Firmness is quite possibly the single most important factor for most people to consider when buying a mattress.

The majority of all mattress returns take place because the product was either too soft or too firm—and there’s a good reason for that.

Sleeping on a bed with an improper firmness level can be seriously bad for your health, leading to everything from back pain to trouble sleeping.

So what are you supposed to do if your mattress is too soft or firm?

Don’t worry—you’re not just doomed to spend a third of your life on a mattress that’s causing you pain. 

Just try out some of these tips, and you’ll have a good night’s sleep back in no time!

What Does Mattress Firmness Matter?

Finding the right mattress firmness is more than just a matter of personal preference.

It’s a matter of health.

Couple wincing afrom sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress

A good mattress will have a proper level of both give and support.

Ideally, all parts of your body in contact with the mattress should be experiencing the same amount of pressure.

 Evenly distributing body weight means that you’re not placing too much pressure on any one part of your body, which can lead to pain or even more serious health issues.

It’ll give you painful pressure points, and it may cause back pain if the problem is severe enough.

If it’s at all possible, you always want to try and find the exact firmness level you need.

How to Make a Mattress Softer

If you’ve been experiencing pain or discomfort from sleeping on a too-firm mattress, there are a number of different tricks you can try out for getting it a little softer.

We’ll be going through the cheapest options in this section, since those are probably the ones you’ll want to try out first.

If none of these are working for you, though, you’ll probably want to scroll below to find out what to do next.

Break the Mattress In

Some mattresses require a bit of time to get fully broken in, which can mean having to suffer through a couple uncomfortable nights before getting the kind of sleep you paid for.

If this is a new bed, just try sleeping on it for a few more weeks and see if anything changes.

This might not seem like a great solution, since it does mean you having to settle for low quality sleep, but there’s sometimes nothing for it.

Your body will likely adjust soon enough to the new sleeping conditions anyway, so it will get a little better.

That’s the traditional advice, at least.

In reality, though, there is a slightly riskier option to try and speed up the process of breaking in your mattress.

For instance, you can try walking on it for a couple minutes every day.

This can speed up the softening, although it’s generally recommended that you take your mattress off of the box spring and bedframe and set it on the floor before you do this, since it could cause damage to the other parts of your bed setup.

Not all mattress companies might be too happy if you find out you’re doing this, though, and theoretically, this might cause some kind of damage to your mattress.

You could also risk voiding your mattress warranty if your supplier finds out (although you’ll want to double-check on this).

That said, none of these consequences seem super likely.

Just be sure not to jump on the mattress or put any extreme amount of pressure on it, since this can actually be very bad for the springs.

Get Looser Sheets

This isn’t going to completely change your sleeping experience, but tight sheets make mattresses firmer to sleep on.

Try investing in a slightly bigger set of sheets and see if that helps at all.

It’s at least something!

Turn Up the Thermostat

If your mattress is made with memory foam, you might also want to consider turning the thermostat up a couple degrees.

This is because memory foam is viscoelastic and it softens in response to higher temperatures.

Most of the time this happens automatically because of your body heat, but if your memory foam mattress is just generally too firm, turning the heat up a little might help you out.

How to Make a Mattress Firmer

There are several options for making a mattress firm enough to sleep on, most of which are simple enough for you to try out tonight. 

We’ll cover the easiest and least-expensive possibilities in this section, since these are probably the ones you’ll want to try out first.

If you try these and still aren’t seeing the results you want, scroll down to check out some more substantial investments you might want to make.

Flip Your Mattress

A lot of the time, all you need to fix your too-soft mattress is to just flip the dang thing over!

In a lot of mattresses, the upper comfort layers wear out and get too soft long before the springs do.

So by just flipping your mattress over, you might be able to save yourself a whole lot of trouble.

Be sure to check that your mattress is actually meant to be flipped before you do this, of course—nobody wants to be sleeping on the bottom level of a memory foam mattress.

Insert a Plywood Board

Another easy option for increasing your mattress’s firmness is to simply insert a plywood board between it and the box spring.

Stack of plywood boards

This is cheaper than replacing your entire foundation, and it can often give you similar results.

This mostly helps if the sag is coming from the bottom of your mattress, rather than from the upper layers.

Just be sure to get a board of the right size, though—too small, and you won’t be supporting the entire mattress; too big, and you risk injuring yourself climbing up into bed.

If the plywood has any splinters sticking up or sharp edges, you’ll probably want to take care of those as well, since they might damage your mattress if they get caught.

Place Your Mattress on the Floor

Another option is to simply place your mattress on the floor.

If you have hardwood flooring in your bedroom, this will provide you with the same amount of support as plywood or a good foundation.

This can be bad for your mattress’s durability if you have an old-school double-sided mattress, but most modern products do just fine if you stick them on the floor.

This probably isn’t a permanent solution, since sticking your mattress directly on the floor looks kind of weird and probably doesn’t have the same kind of bounce as you’re used to, but it can help in a pinch.

Turn Down the A/C

If your mattress is made with memory foam, you have yet another option for making your mattress slightly firmer. 

Just knock the A/C down a couple degrees!

This can help firm up memory foam, since it’s “viscoelastic” that gets softer in the heat and harder in the cold.

You might shy away from turning the thermostat down so low, but actually, a lot of research shows that you want to keep your room around 65 degrees if you want to get the best sleep, anyway!

More Substantial Investments for Your Mattress

If you’ve tried out the tips above and still aren’t seeing results, it’s probably time to start thinking about some more serious investments.

Shopping woman holding a credit card

You don’t want to rush into any decisions here, but keep in mind how important your sleep is.

A good night’s sleep can change you entire quality of life, so these investments might just be worth it!

Get a Mattress Topper/Pad

One option is to invest in a mattress pad or topper.

These basically act as another layer of mattress, allowing you to completely change the feel of your product.

There’s a pretty big price range when you start shopping around with these things—some are under $100, while some might cost you a couple hundred.

It all really depends on your budget, your wants, and your needs.

You can read more about all the advantages and varieties of mattress toppers in our article here.

Get a New Box Spring

A new box spring can also help you get your mattress to the firmness level you need.

To make your mattress softer, consider investing in a coil box spring.

These tend to be softer and bouncier than the harder options on the market, which could be just the thing for you.

If you want your mattress firmer, on the other hand, first check to make sure you actually have a box spring if you’re not sleeping on a platform bed.

Unless your bed has slats in the middle supporting your mattress, you need a box spring.

Otherwise, you’ll experience severe sagging (and seriously damage your mattress).

And even if you do have a box spring, it might be too old and no longer giving you the kind of support it’s supposed to.

A new wood or metal foundation might help.

Get a New Mattress

I saved this option for last because I know it’s probably the one you’re least excited about.

A new mattress is a big investment, after all, and not something you probably want to do any more often than you have to.

That said, a new mattress can also prove a tremendous opportunity!

If none of these options were working out for you, consider researching a mattress that can get you the kind of sleep your body needs.

We recommend the Dreamcloud or Layla if you’re struggling to find somewhere to start, and you can check out our complete guide to the best mattresses.

Conclusion About Changing Mattress Firmness

Getting the right firmness level is a crucial step in achieving a good night’s sleep.

Just listen to your body, and make the changes you know it needs.

Quality sleep is often the first step to a better life, and by finding the best mattress firmness for you, you’ll be one step closer to the sleep of your dreams!

Ted Wilson

Ted Wilson

Founder and Owner

Ted is the founder and owner of Mattress Guides and is an expert in his field. Ted believes that having the right mattress is key to getting a good night’s sleep and feeling well-rested in the morning.

Updated at April 22, 2020