Mattress Guides

Making a Mattress Softer

Soften your firm mattress with these helpful tricks.

By Alex Reale

There are several factors that can contribute to a good night’s sleep, and one of them is mattress firmness. While some people prefer a mattress that is extra firm, there are many sleepers who would rather have a softer sleep surface to maximize their comfort. Below, you will find just a couple of tricks and tips that will help soften up that firm mattress, giving you the best mattress experience you deserve.

Mattress Firmness Levels

All mattresses are measured on a firmness scale of one to 10. Mattresses that are on the softer side will be on the lower end of this scale, while firmer mattresses end up being higher. Certain attributes can contribute to mattress firmness or softness, and it’s important that you understand if a mattress is too firm for you. Read our mattress firmness guide for more information.

Types Of Mattresses

As a rule of thumb, innerspring mattresses are usually the firmest types available. If you’re in the market for a new mattress and you’re looking for something softer, it’s recommended that you go with memory foam, latex, or hybrid, which is a blend of foam and springs, as these are all softer sleep options.

Is Your Mattress Actually Too Firm?

In general, mattress firmness is relative. What some people may consider to be very firm and rigid can actually be just the right level of firmness for others. Depending on your body type as well as your sleeping position, mattress firmness can contribute to whether you get a good night’s sleep or not.

A mattress that’s on the higher end of the firmness scale may be beneficial for certain sleepers, such as stomach sleepers or heavyweight people. That is because the firm surface will keep your back, shoulders, and hips from sinking into the mattress and help promote spinal alignment. 

However, if you’re a side sleeper or back sleeper, or if you have a lighter body weight, then you might run into the problem of your mattress being too firm for you. When you sleep on a firm surface on your side or back, your hips and shoulders can cause your spine to be misaligned, and your pressure points can be aggravated, leading to significant back pain and neck pain in the morning (and even longer). That is why it’s important for side sleepers and back sleepers to look into softer mattresses to accommodate their sleep personalities and to provide pressure relief.

If you notice any of these signs, then it may be time to look for a softer sleep option. Since mattresses can be expensive, you may want to avoid buying a new bed altogether. Thankfully, there are methods and tricks you can use to soften your current firm mattress.

Check Your Foundation

The first step in making your mattress feel much softer is to look at the foundation or its base. Depending on which type of base you use, it can have a major impact on the overall level of firmness of your mattress, so it’s wise to carefully examine your foundation when trying to revamp your sleep experience. 

There are three major types of bed bases, each with their own benefits and strengths. Each base works especially well with a particular type of mattress.

Boxspring

A boxspring is a solid platform filled with tightly-packed springs. This type of base is typically used for innerspring mattresses, which are known for being on the higher end of the firmness scale. It’s recommended that you only use a boxspring for innerspring mattresses as it won’t have the same benefit if you were to use it with any other type of mattress such as memory foam or latex. Also remember that boxsprings should be replaced approximately every 10 years as well as if they start to become less bouncy or noisier, as this can mean they are losing their structural integrity (and thus become much firmer).

Foundation

A mattress foundation features a wooden box with wooden slats across the surface, which is covered by a breathable cloth or fabric. Although a solid foundation can make an innerspring mattress firmer, it is excellent for softening latex, foam, and hybrid mattresses. Foundations are also recognized for being very durable and supportive, meaning you can expect yours to maintain its integrity for an especially long time.

Platform Bed

An alternative to a foundation is a platform bed. This consists of a low-profile bed frame with a solid or slatted surface, and it can raise the height of your bed up to 12 inches. Like with a foundation, platform beds are designed to soften foam, latex, and hybrid mattresses. The added benefits of this base type are that they are affordable, and they have increased breathability and air circulation. Some foam mattresses may seem a bit warm because of the “hugging” sensation they give the sleeper as they sink in, but the platform bed’s circulation-promoting design can help keep you cool at night.

Break in the Bed

Buying a brand new mattress is like buying a new pair of shoes: you need to break it in. No matter what kind of mattress you purchase, it will most likely be very firm when you first have it delivered to your home. It can take between 30 to 90 days to fully break in the new mattress. This is why the majority of mattress companies will include a sleep trial period as part of every purchase, which allows you to return your mattress within the break-in period if you find that it’s not comfortable. Your mattress will become softer the more you use it, but it’s important that you remember the break-in period and that you don’t immediately write off a new mattress within those first few months.

Besides sleeping on your mattress, another way to help break in a firmer surface is by gently walking on it. However, if you have a heavier body frame, you don’t want to put too much weight on one spot of the bed all at once, so you can instead crawl on top of your mattress on your hands and knees to soften up the surface.

Rotate and Flip Your Mattress

If you’ve had your mattress for a long time and you’re noticing that it’s becoming too firm, then it might need to be rotated to help distribute weight. To do this, you simply need to rotate your mattress clockwise on its base so that the front end and back end are switched. If you have a larger mattress, it’s advised that you have someone help you with rotations as it can be very difficult to do on your own. 

Another similar method for softening your mattress is to flip it. Once again, you may want someone to help you flip a mattress, especially a larger size, so that you don’t have to struggle with it on your own. Also make sure that you have a mattress that is designed to be flipped. Some mattress types have a specific construction where you should only be sleeping on one side (these are usually innerspring or hybrid).

Buy a Soft Mattress Topper

A mattress topper is a thick slab of material that is added as a top layer to a mattress to increase comfort and softness. You’ll find that toppers can be filled with all kinds of softening materials, such as cotton, foam, down, latex rubber, and more. Adding a latex mattress topper or memory foam mattress topper to even the firmest mattress can make it much softer and more comfortable. You’ll also notice that a mattress topper can prolong the life of your mattress and help prevent it from sagging or losing its structural integrity.

A mattress pad works similarly to a topper, except it is a thinner layer. If you find that a mattress topper may make your mattress a little too soft, then a pad is a happy medium that can give you just the right amount of cushioning that you desire.

Add Layers

In lieu of a mattress topper or mattress pad, there are other ways to soften the surface of your firm bed by using blankets or comforters. These can act as cushions between you and the sleep surface. You just want to make sure that your spine remains properly aligned, and that you have enough blankets to stay warm during the colder months.

Check the Temperature

Depending on the material used in the manufacturing of your mattress, ambient room temperature can have an impact on its softness. Memory foam mattresses are known for being temperature sensitive and for becoming softer when they come in contact with body heat. Conversely, cold air can make them much firmer. One way to make your memory foam mattress softer is to check your thermostat and raise the temperature slightly; however, make sure that you still have it at a comfortable level so that you don’t overheat at night.

Conclusion

You deserve to have a mattress that’s just the right level of firmness. If you’re looking to make your firm mattress softer, hopefully these tips will help your bed feel more comfortable so that you can finally get the good night’s sleep you deserve.