Are soft mattresses supportive or are they bad news for your back?


Yes, it’s possible for a mattress to be both soft and supportive — here’s why

The best mattresses will offer a keen balance of pressure relief and cushioning support, while cradling the spine in correct alignment. When it comes to keeping back pain at bay, adequate support from your mattress is crucial.

But for those of us who prefer a soft sleep surface, you might be wondering — can a soft mattress ever be supportive, or are they only ever bad news for your back? The good news is that a mattress can be both soft and supportive, provided that the mattress contains enough supportive layers.

When shopping for a soft yet supportive bed, the best mattress will be one that works in tandem with your body type, sleep style and sleep needs. Here, we’ll walk you through how to choose a soft and supportive mattress. Let’s get started.

Soft mattresses aren’t renowned for their supportive benefits, but a mattress can be both soft and supportive. Similarly, a mattress can be both firm yet unsupportive. The amount of support a mattress provides depends on how many supportive layers it contains.

Firmness is subjective and your body type and sleep style will influence how soft or firm a mattress will feel to you. However, a firmness rating of 4 or 5 out of 10 is widely considered to be soft. Meanwhile a rating of 2 or 3 out of 10 is widely referred to as marshmallow soft, which means that it’s plush with noticeable sinkage.

However, a mattress with a soft firmness rating doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsupportive. The Saatva Classic, which we rate as the best mattress in the world (you can read why in our Saatva Classic mattress review), contains five distinctive supportive layers and is available as a Plush Soft, which Saatva rates as a 3 out of 10 for firmness. Despite its soft firmness rating (it is also available in a medium and firm), the Saatva Classic remains one of the best mattresses for back pain, thanks to its supportive combination of coils and pressure relieving foam.

When it comes to how firm your mattress should be, it depends on your sleep style. While back sleep and stomach sleepers suit a medium to medium-firm mattress, as this firmness rating strikes a balance between comfort, pressure relief and healthy spine alignment. Meanwhile, side sleepers benefit from the sink-in, pressure-relieving support that a soft or plush mattress provides.

However, your body type also plays a large role in which firmness rating you should opt for. Lightweight sleepers (those who weigh under 150lbs) will find medium-firm and firm beds much harder than people who weigh 150lbs or more. In this case, a lighter than average back sleeper may require a softer mattress in order to gain adequate support.

Similarly, a person who weighs over 250lbs will find a medium-firm mattress much softer than a person of average body weight. In which case, searching through the best firm mattresses will garner a medium support surface.

While mattresses soften naturally over time, that could also indicate that its support is beginning to wane — and this is bad news for your back. However, if your mattress is relatively new and it’s firmer than you find comfortable, it is possible to make it feel softer.

The best mattress toppers can alter the firmness of your mattress, helping to make hard mattresses feel soft. A plush mattress topper with a depth of around 4 inches will provide the pillowy sink-in support that your current sleep set-up is lacking.

A bed topper made of feathers or memory foam will offer soft, comforting support that cradles your body and relieves pressure points. Also look for plush pillow top toppers with a chunky thickness (around 4 inches) to make a hard mattress softer.

It’s also worth checking your thermostat in your bedroom, as a colder room can make your mattress feel firmer. Add some warmth to your bed with a heated blanket or hot water bottle if you’re unable to turn up your home’s heating. You can use a heated blanket with a memory foam mattress as long as you don’t place the blanket directly onto the foam or leave it on all night.

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