The 8 Best Firm Mattresses of 2020

Relieve back pain and sleep soundly with these top picks

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First Look

Best Overall: Avocado Green Mattress at avocadogreenmattress.com

"Its pillow-free top offers a gentle yet firm sleeping surface that supports your back while offering the utmost comfort."

Best Budget: The Allswell at allswellhome.com

"A mattress offering the supportive benefits of memory foam, while also the old school classic feel of coils at a bargain price."

Best for Back Pain: Saatva Classic at saatvamattress.com

"This versatile, high-quality and highly-rated mattress is customizable in three firmness levels."

Best Memory Foam: Casper Element at Amazon

"The coil-free mattress features two layers of foam offering support, breathability, and comfort."

Best Hybrid: Purple Hybrid 2 at purple.com

"A great option for anyone who sleeps hot, as the grid’s thousands of open air channels don’t retain heat similarly to memory foam."

Best for Side Sleepers: Nectar Memory Foam at Amazon

"Just as firm as it needs to be while contouring to the curves of your body."

Best Cooling: Tuft & Needle at Amazon

"Embedded with charcoal and gel to help pull away heat."

Best Extra Firm: Plank by Brooklyn Bedding at Amazon

"A firm and flat sleeping surface for people who find that even the firmest isn’t firm enough."

If you suffer from back pain, you're not alone. A 2009 study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, found that more than 80 percent of people will experience lower back pain at some point throughout their lives. While there are a number of factors that can contribute to this type of discomfort, as well as keep it at bay, choosing the right mattress is one of them. 

“I would recommend a firmer mattress for anyone who has a history of lower back issues,” Peter Whang, MD, a Yale Medicine orthopaedic surgeon who specializes in spine conditions, explains to VeryWell Health. Studies support Dr. Whang’s suggestion, finding that a medium-firm mattress can significantly improve both sleep quality and stress levels, which alone can help alleviate and prevent this type of pain.

How does a more condensed sleeping surface help with back pain? Dr. Whang explains that a firmer mattress provides greater support for the spine, “and helps to maintain a more physiologic alignment by preventing the spinal column from ‘sinking’ into a more unnatural position.” If this occurs, it could ultimately give rise to increased pain and exacerbate symptoms related to nerve compression—i.e. sciatica.

Differentiating a softer, more plush mattress from a firm one—even without trying it in person—is incredibly easy thanks to a firmness scale utilized by most mattress companies. They score mattresses from one to 10, one being incredibly plush and 10 signifying a super firm surface. Medium-firm usually falls somewhere around five to seven, while an ultra firm mattress would start around seven and continue to 10. 

If you have decided that a firm mattress is the route you want to go, you need to take into account a few things. “Anyone looking to purchase a new mattress should focus on a material which provides sufficient support of the spine yet is still comfortable enough to sleep on for the entire night,” he points out. Therefore, opting for a mattress no higher than an eight on the firmness scale is probably a good idea. 

Ultimately, you won’t know if a mattress is right for you until you test it out. Luckily, nearly every mattress company offers a generous trial period, giving you the option of taking it for a test drive to make sure it meets your criteria and helps you get a good night’s sleep.

Our Top Picks

Best Overall: Avocado Green Mattress

Avocado Green Mattress
Courtesy of Avocado.

In a short period of time, Avocado, an organic and natural mattress company based in Hoboken, New Jersey has achieved a cult following not only because they are the most environmentally conscious, ethical, and sustainable mattress companies in the world, but their beds are what good dreams and healthy backs are made of. The Avocado Green Mattress with no pillow top offers a gentle yet firm sleeping surface (a seven on the firmness scale) that supports your back while offering the utmost comfort. It is 11-inches thick and made by hand in Los Angeles out of 100% GOLS Organic certified latex from tree-tapped and sustainable sources, 100% GOTS Organic certified wool, and 100% GOTS Organic certified cotton, free of all chemicals and toxins, including polyurethane foams, memory foams, chemical flame retardants, and chemical adhesives.

While the Avocado Green isn’t the most affordable option on the market, the company is so confident that it will change your life, they offer a one-year trial, meaning that if you don’t love it after 365 days, they will offer you a full refund and donate the mattress to someone in need. They also stand by the quality of their product, offering a 25-year warranty. 

Best Budget: The Allswell

The Allswell
Courtesy of Allswell.

The Allswell is a medium firm mattress that falls somewhere between 4.5 and 6.5 on the firmness scale. The hybrid mattress features three types of performance memory foam, added edge support and individually-wrapped coils. The trifecta results in a mattress offering the supportive benefits of memory foam, while also the old school classic feel of coils at a bargain price. The popular entry level sleeping surface is one of the most affordable on the market.

Best for Back Pain: Saatva Classic

Saatva Classic
Courtesy of Saatva.

You would have a hard time locating a “best mattress” list that doesn’t include the Saatva Classic, a luxury innerspring mattress that has been a fan favorite for a decade. This versatile, high-quality and highly-rated mattress is customizable in three firmness levels—Plush Soft (a three out of 10 on the firmness scale), Luxury Firm (five to seven), and Firm (eight)—meaning it can be as firm as you need it to be. All of their mattresses are designed with pain, hip, and shoulder pain in mind, and also utilize their Lumbar Zone support technology—basically an active wire support in the center of the mattress—for optimal spinal alignment. For stomach and back sleepers who experience pain, the firmest is probably the best option. However, if you are a side sleeper and prefer a firm mattress that you can sink into a little, try the luxury firm instead. The Congress of Chiropractic State Associations is also a fan of the mattress, awarding Saatva its seal of approval. An added bonus? While many other companies opt to send their mattresses via a box, Saatva offers free white glove delivery and will remove your old mattress free of cost. If after 180 nights your sleep isn’t quite as blissful as you desire, you can have the mattress picked up and get your money back, minus a $99 transportation fee.

Best Memory Foam: Casper Element

The Element is Casper’s firmest mattress—and one of their most affordable. The coil-free mattress features two layers of foam offering support, breathability, and comfort. The top layer, perforated foam, gives it breathability wicking hot air and body heat, while the bottom layer of durable foam offers a solid base preventing you from sinking or sagging into the mattress. Casper also offers free shipping, a 100-night free, easy return policy, and a 10-year warranty.

Best Hybrid: Purple Hybrid 2

Purple Hybrid 2
Courtesy of Bloomingdale's.

When it comes to a hybrid mattress—a fusion between two different support structures—nobody does it better than Purple. The mattress features the company’s trademark 30 patent-protected Purple Grid, a pressure relieving, temperature neutral, gel grid that sits atop coils and provides a sort of body-hugging comfort unlike that you are accustomed to without traditional coils or memory foam. The Purple Hybrid 2, a six to seven on the firmness scale, features two inches of the grid, offering pressure-free support, as well as a base layer of individually wrapped responsive-support coils. The Purple is also a great option for anyone who sleeps hot, as the grid’s thousands of open air channels don’t retain heat similarly to memory foam. If you don’t love it (which we are pretty sure you will because sleeping on it is unlike anything you have ever experienced) you have up to 100 days to return it as part of their 100-Night No Pressure® Guarantee. And, for added security, it also comes with a 10-year warranty.

Best for Side Sleepers: Nectar Memory Foam

The Nectar is an incredibly comfortable sleeping solution for people who tend to sleep on their side, as it is just as firm as it needs to be while contouring to the curves of your body. The five-layer mattress trademark element is a gel memory foam layer that stabilizes your body during slumber and isolates motion. As far as firmness goes, it offers about 6.5 out of 10, according to the company.

An added bonus? Every mattress comes with two pillows, a mattress protector, as well as sheets—basically everything you need for a good night’s sleep. The company also offers an incredibly long trial period of one-year, so you will have 365 nights to decide if it is the bed of your dreams.

Best Cooling: Tuft & Needle

Overheating at night can significantly reduce your sleep quality—and some of us are more prone to it than others. If you find yourself sleeping hot, the type of mattress you choose can have a big impact. This Tuft & Needle is a highly rated, medium-firm mattress designed to keep you cool throughout the night. It is constructed out of a two-layer foam, utilizing their trademark Adaptive Foam instead of relying on latex or memory foam, embedded with charcoal and gel to help pull away heat. It features a breathable plush cover and is incredibly budget friendly. All of the brand’s mattresses are also GREENGUARD Gold and CertiPUR-US certified, meaning they are free of harmful chemicals, substances or materials.

Best Extra Firm: Plank by Brooklyn Bedding

If nothing is firm enough for you, then let us introduce you to Plank by Brooklyn Bedding. This mattress prides itself on cornering the ultra-firm market. The name perfectly describes what this mattress offers: a firm and flat sleeping surface for people who find that even the firmest isn’t firm enough. But what really takes it to the next level is that if you decide sleeping on a mattress with level 10 firmness is too hardcore, you can flip it over and enjoy the other side, a softer eight with double the quilted layer to adds some give. We also love that the company offers an upgrade, allowing the addition of a cooling top panel for hot sleepers. If you find that the Plank is too firm for your sleeping enjoyment, you have 120 days to return it. 

Final Verdict

Considering you spend about a third of your life sleeping, investing in a high-quality mattress that is comfortable and helps prevent back pain should be a priority. Of all the firm mattresses on the market, the Avocado Green Mattress takes our top honors. It has a perfect seven out of 10 on the firmness scale, just firm enough to support the spine yet still comfortable enough that you will never want to get out of bed. We also love that it is handmade in America out of the highest quality—as well as environmentally-friendly and toxic-free—materials possible. It also offers a 365-day trial period and the longest warranty of all the mattresses we reviewed. However, if the Avocado isn’t in your budget, or there is a particular sleeping concern you have, there are lots of other mattresses to consider.

What to Look for in a Firm Mattress

Type: There are a variety of different mattress types including traditional coil, memory foam, latex, and hybrid—a combination of two or more types. While all of them have pros and cons, ultimately you need to decide which you prefer. 

Price: Before you start shopping, you need to consider how much you can spend on a mattress. Keep in mind that you will likely be sleeping on it for over a decade, so it should be considered an investment. However, you can find a highly rated mattress as little as a few hundred dollars or spend up into the several thousands if you please. 

Firmness: Not all “firm” mattresses are created equally. Luckily the firmness scale helps determine which mattresses are closer to a medium firm and those that are as hard as a plank. Keep in mind that even though you think you love an extremely firm mattress, one that falls closer to seven or eight on the scale might be a little more comfortable. 

Trial Period and Warranty: While ordering a mattress without being able to test it first seems like a big risk, every single mattress company we included offers a trial period. This means that purchasing one is risk-free, and if you aren’t sleeping soundly within the allotted time, it can be easily returned. Just make sure to pay attention to the specific trial period offered by the brand. 

Why Trust Verywell Health

As an internationally recognized health writer and product guru, Leah Groth understands that nobody wants to waste their time or money on products that fail to rear results. Over the years, she has interviewed the world's top health experts and reviewed hundreds of items, to help readers like you discover the most effective health gadgets, goops, and aids that will help you look and feel your very best.

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Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Jacobson BH, Boolani A, Smith DB. Changes in back pain, sleep quality, and perceived stress after introduction of new bedding systems. J Chiropr Med. 2009;8(1):1-8. doi:10.1016/j.jcm.2008.09.002