While sleeping on a cloud may sound appealing, sinking too deeply into your mattress at night may lead to back pain. If that sounds familiar, it may be time to look for a firmer option. Extra-firm mattresses offer greater support than softer models and are ideal for keeping the spine in alignment, particularly for individuals who prefer to sleep on their stomach or back. Mattresses that are too soft allow the hips of back and stomach sleepers to sink too far into the cushioning, which places the spine at an uncomfortable angle and can lead to back pain.
Choosing among the best extra-firm mattresses to properly align your back can seem overwhelming due to the multitude of options on the market. This guide outlines the most important considerations to keep in mind as you shop and reviews some of the best extra-firm mattresses available today.
- BEST OVERALL: Saatva Classic Mattress
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Nest Bedding Love & Sleep Mattress
- BEST EXTREMELY FIRM: Brooklyn Bedding Plank Mattress
- BEST FOR BACK PAIN: Beautyrest Harmony Lux Carbon Series Mattress
- BEST MEMORY FOAM: Saatva Loom & Leaf Mattress
- BEST INNERSPRING: The WinkBed Mattress
- BEST COOLING: Amerisleep AS1 Mattress
Many mattresses are labeled “extra firm” or “firm,” but that doesn’t mean they’re all identical or provide the same feeling when someone lies down on it. When choosing the best extra-firm mattress, it’s important to consider several features, including the mattress type and comfort level, the firmness rating, sleeping position and body weight, motion-isolation and pressure-relief capabilities, and temperature-regulation properties.
When shopping for the best extra-firm mattress, first consider the type of mattress.
- Hybrid mattresses offer a mixed design with features from other mattress types. Most include pocketed coils and a memory foam or latex comfort layer. A benefit of hybrid mattresses is that they can be both supportive and contouring due to their design. The coils allow for plenty of airflow to keep individuals from overheating during sleep, and the memory foam or latex layers work to limit motion transfer.
- Innerspring mattresses are typically firmer than other mattress options. They feature steel coils with a thinner comfort layer of polyfoam or memory foam than in a hybrid mattress. The thinner comfort layer makes an innerspring mattress less conforming than other types of mattresses. However, they offer more spring and bounce, and models with individually wrapped coils limit motion transfer.
- While not as contouring as memory foam, latex mattresses conform to the body and are very responsive to movement. They don’t allow individuals to sink as deeply into the mattress as a memory foam option, which is beneficial for those seeking a firmer mattress. Latex is also very breathable and does not trap heat like memory foam, plus it reduces motion transfer.
- Foam mattresses feature layers of foam or memory foam with different densities. A memory foam mattress is highly conforming for pressure relief but is often too soft for individuals looking for an extra-firm mattress.
- Air beds feature air chambers that individuals can adjust to customize the firmness level of the bed. Some mattresses may offer separate chambers so partners can each adjust their side of the bed to the preferred level. This feature makes air beds an attractive option for partners who disagree about the ideal firmness of a mattress.
The firmness of a mattress is measured on a 10-point scale: 1 indicates a very soft mattress, and 10 indicates a very firm mattress. An extra-firm mattress will have a rating of 9 or 10. Some manufacturers may also refer to extra-firm mattresses as “very firm” or “ultra firm.” A mattress with a firmness rating of 7 or 8 is considered firm, while a medium-firm mattress is rated a 6.
Finding a comfortable mattress is a high priority for most shoppers. Since each person’s definition of comfort varies, personal preference should determine which extra-firm mattress to choose, keeping in mind that by their very nature, extra-firm mattresses can be on the hard side to provide adequate back support. The other sections in this guide all cover factors that impact the comfort level of a mattress, such as its ability to relieve pressure on the joints and regulate body temperature during the night.
Motion isolation refers to how well a mattress limits the transfer of motion between each side of the bed. When one individual enters or exits their side, a mattress with motion-isolation capabilities won’t move under a partner on the other side of the bed. Mattresses that offer motion isolation are particularly appealing to individuals sharing a bed, as one person can sleep soundly even if the other tosses and turns.
Memory foam and other foam mattresses offer superior motion isolation. Hybrid mattresses that feature individually wrapped coils can also limit motion transfer.
During sleep, the areas that experience the greatest amount of pressure from coming in contact with the mattress are referred to as pressure points. These pressure points are located in different areas based on an individual’s sleep position: the shoulders, tailbone, and heels for back sleepers; the thighs, knees, and rib cage for stomach sleepers; and the hips and shoulders for side sleepers.
Mattresses that offer pressure relief provide greater support for the body by evenly distributing the weight of an individual across the mattress. With even distribution, an individual’s body weight isn’t solely concentrated on the pressure points, which can then reduce pain in those areas. Mattresses with greater contouring, such as hybrid or memory foam mattresses, will provide the most pressure-point relief.
Temperature regulation refers to a mattress’s ability to prevent individuals from overheating as they sleep. Manufacturers include different design features that allow mattresses to better regulate body temperature, keeping individuals cool and comfortable during the night. Innerspring mattresses and individually coiled hybrid mattresses allow for greater airflow, which can prevent them from trapping heat and creating an uncomfortably warm sleeping surface.
Another way manufacturers can offer temperature regulation is by infusing gel or activated charcoal into the foam layers of the mattress. Memory foam is known for trapping heat, but when it is infused with gel or activated charcoal, the mattress stays cooler. Gel absorbs heat and charcoal is naturally cooling, so both work in different ways with the same result.
Additionally, manufacturers may integrate a cooling material, such as Tencel or phase change molecule (PCM) fabric, into the mattress cover to give it greater cooling properties. Tencel wicks away moisture and is very breathable to keep individuals cool overnight. A phase change molecule fabric absorbs heat when the body grows too warm and releases heat back into the mattress if the body becomes too cool.
In general, back and stomach sleepers prefer a firmer mattress, while most side sleepers tend to prefer a softer mattress that cradles their hips. However, stomach sleepers in particular often experience the most comfortable and supportive sleep from an extra-firm mattress. Extra-firm mattresses can prevent a stomach sleeper’s hips from sinking too deeply into the cushioning, which can cause back pain due to spine misalignment.
Back sleepers, on the other hand, often prefer a firm mattress, as opposed to an extra-firm one. Firm mattresses are optimal for many back sleepers, as they limit back pain by keeping the spine properly aligned.
Individuals with a BMI of 25 or more should consider a thicker mattress to provide greater support and prevent them from sinking too deeply into the cushioning. A thicker mattress will also be more durable than a thinner mattress for a heavier individual.
While a mattress with a firmness rating of 9 or 10 may feel like an extra-firm mattress for a lighter individual, it will feel less firm for a heavier individual. Some manufacturers make mattresses specifically designed for heavier individuals. These models may have denser foam, higher-gauge coils, a more supportive base, and other features.
Our Top Picks
Keeping the abovementioned considerations in mind, these selections represent some of the best extra-firm mattresses for proper back alignment available today in a variety of categories.
The Saatva Classic Mattress is ideal for stomach and back sleepers and heavier individuals. It is designed to keep the spine in alignment to reduce lower-back pressure and pain. The mattress features spinal-zone technology using layers of CertiPUR-US–certified high-density memory foam, offering increased support along the middle of the mattress to prevent the heavier parts of the body from sinking in too deeply. It also boasts a 3-inch Euro pillow top that allows for sufficient contouring while still maintaining a firm feel to provide pressure point relief.
The individually pocketed coils minimize motion transfer and make the mattress more breathable by allowing for airflow. This firm mattress is available in twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, split king, and California king sizes.
The Love & Sleep mattress from Nest Bedding provides a firm sleeping surface at a very affordable price for back and stomach sleepers, and also to side sleepers looking for additional lumbar support. This model offers a 1.8-pound, high-density edge support base foam to provide greater support and comfort for back and stomach sleepers. It is also Greenguard Gold-certified, meaning it is free of over 10,000 chemicals and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
This mattress is constructed with a special breathable foam called Energex to keep individuals cool at night. Minerals are infused into the Energex foam, allowing it to naturally pull heat away from an individual’s body to prevent overheating. Energex foam is also responsive to quickly adapt to movements, and it offers more bounce than a memory foam mattress. The mattress cover is crafted with Thermic Phase Change Cooling fabric for even more cooling benefits. Choose from eight mattress sizes: twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king, split king, and split California king.
Individuals looking for an extremely firm mattress should consider the Plank mattress by Brooklyn Bedding. The mattress features a flippable design with one firm side and one extra-firm side. The firm side provides a 1.5-inch quilted top layer, while the extra-firm side offers a 0.75-inch quilted top layer for an ultra-firm feel. These top layers both cover a 2-inch TitanFlex comfort foam for compression support and a 7-inch high-density base foam for long-lasting durability. Sleeping on either side of this mattress keeps the spine in a neutral position to alleviate back pain and improve posture.
Individuals can choose to add a cooling panel to the top and bottom of the mattress. This optional panel is made with phase change molecule materials and sewn directly onto the mattress cover. It delivers immediate cooling results for individuals who tend to overheat when they sleep. This mattress is available in 14 sizes, including both standard and RV mattress options.
The Beautyrest Harmony Lux Carbon Series mattress offers an extra-firm sleeping surface for individuals seeking relief from back pain. The mattress features a five-layer design, including a 0.5-inch gel memory foam and 1-inch RightTemp Wave foam that work together to provide pressure relief and decrease back pain. The mattress also features T2 Pocketed Coil technology to ensure the spine remains aligned and prevent the heavier parts of the body from sinking in too deeply.
In addition to its pressure-relieving layers, this mattress also offers cooling benefits to keep individuals from overheating as they sleep. The top layer features InfiniCool Lux materials for enhanced cooling and breathability. The mattress cover is both soft and durable and is made with Seaqual sustainable fabric that uses plastic recovered from the ocean. This extra-firm mattress is available in twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, and California king sizes.
The Loom & Leaf mattress from Saatva features premium 5-pound memory foam combined with a high-density foam base to contour the body and alleviate pressure points. However, rather than allowing an individual’s body to sink in too deeply, the construction of this mattress makes users feel like they’re floating on top of it—a suitable choice for stomach sleepers or others who prefer a firm sleeping surface.
The mattress provides a layer of cooling gel-infused foam to prevent individuals from overheating as they sleep. This layer also offers additional support to keep the spine in alignment and prevent discomfort. The mattress cover is made from 100 percent organic cotton that is hypoallergenic, breathable, and treated with a botanical antimicrobial. Choose from eight sizes: twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king, split king, and split California king.
Individuals looking to enjoy the support offered by an innerspring mattress should consider the WinkBed mattress. Featuring a layer of individually wrapped pocketed coils, the different zones in this mattress allow it to offer greater levels of support for targeted areas of the body, preventing heavier parts of the body from sinking in too deeply and keeping the spine aligned. These pocketed coils also limit motion transfer and create optimal airflow for a cool and comfortable night’s sleep.
A Euro pillow layer made from gel-infused foam sits atop the individually wrapped coils to alleviate muscle tension and provide cushioning for the back, hips, and shoulders. A Tencel cover encases the mattress to offer moisture-wicking properties and enhanced comfort overnight. This mattress also offers superior edge support that both prevents sagging and provides a larger usable sleep space. It is available in twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, and California king sizes.
The Amerisleep AS1 mattress is an ideal choice for individuals who overheat as they sleep. It is made from Bio-Pur, an eco-friendly, plant-based memory foam that—compared to traditional memory foam—allows more air to flow for enhanced breathability. The open-cell design also wicks away warm air to prevent heat from becoming trapped in the mattress. In addition to offering cooling properties, Bio-Pur is CertiPUR-US certified, low in VOCs, and resists mold, mildew, and dust mites. It is also more responsive than traditional memory foam, providing greater relief from pressure point pain.
The mattress also features a highly durable foam base that provides support, prevents sagging, and helps individuals sleep on the surface of the mattress, rather than sinking in too deeply. The Bio-Pur memory foam combined with this foam base keeps the spine of stomach and back sleepers in alignment for a comfortable and supportive night’s sleep. This cooling mattress is available in seven sizes: twin, twin XL, full, queen, king, California king, and split king.
An extra-firm mattress offers optimal support to maintain spine alignment in stomach and back sleepers. For further info about selecting the best extra-firm mattress, check out these common questions and their corresponding answers.
Q: Does a firm bed get softer?
Yes, a firm mattress will gradually get softer over time when an individual sleeps on it night after night.
Q: How do I know if my mattress is too firm?
If a mattress is too firm, it won’t offer sufficient contouring to relieve pressure points. The mattress may push on the sleeper’s pressure points, causing pain and discomfort either in bed or the following day. If you notice that your arm falls asleep even without putting weight on it, this is also an indication that a mattress may be too firm.
Q: Are extra-firm mattresses good for back pain?
Yes, extra-firm mattresses can help alleviate back pain. They allow the body to remain level and keep the spine in alignment. When the spine falls out of alignment on softer mattresses, it can lead to back pain.
Q: Can I still use a mattress topper on a firm mattress?
Yes, you can add a mattress topper to a firm mattress to make it softer or more contouring.