how do you determine proper softness for a bed?

So I’ve been hearing all this stuff about how having the proper firmness on your bed can solve all sorts of problems - from back and neck pain to being more rested and getting a better sleep yadda yadda yadda.

Yet I’ve never come across anything that tells you how to determine what the proper firmness is! Is there a way to determine how soft or firm my bed should be for maximum effect? I realize it’s different for each person, but since noone I know is a so called ‘sleep technician’, it all seems like a lot of guesswork.

Currently I have a firm mattress with a memory foam pad on it, and a feather bed on the top. While it’s extra comfy when lying down on it, I wonder if it’s maybe too soft for sleeping on. Is there any sort of way to determine how I should adjust it, short of making a change, trying it out for month or two and then reevaluating? That could take a year or more!

This will depend on whether you sleep predominately on your back, on your side, or in some other position. The idea is for the mattress to support your body as necessary to keep your spine in a straight line, without your muscles (driven by the autonomous nervous system) having to work to do so. Accordingly, if you sleep on your side, you will want a softer mattress so that your body high points at the hip and shoulder can sink into it and let the rest of the mattress provide uniform support to your body so that your spine is straight. Conversely, if you sleep on your back or your front, you want a firmer mattress so that your hips don’t take the spine out of alignment by shifting forward or backward.

Best thing to do is have someone look at you while lying in your normal sleeping position, and try out mattresses until you find one that correctly aligns your spine.

I tend to fall asleep on my side and wind up on my stomach, so it seems logical that I should look for a mattress of medium firmness…right?

That makes things even more difficult - your pillow needs to be firm when on your side, to hold your head up in alignment with your body. If you sleep on your back, you need a softer pillow so that your head is not pushed forward.

If you sleep on your side and then roll to your front, you need a matress that gets firmer as you roll, and a pillow that gets softer, and doesn’t asphyxiate you.

Good luck with that one.

You should know that firmness isn’t necessarily related to support. It’s easy to get a soft mattress that offers lots of support, should that be what you want.