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Are firm or soft mattresses better for stomach sleepers?

UPDATED

Written by Garen Glazier

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

Expert Tested

As the least common sleep position, stomach sleeping comes with its own set of challenges when it comes to finding the perfect mattress. Stomach sleepers require a sleep surface with even, strong support and substantial pushback so that their spines remain aligned. A mattress that’s not the correct firmness can sink and cause lingering pain.

We’ll explore what kind of mattress is best for stomach sleepers and explain whether soft or firm models are best. You’ll learn what kind of characteristics to look for in a mattress and discover how to sleep on your stomach without pain.

Take a look at our picks for the best mattress for stomach sleepers to find out which ones our testers liked most. We also included ideal models for stomach sleepers in our overall favorites for best mattress.

What kind of support do stomach sleepers need from their mattress?

Stomach sleepers need strong support that keeps their spines evenly aligned from top to bottom to ensure that their midsections don’t sink into the mattress and cause their backs to bend.

Stomach sleepers usually need more support than back and side sleepers because a mattress that compresses too deeply beneath their weight can cause significant stress on their necks and lower backs. This can also happen to back and side sleepers, but they usually don’t need as firm a sleep surface to keep their spines supported.

Our firmness scale and the ideal range for stomach sleepers

When we test mattresses in our sleep lab, we use a 10-point scale to indicate a bed’s firmness level. The lower a mattress’ number, the softer it feels, while high numbers indicate a firmer model. The majority of sleepers use a bed that’s between 3 and 8 on the firmness scale, though there are people who prefer exceptionally soft and firm mattresses.

We recommend that stomach sleepers use a mattress between medium soft (4) and extra firm (9). Body weight plays a significant part in determining which firmness to choose, as people compress mattress materials differently according to weight. Here’s a quick breakdown of our recommendations for stomach sleepers by body weight:

Under 130 lbs.130 to 230 lbs.Over 230 lbs.
Stomach sleepersMedium Soft (4) to Medium Firm (6)Medium (5) to Firm (7)Firm (7, 8) to Extra Firm (9)

Is your mattress too firm or soft for you?

If you’re a stomach sleeper who regularly wakes up with pain, your mattress may be the culprit. Keep an eye out for certain signs that you’re sleeping on a mattress that’s not the correct firmness level.

Your mattress may be too soft if…

  • You wake up regularly with neck or back pain
  • It’s tough to move around on your mattress
  • Your neck curves upward to meet your pillow 
  • You feel like you’re sinking into your mattress

Your mattress may be too firm if…

  • You have pressure points or sore spots beneath your joints
  • You find yourself having to shift sleeping positions often to get comfortable
  • There isn’t enough contouring to cushion your body

How to adjust the firmness of your mattress

If your mattress isn’t feeling quite right, there are some simple steps you can take to adjust its firmness level.

How to make your mattress softerHow to make your mattress firmer
Use the whole trial: Before returning your mattress, use it for the length of your sleep trial to break in the materials.

Try a conforming topper: Memory foam and soft latex can give your mattress more cushioning.

Change foundations: Try using a bed base with a bit more give.
Rotate your mattress: Spin your mattress 180 degrees so that both ends wear evenly.

Use a bolster: Try placing a pillow or rolled-up blanket beneath your hips to take the strain off your lower back.

Buy a topper: You can find firm mattress toppers made from polyfoam, memory foam, and latex.

Sleep Doctor’s mattress recommendations for stomach sleepers

During our sleep trials, there were a few mattresses that stood out above the rest for the stomach sleepers on our product testing team.

Our pickWhy we like it for stomach sleepers
WinkBedThe WinkBed comes in four firmness levels, and the stomach sleepers on our team gave the two firmest models top scores for support and comfort. Its hybrid construction offers plenty of edge support and it feels easy to move around on, which is important for stomach sleepers.
SaatvaThe Saatva uses extra lumbar support and two layers of coils to prevent back pain and keep stomach sleepers supported. It comes in three firmness options and two heights. Our stomach-sleeping testers liked the medium firm (6) and firm (8) models best.
PlankThe Plank mattress exists for people who truly want the firmest bed possible. This flippable mattress has two sleep surfaces, one that’s firm (7) and one that’s extra firm (9). It has top-notch edge support, sleeps cool, and keeps stomach sleepers supported on the mattress’ surface.
opening quote icon Though I’m usually a side sleeper, when I do sleep on my stomach, I find I need a firmer bed to feel comfortable. A bed that’s too soft will allow my hips to sink too far, which leads to next-day back pain. I also generally prefer to sleep without a pillow when sleeping on my stomach. opening quote icon
Garen Glazier, Staff Writer, Product Testing Team and Side Sleeper

How we test

The team at Sleep Doctor has tried hundreds of mattresses throughout the years and understands what makes a specific model worth buying.

Our team has back, side, and stomach sleepers with different body types and weights. When we recommend mattresses for stomach sleepers, we pay close attention to our testers’ rankings and also consider how well each model performs during edge support, ease of movement, and durability testing, which are all critical factors for stomach sleepers.

About The Author

Garen Glazier

Staff Writer, Product Testing Team


Garen is a health and lifestyle content creator. She realized the importance of sleep when her children made getting a good night’s rest more challenging. Garen is always learning something new about the wide world of sleep and sleep products. Married with two girls, ages 7 and 11, she is a book nerd and a lover of pop music, travel, and the Pacific Northwest.

  • POSITION: Side sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Neutral Sleeper
  • CHRONOTYPE: Wolf

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