and back sleepers may experience dipping of the stomach and hips, which could cause back pain.

Important to note:
Many mattress companies claim that their firm to extra-firm mattresses offer orthopaedic benefits. However, research✓ has indicated that there is little evidence to support that a firm mattress is beneficial for the lower back.

Finding The Right Mattress Firmness For You

Ultimately, selecting the right firmness type should be decided based upon your personal preferences. However, if you would like some guidance into what firmness rating could be best for you, here are some valuable factors to consider. 

the right mattress firmness
  1. Couples: For those who share a bed with a partner, it could be worth finding a mattress that provides enough firm support, especially if you’re using a mattress for sex. High-density memory foam or hybrid mattress can provide support and durability while also offering pressure relief and motion isolation. A dual mattress could also be a good option for couples as you can choose a different firmness level for each side.
  2. Heavy People: For those who may be carrying some extra weight, a medium-firm to firm mattress is recommended as the sturdy support is less likely to sag over time. The firmness can also prevent possible sinking into the mattress surface. 
  3. Light Individuals: A child or person with lower body weight can often benefit from a medium to medium-firm mattress as lighter individuals are likely to feel the firmness more than heavier people. A softer mattress can also offer come pressure relief and cushion rather than laying on top of a firm surface. 
  4. Back Pain: Contrary to popular belief, a firm mattress may not be the best option for those suffering from back pain. Research✓ has found that a medium-firm mattress can be the most beneficial for lower back pain.

Mattress Firmness For Infants

Infancy is an important time in a person’s life, as it’s during this period where critical stages of development occur. To encourage your child’s physical development, it's important to find the right mattress firmness for your infant's cot bed that will have a positive impact on your baby. 

mattress firmness infants

It is generally understood and recommended that you should avoid soft mattresses for infants. This is because the cushioning found in softer mattresses could cause the head to sink, which poses a risk for suffocation and SIDS✓. You may also want to avoid soft bedding and pillows as this can also pose the same risk. 

In a study✓ involving 783 paediatricians and family physicians, it was found that the majority recommended a firm mattress for infants, as well as 78%, noted that the supine position was the most beneficial. It's important to note that it is always better to consult a doctor or medical professional if you have any doubts or concerns over your child's well-being.

Top Tips Before Purchasing

If you ever have doubt regarding the firmness of a mattress, there are several points you can check before making a purchase. For example, you can use this guide to check that the mattress type and materials align with the advertised firmness rating. You can also check verified customer reviews to see what the general consensus is regarding the firmness of the mattress.

Many mattress companies also offer free trial periods, which can range from 30 days to 1 year. This allows you to test the mattress in your own home and return it for free if you are not satisfied with the firmness level. Lastly, you can go check the mattress first-hand by visiting in-store and trying it out yourself with certain mattress companies. If you choose this final option, make sure to take your time and be sure you're making the right decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

What mattress firmness do I need?

This can depend on your personal needs and preferences. If you prefer more sturdy support, a firm mattress may be beneficial. Whereas if you enjoy more sinkage and cushioning, you can try opting for a soft or medium feel mattress.

What firmness of mattress is best?

Firmness is often subjective and preferences can vary amongst different sleepers. Generally, a medium-firm mattress can appeal to a wide range of people as it can offer a balance between soft comfort and support.

How to choose mattress firmness?

Firstly, you should identify your own preferences, sleeping position and body type and try reading our guide to determine which firmness could be the right fit for you.

You can also try different mattresses first-hand in-store, or take advantage of the free trial period that many mattress companies offer, where you can try the mattress firmness in your own home.

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