Best Firm Mattresses From Consumer Reports' Tests

    If you like your bed more stiff than fluffy, you might find your dreamiest sleep with these seven options—including top-rated mattresses from Beautyrest, GhostBed, Tempur-Pedic, and more

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    Among the many criteria people consider when deciding on a mattress is its firmness level. But that’s tough to gauge unless you lie on it. To a certain extent, firmness level is subjective. One person’s best "firm" mattress might be another person’s "not firm enough." And a manufacturer’s label isn’t very helpful either. A mattress maker’s "firm" can vary as much as a clothing designer’s "size 8."

    That’s why we measure firmness levels using an objective industry test standard. This entails applying a load of up to 1,000 newtons (4.4 newtons equal about a pound) to each mattress we test, measuring its surface displacement, and plotting the results on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the firmest. This way, you can accurately compare the firmness level of one model to another and make an informed decision as to which might be the best firm mattress (or soft one) for you.

    A 7 is a 7, regardless of how the manufacturer describes it. A mattress that rates a 6 on our firmness scale will undoubtedly be more firm than a 4. This is often quite a contrast to how a mattress is officially labeled, as our tests have shown. For instance, Purple describes its Purple Hybrid (with the two-inch gel-foam grid) as its "firmest" offering, and that may very well be the case, but that mattress still receives a three out of 10 on our firmness scale, which suggests a softer feel.

    More on Mattresses

    Keep in mind, a firmness score closer to 10 doesn’t mean it’s the best mattress in terms of feel, but simply that it’s among the firmest mattresses we tested. (Similarly, a firmness score closer to 1 isn’t the worst, it’s simply among the softest mattresses we tested.) The best mattress for you might be a 7 (the highest score any of our mattresses here rated according to our scale) or it might be a 3.

    If you’re not sure where your preferences fall, head to a mattress retailer. Chris Regan, who oversees mattress testing at Consumer Reports, recommends that people start by trying mattresses that land around the middle of our firmness scale. "Then make adjustments from there," he says, "moving softer or firmer based on what they feel when lying on the mattress." (See our mattress buying guide to learn how best to assess a mattress in a store.)

    If you have back issues, you might consider moving in the higher end of the spectrum. Back pain patients, says A. Jay Khanna, MD, chief of orthopedic surgery at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, tend to prefer mattresses that are "a bit more firm and supportive than average."

    How Consumer Reports Tests Mattresses

    To find the mattresses featured in this article, we started with our most highly rated models overall, then filtered for those with a firmness score of 7 or higher. That means besides having a stiffer feel, these mattresses first and foremost offer the features that you’d want in a quality mattress in general, such as support and durability.

    We evaluate each mattress’ ability to support the body by asking human subjects of different sizes to lie on their back and side. Using lab equipment, we’re able to measure how well their spines stay aligned for each position on each mattress. To assess how well a mattress keeps its shape over time, we pass an almost-310-pound roller over the mattress 30,000 times to simulate the typical life span of eight to 10 years. We also use instruments to test stability. A mattress with a higher rating in this category will be able to isolate motion better than one with a lower rating— so if you’re shifting positions on one end of the mattress, you’re less likely to disturb your partner on the other side.

    And while our scientific ratings are a good proxy for how well you might sleep on a mattress, we also provide feedback from people who’ve actually lived with these mattresses—for up to 10 years in some cases. With data from recent surveys on CR members’ experiences with nearly 70,000 mattresses purchased within the past decade, we can calculate comfort and owner satisfaction ratings for the various mattress brands and types we’ve tested.

    The result? A ratings chart with which you can compare and contrast more than 250 mattresses, simply by filtering for criteria that matter the most to you. Below, CR members can zero in on the best firm mattresses, according to our rigorous tests and member surveys. They can also explore more options (and more firmness levels) by going directly to our comprehensive mattress ratings, or try our mattress selector tool to receive customized recommendations based on their sleep position, body size, and more.

    Best Firm Mattresses From CR’s Tests

    These top-rated mattresses all have a score of 7 out of 10 on our firmness scale. (Some of the mattresses we tested are even firmer, but they did not rate as highly overall, so we didn’t include them on this list.) They’re also great at maintaining their shape over time: Six out of seven earn an Excellent rating in our durability test; one (the Allswell Luxe Hybrid) scores a Very Good.