5 signs your mattress is too firm (and how to fix it)

Not sure if your mattress firmness is right for you? Here's how to tell if its worsening your sleep...

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We all need a good night's sleep to function well physically and psychologically. And on the whole, most sleep experts believe that a medium-firm or firm mattress is a better bet than a softer one.

A mattress that's on the firmer side is generally better at keeping the spine in proper alignment; distribute your body weight more evenly, reducing buildup on pressure points, and provide a more stable surface, making it easier to move about and get into a comfortable position.

However, there's a caveat to all this. Firstly, mattress firmness preferences can vary from person to person based on factors like body weight and preferred sleep position (for more on that, see our article on how to choose the best firmness level). Second, even if you do prefer medium-firm or firm, a particular mattresses may be too firm for your needs.

And that can be a real problem. Because when a mattress is too firm, it won't provide enough give to conform to the body's curves and contours, leading to increased pressure points on the shoulders, hips, and other bony areas of your body.

So if you're having problems with your sleep, it's worth consider whether this might be the cause. Here are five important signs to watch out for.

1. Back pain

One of the most common sign of a mattress being too firm is persistent back pain. That's because an overly firm mattress won't provide enough contouring and support, putting pressure on your spine, lower back, shoulders, and/or neck. Obviously there are many causes of back pain, but if it's recently developed, and this coincided with replacing your old mattress, then this might well be the cause.

2. Shifting sleep positions

Do you find yourself constantly tossing and turning throughout the night, unable to find a comfortable sleeping position? Again, this may have all sorts of causes, but if it's a development that coincides with buying a new firm mattress, then this may well be the reason.

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3. Numbness or tingling

Waking up with numbness or tingling sensations in your arms, legs, or other body parts often occurs when a mattress is too firm. This is because it's not properly relieving your pressure points, restricting circulation and causing temporary nerve compression, which can in turn result in numbness or tingling sensations.

4. Waking up a lot

Waking up a lot in the night is another thing that often happens when a mattress is too firm. You need comfortable and support for a good night's sleep, and a mattress that's overly firm can be lacking in this, just as much as one that's too soft.

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5. Feeling sore in the morning

Do you find you're waking up feeling stiff or sore in the morning? Well, you shouldn't be, especially if you're using a new mattress. So it's a clear sign that your mattress is firm and is causing muscle tension and discomfort, which is stopping you from having a full and relaxing night's sleep.

What to do if your mattress is too firm

If you're experiencing any of these signs, it's essential to address the issue promptly. The good news is that if you buy your mattress online then most good brands nowadays offer free trial periods, typically ranging from a couple of months to a full year. In which case, you'll have full reign to return the mattress and either get a refund or exchange it for a softer one.

Can't return your mattress? Then don't lose hope. Buying one of the best mattress toppers is an easy and affordable way to soften a firm sleeping surface. They also have other desirable qualities, such as helping protect your mattress from wear and tear, and many have cooling qualities too.

Either way, dealing with the problem of an overly firm is something you should deal with sooner rather than later, to improve sleep quality and guard against chronic pain, poor posture, and other health issues developing. 

Tom May

Tom May is a freelance writer and author of the book, Great Ted Talks: Creativity. He has been editor of Professional Photography magazine, associate editor at Creative Bloq, and deputy editor at net magazine. He has also worked for a wide range of mainstream titles including Radio Times, NME, Heat, Company and Bella.