If you sleep predominantly on your side, you know that your mattress’s firmness level greatly impacts comfort and support. Side sleepers need ample pressure relief around the shoulders and hips combined with robust support for proper spinal alignment. But what exactly is the ideal mattress firmness for side sleepers?
This article will examine how mattress firmness levels affect side sleepers and provide recommendations to choose the right balance of softness and support. We’ll also look at factors that help determine your optimum firmness match.
Impact of Firmness on Side Sleepers
Mattress firmness levels range on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being the softest feel and 10 being the firmest and hardest. In general, the firmer the mattress, the more it “pushes back” against your body weight. A soft mattress allows sinking in with less resistance.
Here’s how firmness impacts side sleepers specifically:
- Pressure Point Relief – Softer surfaces cushion shoulders and hips while firmer beds can create discomfort.
- Spinal Alignment – Medium to medium-firm promotes an even, straight spine. Too soft or firm can distort alignment.
- Movement and Changing Positions – Softer makes moving difficult while firm makes repositioning easier.
Considering these key impacts leads to ideal firmness ranges for side sleepers.
General Firmness Guidelines for Side Sleepers
Here are the mattress firmness recommendations for side sleepers:
- Soft (below 5/10) – Best for lightweight side sleepers under 130 lbs
- Medium Soft (4 to 5.5/10) – Optimizes pressure relief for average-weight side sleepers 130 to 230 lbs
- Medium Firm (6 to 7/10) – Gives heavier side sleepers over 230 lbs sufficient support
- Firm (over 7/10) – Usually too solid for comfortable side sleeping
In most cases, a medium soft to medium firm mattress provides the right combination of plushness to cushion the shoulders and hips plus underlying support. But weight impacts needs.
Choosing Firmness Based on Weight
Firmness preferences for side sleepers differ based on body weight. Heavier individuals need firmer beds for proportionate support while lightweight people need softness to contour their frame.
For side sleepers under 130 lbs – Choose a soft to medium-soft mattress around 4/10 firmness. This allows enough sinking and hug for petite side sleepers. Avoid firmer mattresses.
For side sleepers 130 – 230 lbs – Stick with medium to medium-soft around 4.5-6/10 firmness. This accommodates curves without excessive sink. Medium-firm could feel too firm.
For side sleepers over 230 lbs – Opt for a medium-firm to firm bed from 6.5-7.5/10 firmness. You need enhanced support which softer beds lack. Just add a thicker comfort topper for plushness.
Use your weight as a starting point but also try beds in different categories to see what feels most comfortable and supportive.
Personal Factors Affecting Ideal Firmness
Along with weight, these individual factors also impact what firmness level works best:
- Sleep style – Strict side sleepers need more softness. Combination sleepers do better with medium-firm.
- Body frame – Petite people need more plushness for contouring while larger frames require firmer support.
- Shoulder width – Broad-shouldered side sleepers require extra shoulder accommodation with a softer mattress.
- Preferred position – Do you rest higher on your side or sink low? This changes firmness needs.
- Injuries or pain – Chronic shoulder, hip or back pain may indicate a need for additional softness for pressure relief.
- Mattress type – Different materials like latex, innersprings, memory foam, etc. have inherent firmness differences.
Consider your body type, sleep tendencies, and health factors when choosing mattress firmness. Don’t assume a weight-based guideline is automatically right for you.
Signs Your Mattress Is Too Firm or Soft
Notice these signs that your current mattress firmness isn’t ideal for side sleeping:
Too Firm Mattress Signs
- Shoulder, hip, neck, and back pain or numbness
- Discomfort at pressure points like shoulders and hips
- Tossing and turning frequently throughout the night
- Avoiding side sleeping position due to discomfort
- Waking up frequently or hard to fall asleep
Too Soft Mattress Signs
- Back hyperextension and hamstring pain from sagging
- Indentations and sinking around shoulder and hip
- “Stuck” feeling making it hard to change positions
- Increased back pain from lack of support
- Mattress materials wearing out more quickly
Adjusting mattress firmness helps restore healthy alignment, pressure relief, and comfort for side sleepers.
Testing Firmness Properly In-Store
To choose the right firmness level, you have to properly test mattresses first:
- Try mattresses in multiple firmness categories like plush, medium, and firm.
- Lie down in your regular sleep position and note pressure points.
- Pay attention to alignment and whether your spine stays neutral.
- Evaluate ease of moving – does the mattress make changing positions difficult?
- Ask for comfort layer and coil gauges to understand interior construction.
- Try out mattress toppers and pads to adjust softness.
- Review policies on comfort guarantees and sleep trials.
Taking the time to properly evaluate firmness makes all the difference in optimizing your mattress as a side sleeper.
FAQs About Mattress Firmness for Side Sleepers
Is a soft or firm mattress better for side sleepers?
In most cases, medium to medium-soft mattresses provide the best mix of contouring and support for side sleepers. Too firm causes pressure while too soft lacks alignment support.
What is the best mattress firmness for shoulder and hip pain?
Medium to medium-soft strikes the best balance for cushioning the shoulders and hips effectively while keeping the spine aligned. Plush soft often worsens pain over time.
Can side sleepers have a firm mattress?
Moderately firm around a 7/10 could work for some side sleepers if they have a thick, plush topper. But most side sleepers find medium-soft to medium optimal.
Is firm or soft better for side and back sleeping?
Medium firmness accommodates both positions fairly well for combination sleepers. Soft lacks back support while firm feels uncomfortable on the shoulders and hips.
What firmness is best for petite side sleepers?
Lightweight side sleepers under 130 lbs usually find soft to medium-soft mattresses most comfortable. They provide enough sink and contouring for a smaller body frame.
The right mattress firmness provides side sleepers with sufficient pressure relief while keeping the spine properly aligned. For most strict side sleepers, a medium soft to medium firm bed strikes this balance best. But your ideal match depends on weight, body type, and other personal factors.
Evaluating firmness feel in your usual side sleeping position and understanding signs of improper firmness allows you to hone in on your perfect fit. With the ideal firmness for your needs, you’ll sleep comfortably and wake up free of aches and pains.
Want to experience restful side sleeping on a mattress tailored for you? Check out our mattress finder quiz and unbiased mattress reviews. We’ll help determine your ideal firmness, preferences and recommend great options for side sleepers. Wake up each morning feeling refreshed!