Choosing the Right Memory Foam Mattress Firmness
If you’re buying a memory foam mattress for the first time, choosing the right one can seem a little tricky. They work and feel differently than common innerspring beds, and firmness levels can also be a little different. But, firmness is an important important part of mattress comfort, so understanding the basics can be helpful when trying to choose a comfortable bed.
Keep reading to learn about memory foam mattress firmness and compare different brands and firmnesses of beds.
Firmness & Memory Foam Mattresses
Mattress firmness is a measure of how much a mattress “gives” when force is applied. In the most basic sense, a soft mattress will easily compress, while a firm mattress will take much more weight to compress. Since different companies describe beds in different ways, it can get confusing, however, there are couple of concepts that can make it easier to compare and shop beds.
IFD (Indentation Force Deflection) is a standard test of foam firmness that measures the force required to compress foam by 25%. IFD’s under 18 are typically softer and used in memory foam comfort layers. IFDs over 30 are firmer, and are usually used in support core layers.
IFD is not commonly given by memory foam mattress manufacturers, but if it is, it may help you determine how firm or soft the bed is. However, IFDs of individual layers may not provide much practical insight, since it can still be hard to tell how all the layers will feel together.
More often, however, firmness is usually described arbitrarily by mattress manufacturers, and there really isn’t a set standard of what is soft, medium or firm. On a memory foam bed, firmness depends in the density and IFD of the core layer, as well as the density, thickness and IFD of the upper layers.
Density vs Firmness
Although density is not directly related to firmness, it can have an effect on how a mattress feels. Denser memory foams can initially feel a little firmer until they contour, but they tend to be more buoyant, better at cushioning pressure points, and also more resistant to softening over time. Denser polyurethane foams (the core layers) are also less resistant to impressions.
But, according to Sleep Like The Dead, people are more likely to rate lower-density memory foam mattresses as overly firm. This could be because the lower-density foams may be less buoyant, causing sleepers to ‘bottom out’ on the more rigid foam cores.
When it comes to temperature sensitive memory foams, density can be a little harder to judge. Polyurethane Foam Association says that both temperature and humidity can influence IFD ratings. Temperature-sensitive foams feel firmer in cooler temperatures and softer in warmer temperatures. The foam near your body will also soften as it warms when lying down. Keep this in mind if you are trying temperature sensitive memory foam mattresses in a store!
Memory Foam Mattress Firmness Levels
In the following section, we compare soft, medium and firm memory foam mattresses from 10 leading memory foam brands, and describe who might prefer each. If the company had multiple beds in a firmness range, we tried to choose the one that seemed most popular. Not all brands offered beds in all firmness levels.
Review data comes from third party review sites, consumer review sites, and/or retailer websites. Mattress specification and pricing data was gathered 8/1/14, and could be subject to change. Some companies do not provide full details like ILD or density. Beds are sorted from lowest to highest price.
Soft Memory Foam Mattresses
Softer mattresses are usually considered ideal for side sleepers, who tend to experience greater pressure as their hips and shoulders sink further into the mattress. The beds below are all classified in the plush to medium soft range.
|Spa Sensations 12” Theratouch||3” 3.0 lb MF (6-8 ILD)|
3” 1.8 lb foam (20 ILD)
|6” 1.8 lb Core (24 ILD)||$389||4.5 / 5|
|Novaform Valentina 12”||3” 3.0 lb MF|
3” 2.0 lb foam
|6” 2.0 lb Core||$749||4.2 / 5|
|Amerisleep Liberty Bed||3” 4.5 lb MF (12 ILD)||9” 2.0 lb Core (28 ILD)||$1,299||4.6 / 5|
|iComfort Visionary EFX Plush||2” 4.0 lb MF|
2” 3.0 lb Gel MF
|6” Core||$1,774||4.4 / 5|
|BedInABox Serenity Gel||3” 3.0 lb Gel MF|
2” Outlast fiber
|8” 2.4 Core (32 ILD)||$1,899||4.7 / 5|
|Comforpedic Restored Spirits||1” 3.5 lb Gel MF|
4” 5.5 lb MF
|6” Core||$2,299||4.5 / 5|
|Tempurpedic Cloud Supreme||1.2” 4.1 lb MF|
1.6” 5.3 lb MF
|7” Core||$2,399||3.0 / 5|
|Sealy Optimum Desire||3” 4.0 lb Gel MF|
4” 4.0 lb MF
|6” 1.5 lb Core||$3,499||4.2 / 5|
The Spa Sensations 12” Theratouch model offers a good entry-level value and has good reviews, but may not be ideal for those seeking a mattress to hold up to daily use over several years, or those over 200 pounds. The Amerisleep Liberty offers higher density foam and greater transparency than many of the more expensive models, though the BedInABox Serenity also received good ratings as well.
Medium Memory Foam Mattresses
Medium firmness mattresses are usually the most popular, as they will feel comfortable to the widest proportion of people. Depending on the depth of the comfort layers, any sleep position can get adequate support on a medium mattress. Several sleep studies have also indicated that medium firmness tends to be better at reducing back pain than firm beds. The following mattresses all fall in the medium range of firmness.
|Comfort Dreams Coolmax 10-inch||3” 4.0 lb MF||7” Core||$449||4.5 / 5|
|BedInABox PacBed Original||3” 3.0 lb Gel MF||6” 2.4 lb Core (32 ILD)||$699||4.6 / 5|
|Novaform Serafina 14”||3” 3.0 lb MF|
3” 5.0 lb foam
|8” 2.0 lb Core||$799||4.2 / 5|
|Amerisleep Revere Bed||3” 4.5 lb MF (12 ILD)||9” 2.0 lb Core (35 ILD)||$1,299||4.7 / 5|
|Sealy Optimum Inspiration||2” 4.0 lb Gel MF|
3” 4.0 lb MF
|6” 1.5 lb Core||$1,599||4.4 / 5|
|iComfort Prodigy Everfeel||2” 4.0 lb MF|
1.5” 4.0 lb Gel MF
1” 3.0 lb Gel MF
|6” Core||$1,774||4.5 / 5|
|Comforpedic Relaxed Nights||2” 3.5 lb Gel MF|
2” 4.5 lb MF
|6.5” Core||$2,799||4.1 / 5|
|Tempurpedic Rhapsody Luxe||1.2” 7 lb MF|
2.8” 4 lb MF
|8” Core||$3,399||4.5 / 5|
The BedInABox PacBed offers a good entry-level value for a medium memory foam bed, with good core density. The Amerisleep Revere has strong ratings and specifications within the mid-range category, and the Tempurpedic Rhapsody features high-density memory foam with good ratings as well.
Firm Memory Foam Mattresses
Firm mattresses can provide good support for back and stomach sleepers. Since there no springs exerting upward force, a firm memory foam mattress can offer better pressure point protection than a firm spring bed.
|Spa Sensations 8”||2” 3.0 lb MF||6” Core||$239||4.4 / 5|
|Comfort Dreams SAF 11-inch Firm||2” 4.0 lb MF|
2” 3.0 lb MF
|7” 1.5 lb Core||$399||4.5 / 5|
|IKEA Matrand||Rayon Fiber|
2” 3.1 lb MF
|5.1” 1.7 lb Core||$399||4.0 / 5|
|Amerisleep Americana Bed||3” 4.5 lb Memory Foam (12 ILD)||7” 2.0 lb Core (35 ILD)||$1049||4.6 / 5|
|Sealy Optimum Destiny Gold||2” 4.0 lb Gel MF|
1” 4.0 lb Gel MF
|7” Gel Core||$1,399||4.1 / 5|
|Comforpedic Balanced Days||1” 3.5 lb Gel MF|
3.5” 4.5 lb MF
|6” Core||$1,799||4.4 / 5|
|iComfort Directions Acumen Firm||2” 4.0 lb Gel MF|
1” gel support
|6” Core||$2,074||4.0 / 5|
|Tempurpedic Contour Supreme||4” 4-5 lb MF||6” Core||$2,099||4.0 / 5|
For firm memory foam beds, the Comfort Dreams 11” Select-a-Firmness mattress offers a good value with low and medium density memory foam and good reviews, though like other entry-level beds, is best for temporary or occasional use. In the mid-price category again, the Amerisleep Americana offers good density/ILD levels and reviews, while the Tempur-Contour Supreme offers a better value than the similarly-priced iComfort Acumen model.
Choosing the Right Memory Foam Mattress
Most mattress companies will have some type of firmness classification and will state how the mattress is intended to feel to help you shop. Though IDF and density can be most helpful when trying to gauge how a bed will feel, they aren’t always available. If you are unsure where a mattress falls, get help from a sales rep and explain what you are looking for and what you are comfortable with.
If you are trying to get a better idea of firmness, reviews can also provide some insight.When you read reviews, it can be helpful to see if many people say a bed was firmer or softer than expected, if a bed softened more than usual, and other valuable owner information. But, keep in mind that firmness is inherently personal, and what feels firm or soft to you may be classified differently by someone else.
Ensuring you have the ability to return is always important when mattress shopping, and if you are trying memory foam for the first time and not sure about firmness, you’ll want to inquire about store policies. It can take a few weeks to adjust to a new mattress, so look for a return policy with at least 30 days.
If you are in between soft and medium or medium and firm, it may also be more practical to err on the firmer side for two reasons. One, memory foam will soften up a little over time as you break the bed in (more so for lower densities), and, you would always have the option of placing a topper on the bed to soften it up a little if needed (often cheaper than returning).
We hope this guide to memory foam mattress firmness answered your questions, and as always, feel free to leave questions and comments below!