Last Updated On October 13th, 2018
As you can imagine, there is plenty of choice in 2018 when it comes to choosing how hard or soft you’d like your sleep surface to be. On a scale of 1-10, every type of comfort level is available.
At the hard end of the spectrum, we have the firm mattresses. These forgo the idea that softer is better and provide a sleep experience that is flatter and does not sag into the bed. It’s not like sleeping on the floor or a rock slab, but sometimes that isn’t too far off. Some people may find it to be strange, but firmer options have clear advantages over their soft or plush counterparts, and many people prefer or even need them for medical and non-medical reasons.
If you have never tried a hard mattress and still live with restless nights or pain during the day, now might be a good time to consider making a change. To that end, we will go over who exactly is the best fit for these, what goes into choosing a good one, and what are some of the best firm mattresses for sale on the market today.
The Top 5 Best Firm Mattresses At A Glance
- Editor’s Pick – Zinus Performance Plus
- Best For Back Pain – Purple Bed
- Best Firm Innerspring – Sealy Posturpedic Response
- Best Firm Memory Foam – Live and Sleep Resort Elite
- Best Hybrid – Serta Perfect Sleeper
Who Is a Firm Mattress For?
Certainly, preference, tolerance, and feelings go into choosing the best hard mattress. In fact, scientists agree that there is no way to choose the perfect mattress scientifically; it comes down to what you like, what you need, and what you’re used to. However, depending on our lifestyle, habits and body type, there are various mattress types that will be a better fit for you and likely contribute more to your health and well-being. Let’s take a look at which of your attributes will lead to a better night’s sleep on a firm mattress.
The way you sleep has a direct impact on the kind of mattress you should have. Firm mattresses are best for those who sleep on their stomach or their backs. This is because the body laying flat will have better weight distribution on a firm surface as opposed to a soft mattress or plush one. Lying flat on your back or belly on a bed that is too soft will see you sinking deep into it, making you uncomfortable and exacerbating pressure points on your body. You might even have difficulty breathing or changing position while asleep.
Side sleepers should avoid beds that are too soft, simply because the lack of proper contouring can leave parts of the body with no support. Your neck might hang, or your hips will tilt at an uncomfortable angle, resulting in a spine thrown out of alignment and open avenues for all sorts of back pain related issues.
What your body is made of is just as important as how you use it when you sleep. Heavier weighted people will find firmer mattresses preferable to softer, plush ones. Too soft and a heavy person will sink into the surface much more and lose comfort. A softer mattress will also degrade faster the more weight it is subjected to because they are generally weaker and less durable. If you way around 200 lbs or more, even an extra firm mattress won’t seem hard as a rock because the hardened springs have some give while still supporting your frame. Especially if collaborated with foam comfort layers in a hybrid mix. Anyone weighing between 300-400 lbs may want to consider something like the Comfort Max 400 Bariatric.
Lighter weighted people may want to consider just how firm their mattresses are, despite their preferences. Someone who is under 150 lbs may find firm mattresses to be uncomfortable to the point of pain. Their light frames do not provide enough weight to force the layers down and create a properly aligned profile. It can often be like sleeping on a slab.
If you live with pain in your neck, back, hips or joints, then a relatively firm mattress might be the answer you are looking for. Quite often, these chronic aches and pains are caused by poor sleep and inadequate support for your spine and joints. A firm mattress can address this, but it still has to be a good fit. A mattress that is too firm can be just as bad if not worse than one that is too soft.
Also, if you live with a partner, sleeping in the same bed as them may be less comfortable with a firm mattress if you get one that doesn’t take the proper precautions. Motion transfer, or the feeling of movement from someone on the other side of the bed, can disturb your sleep or vice versa. Firmer mattresses tend to be comprised of mostly springs which do not always isolate motion as effectively as foam, so this is a common problem. However, as we will see in the next section, some features address this. Additionally, if you have an active sex life, you may not always appreciate a hard surface to play around on. In which case, take a look at some of these recommendations for couples.
What Goes Into a Good Firm Mattress?
With all the firm mattress reviews and catchy marketing buzzwords floating around the sleep industry these days, it can be hard to decide which features help you get to sleep and which ones are empty promises. There are a few key things that a firm mattress needs to do for you, and several innovations and design features that allow the mattresses to do them. Here are a few vital functions and how good options achieve them.
Many of us sit on the edge of our bed for all sorts of reasons. Tying shoes, watching movies, hanging out or just savoring those final few moments in contact with the bed until the day begins. All of this usage can put wear and tear on your bed’s edge, and simply sleeping on it can also compromise its integrity.
The result is a weakened or saggy bed edge that offers no support. Not only can this be uncomfortable to sleep on, but you might find yourself rolling off your bed when you don’t want to! This problem is especially prevalent for firm mattresses, as a strong and elevated center of the bed can be like the top of a steep hill of the sides of your bed slope down. Some mattress manufacturers implement reinforced bedsides and added protections to prevent this, so be on the lookout if you ever use your bed as a couch.
Like we talked about above, sleeping with a partner sometimes results in restless nights for one or both participants if the mattress does not absorb motion well. Firm mattresses are especially susceptible to this, as their springs often cascade movement in a ripple effect to the rest of a beds surface.
Layers of foam can help put a damper on this, as foam does not transfer force much compared to springs. Some hybrid mattresses use foam and springs, and others are wholly made of layers of foam. You might not even realize your partner is there if you are sleeping on an entire foam variant.
Foam mattresses, however, are usually much softer. So, to get a firmer surface that doesn’t transfer much motion, look for pocketed spring mattresses. These have individually wrapped springs that are separated so that they don’t share or pass on the motion applied to them. They are often more expensive but worth the investment for people who are or are living with restless partners.
Firm mattresses don’t often have overheating problems; they usually have spring systems which air can flow more or less freely through. They also tend to have lower amounts of foam and thick padding on them which retain heat without dissipating it. These facts do not mean that firm mattresses are free from heat problems, however.
Some are still partly or even completely foam and thus pose problems for “hot sleepers.” Firm variants with foam components tend to have active countermeasures to overheating including:
- Side vents
- Gel or Gel-infused foam layers
- Advanced porous and breathable foam
- Thinner top covers
- Ventilated spring systems
These features help sleepers avoid the restlessness, sweats and potential health problems associated with overheating while asleep.
You want a firm mattress for body support, and you want it to provide that support for a long time consistently. You don’t want part of the bed to sag and begin to create pressure points, completely undoing the reason for buying a firm mattress in the first place. Cheaper materials can shorten the effective life of a hard mattress because factors such as heat, weight and “rigorous” bedtime activity can wear on the sub-par components. Always look for the highest quality foams and springs.
Top 5 Firm Mattress Reviews
Sure, everyone is different, and there is no perfect, one size fits all mattress that will please everyone out there, but there are good ones and bad ones. Better materials and construction techniques are more likely to give you the firm feel you want and keep it that way for years to come. Here are several of the best firm mattresses on the market currently.
Zinus 12 Inch Performance Plus – Extra Firm Hybrid Spring & Foam Mattress
This Zinus Performance Plus model is the best extra firm mattress around. With a foam layer on top, it boasts pocketed springs to cut down on motion transfer. They also threw in 10 percent more coils than their other models for the extra firm version for added support. It is an excellent choice for people suffering from back, neck and joint pain.
The foam layer on top is nothing special, but that isn’t what you are buying this mattress for. It is especially suited for heavier people, as the extra firmness supports even the largest of body types. Even the reinforced edges stay firm when subjected to frequent use and heavier weights. You can also use this one as a surrogate couch without fear of any sides giving out and sagging down. The result is a sturdy bed that stays that way for a long time.
Although pocketed coil mattresses are generally more expensive than regular spring systems, that isn’t the case with the Performance Plus. It is affordable and offers great value. Many customers were pleased with the price as well as the service from the company and the consistency of quality over time.
- Superior firmness supports heavier sleepers
- Extra reinforced sides prevent sag and roll off
- High durability and life expectancy
- Pocketed coils cut down motion transfer
- Thin foam top not as durable as the rest of the mattress
- No special heat dissipating features; may affect excessively hot sleepers
- Top of the charts firmness may be too firm for some, especially sleepers who weigh less
The Purple Bed
This nontraditional addition comes from Purple (yes, that’s the company name), who has their proprietary brand of material known as Hyper-Elastic Polymer™, of which this mattress is comprised. Instead of memory foam which is made of petrochemicals, they use non-toxic and food-grade materials to create a VOC and odor free mattress that has the comfort of memory foam without the drawbacks. The company claims that their product won’t sag or indent over time.
The extra firm mattress is ideal for back and stomach sleepers, but those sleeping on their side may be turned off by the lack of contouring; there isn’t quite enough give to make it comfortable for them. On the plus side, the Purple Bed does not experience the same heating woes that memory foam mattresses do. If you’d like more information on the Purple, we have conducted a full in-depth review of this product which can be found here.
- Great firmness, possibly the best firm mattress for back pain and stomach sleepers
- 100 percent recycled materials used in construction; completely green (and purple)
- Lesser heat problems than other mattresses
- Allergen and VOC free materials have reduced odor problems
- Not the best support for those sleeping on their side
- A little on the expensive side
Sealy Posturpedic Response Performance 12 Inch – Cushion Firm Tight Top Mattress
Sealy is a brand known across the country for their high-quality beds, and this addition to our list of firm mattress reviews is further evidence of their expertise. The Response Performance 12-Inch Cushion Firm Tight Top uses several layers of dense foam and a bed of reinforced springs to provide a firmness that doesn’t sacrifice comfort. For sleepers afraid of a mattress that is too firm, this one address that concern with their healthy portion of foam.
The foam layers incorporate gel infused memory foam as well as “SealyCushion Air Foam” for increased airflow. These features go a long way toward reducing heat retention. These layers, plus a thick knit top cover make for a soft touch that may be too soft for those seeking a particularly hard mattress. However, despite this softer side, the edges have a reinforced border to ensure that you don’t roll off or the sides don’t sag.
The Posturepedic technology that went into this mattress is designed to give you support where you need it, the center of your body. It does a pretty good job of this, but the lack of pocketed springs fails to address the motion transfer problem. The thick layers of foam help mitigate this, but it might not be ideal for excessively restless sleepers and their partners.
- Great balance of firm support with a softer touch
- Foam breathes and cools the mattress
- Supports bodies evenly
- Reinforced foam edges
- May not be soft enough for heavyweight sleepers or those seeking extra firmness
- Springs not individually wrapped; motion transfer concerns
- A little on the expensive side
- Foam is not traditional memory foam; does not perform as well
Live and Sleep Resort Elite 10 Inch – Firm Cooling Gel Memory Foam Mattress
This medium-firm mattress offers excellent support without feeling too much like a concrete slab. The Live and Sleep Resort Elite is a foam mattress with a layer of air flow memory foam, a layer of gel-infused foam and a “high-density support base” foam bottom layer. Being made of foam, this beauty offers excellent motion isolation, but might not be the provider of firm support that some sleepers need. Side sleepers may find this softer feel enables them to enjoy a firmer mattress, though.
The airflow and cooling promoting foam layers do a serviceable job of keeping the mattress from overheating. However, it still is a foam mattress and not a spring one, so hot sleepers might experience issues.
The foam, while soft, will not stay that way forever. It is not high grade, traditional memory foam so if that is the feel you are looking for, this may not be for you. Depending on your weight and how hot the bed gets while you sleep in it, this mattress may get softer sooner than others here.
- Great motion isolation from foam construction
- Firm enough to provide support, soft enough to stay comfortable
- The antimicrobial and allergen-free material has little to no odor
- Affordably priced
- May experience some heat complications, despite cooling foam features
- Not as durable as other firm mattresses
- Sides and edges not reinforced
Serta Perfect Sleeper Select Firm 300 – Innerspring Mattress
Another top of the line name brand, this Serta Perfect Sleeper 300 is a firm mattress and is a hybrid spring/foam model. The springs are individually wrapped, so it does an excellent job giving sleepers balanced spine and joint support while minimizing motion transfer from tossing and turning bedmates. The top two layers are foam, but they are rather thin, meaning this mattress retains a true firm feel.
Even though these foam layers are quite thin, they are built with heat reduction in mind. Therefore, heat sensitive people might have better luck with this one. There is also a foam encasement around the edge to prevent sagging and maintain an even feel all over the mattress; no sudden drop offs!
The pocketed coils and foam layers give you an evenly firm feel for a restful night and a pain-free day. This performance comes at a price, but many customers report being satisfied even after switching from an even more expensive mattress. The Perfect Sleeper manages to be just firm enough without reaching “hard” status. The foam may not be high-grade memory foam, but the real star of the show here is the individually wrapped coils and the comfort they give you.
- Pocketed coils provide exceptional support and motion isolation
- Thin foam layer serviceably comfortable and heat resistant
- Extra strong foam encasement around the springs keeps the edges of the mattress firm
- Strong and firm without being too hard
- More expensive than some competitors
- Not as suitable for side sleepers as other mattresses
The variance in these mattresses made for a tough decision, but the Zinus 12 Inch Performance Plus Extra Firm hybrid spring and foam mattress comes out on top this time. It has the firmness needed without skimping on comfort. The pocketed springs perform smoothly, cutting down on motion transfer and giving the sleeper much needed support in key pressure point areas. The added foam layers lend a comfortable touch without making the mattress too hot due to the cooling features. Add in strengthened sides to stop the edges from sloping down, and you’ve got the perfect storm of restfulness.
As a regular reminder, despite the Zinus model being the best firm mattress on our list, this is not a guarantee of fit or comfort. It is likely a good fit for a sleeper seeking a firmer sleeping surface, but extensive testing is required to be sure. Always read up on and take advantage of trial periods and return policies.