• David Perry

Which is better: soft or firm?

HOUSTON — Retail veteran Craig McAndrews has heard the question many times over the years: Is a firmer mattress better than a softer one?

McAndrews, chief strategy officer for Mattress Firm, says the answer to that question may surprise some consumers. But before he gets to what the science says, he notes that mattress preference is all about individual choices and sleeping positions. One man’s perfect mattress may be another man’s nightmare sleep surface.

Writing in “The Daily Doze,” a Mattress Firm blog to which he contributes, McAndrews said that finding the mattress that is best for the consumer revolves around the key issue of figuring out whether she needs a mattress that is soft, firm, or something in between.

“The preference between a soft or firm mattress is rooted in a person’s sleeping position and in turn whether or not this is the best sleeping position that is good for the overall body,” he said. “While you may have a favorite position that you find yourself waking up in a good bit of the time, it may not be the one that is actually best for your sleep and your health.

“The human body is adaptive and automatically adjusts itself to counter any misalignment during sleep,” McAndrews continued. “Basically, comfort during sleep is an adaptive response, although one that may be the cause of other aches or pain you experience during the day.”

A good sleeping position is one in which the spine is “in its natural position” and the neck, middle back and lower back are in good alignment. “This means that our lungs are able to take in more oxygen, therefore increasing circulation and relieving joint and muscle pains,” he said.

What does the science say about firmer mattresses? McAndrews says it suggests that a firm mattress is better than a soft one.

“Although there are schools of thought providing support for both hard and soft mattresses,” he said, “science generally accepts the following as the best answer: When it comes to your body relaxing during sleep, it is necessary that your bones have some resistance.

“The harder the mattress, the more your bones are forced to support your body during sleep, rather than relying on your muscles,” he continued. “This allows your muscles to relax, improving circulation. This also allows for your lower back to not sink in and collapse into the mattress.”

McAndrews acknowledged that “a hard mattress might seem uncomfortable at first,” but observed that “eventually your body adjusts and your sleep improves.”

He noted that while firmer beds may be better for many consumers, there are those “who are ‘team soft’ when it comes to bed preference. Although there is some science behind the support of a soft mattress instead of one that is hard, it really boils down to personal preference.”

And the good news there, McAndrews said, is that retailers like Mattress Firm and many others offer a wide variety of mattresses to help their shoppers find the mattresses that best suit their individual needs.

David PerryDavid Perry | Executive Editor, Furniture Today

Hi, online readers. I'm David Perry, executive editor of Furniture/Today, and the writer on the mattress beat. Get my musings on mattresses on our web site and on my Twitter feed. And let me know what you would like me to write about in the wonderful world of mattresses.

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