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Mattress Too Firm? 6 Tips to Soften Your Mattress

Mattress Too Firm? 6 Tips to Soften Your Mattress

Mattress Guides
Read Time: 8 minutes

Does your mattress feel like it’s a block of cement? Whether it’s a new mattress that needs to be broken in to make your mattress softer or an older mattress that’s hardened with age or just a hard mattress that you want to be a softer mattress for your body weight, a too-firm mattress can cost you precious hours of sleep. An overly firm mattress can also cause pressure to build up in your joints and muscles, leaving you sore and stiff when you wake up in the morning.

Replacing your mattress isn’t always an option, so we present six ways you can handle an overly firm mattress.

1. Use a Mattress Topper

The simplest way to give a too-firm mattress a more cushioning feel is to use a mattress topper. Like mattresses, toppers come in a range of firmnesses. Some can give a mattress a more supportive feel, while others add plush padding. A soft topper adds a few extra inches of cushion and contains materials like memory foam, latex, cotton, wool, and feathers.

The drawback of a mattress topper is the expense. Many excellent memory foam toppers cost a few hundred dollars, although some shoppers still consider that a deal and prefer a topper to buying a softer mattress.

Be sure not to confuse mattress toppers with mattress pads. Companies often use the terms interchangeably, but a true topper adds a few inches of memory foam, latex, or poly-foam to your mattress. A mattress pad is essentially a fitted sheet with a quilted top.

While they serve similar functions by providing an extra layer of cushion, toppers are also different from pillow tops. A pillow top is a comfort layer added on while a mattress is assembled, while a topper is something you buy separately and place on top of a finished mattress.

Lift Memory Foam Pad by AmerisleepOur top recommendation for an affordable, comfortable memory foam mattress topper is the Lift by Amerisleep™ topper. The Lift is available in soft or firm feels, so every type of sleeper can improve their mattress with one.

The Lift also ships free and comes with a 5-year warranty.

2. Break In the Bed

If your mattress is new, it may just need time to soften up. Many mattress companies suggest trying out a bed for at least 30 nights before deciding it’s too firm for you.

To break in the bed faster, don’t just restrict yourself to lying down at night. Try to lounge on the mattress during the day or walk across its surface for a few minutes.

If you can’t spare the time to soften up your mattress during the day, try leaving a few heavy books or similar items on its surface. The pressure will help the mattress soften up quickly.

3. Turn Up the Thermostat

Many foam mattresses are sensitive to room temperature, softening when warm and firming up when it‘s cool. This is a side effect of a foam’s sensitivity to body heat, enabling the material to mold to a sleeper’s curves. Memory foam is especially temperature sensitive.

If you have a memory foam mattress, raising the room temperature by a few degrees can give the bed a plusher feel. You canboost the effect by keeping warm flannel sheets or a wool blanket on the bed, preventing ambient heat from escaping the mattress.

4. Bundle Up With Blankets and Soft Bedding

If you don’t have the money for a mattress topper, you can still soften up your mattress with a few blankets and specialized bedding. For example, while most people sleep under a comforter, placing a comforter on top of the mattress pads the bed, softening a too-firm feel.

Layering blankets on top of your mattress isn’t the most comfortable way to sleep. However, it’s a good stop-gap measure while you shop around for a more permanent solution.

5. Try a New Foundation

Where you keep your mattress can affect its feel. For example, if you keep your mattress on the floor, the surface may feel harder than if you paired it with a slatted platform bed.

Some people also report a firmer feel to their memory foam mattress when paired with a box spring. It’s one of many reasons we do not recommend using a box spring with a memory foam mattress.

More significantly, box springs do not provide consistent support and can cause premature sagging. Box springs were only designed to support traditional innerspring mattresses, after all.

Solid platforms often make a mattress feel firmer than another type of bed base would. If you’re struggling to sleep on a platform bed and are willing to invest in a good night’s rest, you might want to consider an adjustable bed.

6. Return the Mattress

Have you given your new mattress a month or two, and it still feels like you’re sleeping on a plywood board? You might want to reach out to the company’s customer service and initiate the return process.

What if you can’t return your mattress? If you’ve tried our other tips and still aren’t sleeping well, it’s probably time to replace your mattress.

How to Tell if Your Mattress Is Too Firm

You might be wondering if your mattress is truly too firm or if it’s just all in your head. If you’re experiencing morning aches and pains or consistently feel tired after a full night’s rest, the culprit is probably your mattress.

Waking up with lower back pain, sore shoulders, or a stiff neck are all signs of a mattress that isn’t soft enough to relieve pressure. Similarly, you might wake up with numb limbs or a tired feeling, even after a full eight hours of sleep.

Mattress Too Firm

Now, there could be medical reasons why you might be waking up sore and stiff, such as arthritis. You can usually settle the question of whether you have a bad mattress or a medical condition by spending a night elsewhere.

If you get a better night’s rest on a hotel mattress or in a friend’s guest room, then you probably have a bad mattress.

Choosing The Right Firmness Level

A firm bed isn’t inherently better or worse than a soft mattress, as both firmnesses can suit different kinds of sleepers. To solve the mystery of your best firmness, you should consider your preferred sleeping position and body type.

People usually sleep on their sides, back, or stomach, and what the most comfortable mattress for each varies:

  • A great mattress for side sleepers should offer a soft to medium feel. Cushioning materials conform to the body for pressure relief, particularly in the shoulders and hips.
  • Good mattresses for back sleepers have a medium-firm to firm feel, bolstering back support. Back sleepers who want a softer mattress should look for a medium feel bed with extra lumbar support.
  • Mattresses for stomach sleepers feature a firm feel with minimal sinkage. Stomach sleepers are more likely to misalign their spines on a softer mattress because of the way gravity pushes down on their bellies, shifting the spine out of its neutral alignment.

If you frequently wake up in a different position than the one you fell asleep in, you’re probably a combination sleeper. A mattress for combination sleeping should offer a medium feel suitable for all positions. It should also have a responsive surface that keeps a person from feeling stuck in bed.

Weight is a significant factor to consider if you weigh under 130 pounds or over 230 pounds.

Petite sleepers don’t put as much pressure on the surface as the average person, which can keep a mattress from fully conforming to the body and relieving pressure. Lighter individuals should look for a softer mattress than what’s recommended for their sleeping position.

Conversely, plus-size people should look for a mattress firmer than what’s recommended to ensure they don’t sink too far into the mattress and misalign their spine.

While you can take steps to soften or firm up a mattress, the best way to sleep well is to pick a mattress firmness that matches your sleeping style.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if your mattress is too firm?

The surest sign that your mattress is too firm is waking up with back, shoulder, or neck pain. You might also wake up exhausted from struggling to sleep soundly, instead of feeling refreshed and ready to face the day. If your mattress doesn’t conform to your body when you lie down, it’s probably too firm to relieve pressure.

Are extra firm mattresses good?

Most people don’t need to sleep on an extra-firm mattress to feel comfortable. However, a firm mattress can be beneficial if you’re a stomach sleeper or you weigh over 230 pounds because the bed provides support with little sinkage.

A firm mattress for heavy people keeps their bodies lifted, preventing spinal misalignment. People with other sleeping styles are likely to experience discomfort if they lie on an extra-firm mattress.

Can you sleep on a new mattress straight away?

You usually can sleep on a brand new, quality mattress in a box a few minutes after it’s been unboxed. Well-made mattresses are usually quick to expand once they’re free of their plastic wrapping.

Still, it usually takes at least a few hours for the mattress to reach full expansion, so the bed might not be as comfortable as it could be if you give it more time to reach its full shape.

What is the best mattress for back problems?

A good mattress for back pain should conform to your back’s curves for pressure and pain relief. The bed should also offer targeted lumbar support, with uncompromising materials placed in the torso area.

Research suggests that the best firmness for back pain is medium-firm, but this may depend on your sleeping style. A medium-firm mattress is a good choice for back sleepers. Side sleepers may prefer a medium feel mattress to relieve back pain, and stomach sleepers might do better on a firm mattress.

Is a firm mattress bad for side sleepers?

A firm mattress is more likely to cause pain in a side sleeper’s body than relieve it. The best mattresses for side sleeping offer a soft to medium feel, cushioning the body and relieving pressure points.

When shopping for a new bed, it’s best to choose one with a sleep trial. That way, if the mattress turns out to be too firm after you’ve given yourself time to adjust, you can return it.


While there’s nothing wrong with a firmer mattress, a mattress that’s not conforming enough can keep you from experiencing restorative rest. Sometime it’s as simple as moving a floor mattress to a frame, other times it might be a mattress of changing the mattresss firmness or replacing the mattress entirely.

Choosing the right firmness is often tricky because it’s based on a person’s preferences. That’s why it’s always important to purchase a mattress with a sleep trial, so you can return the bed if it feels uncomfortable.

Meg Riley Certified Sleep Science Coach

Meg Riley is a Certified Sleep Science Coach and a full-time writer focused on sleep and mattresses. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Sleep Junkie.

Meg started to focus on the sleep industry in 2018. Since then, she has written over 70+ articles on sleep hygiene, product reviews, and the newest trends in the mattress and bedding industry.

A non-exhaustive list of some of the topics she has written on: the effectiveness of alarm clocks, how to prevent jet lag, the NREM & REM Sleep Cycle, and causes and treatments of Restless Legs Syndrome.

Meg Riley has her undergraduate degree from Pennsylvania State University where she studied Advertising and Public Relations and wrote articles on the student experience for College Magazine.

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