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Life is too short to spend it sleeping on a bed that doesn’t make you feel like a million bucks.
If you just bought a mattress and it seems overly firm, you’ll need to figure out a few things:
- Does it feel hard just because it’s new? Will it soften up over time?
- Did you buy something that simply isn’t right for you?
In the first case, you should be happy with your bed in no time, and we’ve got a few tips that’ll help you break in your bed so it’s more comfortable.
Making Your Firm Mattress Soft
Check Your Foundation
If you’ve recently bought a mattress and it feels too firm, the first thing you should do is check your foundation. The reason is that not all types of mattresses are suited for different types of foundations. For example, if you recently switched from an innerspring bed to memory foam, you’ll need to ditch the box spring.
On the other hand, if you have something that’s not memory foam, then a box spring foundation could make your bed feel softer.
As a general rule, remember that box springs are designed for innerspring mattresses. Just as the name implies, it’s a box with springs inside that function as motion isolators for bouncy and disruptive coiled beds.
The foundation itself can be either a solid or slatted platform. Platforms tend to make a surface firmer, so if you’re feeling uncomfortable and have a foam bed, consider using an adjustable base that may not be as hard.
Replace Bed Frame or Slats
You may also consider replacing your bed frame or just the slats that go on it. Flat, solid slats can make a bed feel firmer, but using sprung slats could soften things up. Sprung slats have a curved angle to them and since they have more give, this could provide you with more cushioning and comfortable support.
Learn More: Do You Need a Box Spring for Your Mattress?
Stepping on the Bed
A brand-new mattress may be firmer than you anticipated, but you can easily soften it up by taking a few steps – literally. You can break it in by sleeping on it night after night, and you’ll experience some softening over time. However, if you want more comfortable sleep sooner, you can walk across the top of it every day, preferably for several minutes at a time, and that should soften it up quicker.
Need more info? Find out how to break in a new mattress here.
Use a Mattress Topper
Buying a topper is one of the quickest, most effective, and cheapest ways to make a hard surface softer. By adding a softer layer to the top of your bed, you can enhance pressure point relief and contouring. There are different materials available, including latex, memory foam, wool, cotton, feather, polyfoam, and down alternative.
The most popular option is memory foam. If you go with this variety, get something that is closer to two inches thick and a lower density for extra softness.
View Our Full Guide: Best Mattress Topper
Warm it Up
This tip works if you’re sleeping on a memory foam mattress. Because memory foam responds to external temperatures, a warm room will make it softer, and a cold room will make it harder. If you’re sleeping in a chilly bedroom, consider upping the thermostat a few degrees to make things warmer.
Rotate and Flip It
If your mattress can be rotated or flipped, this option might provide some relief. Some companies have dual-sided beds in which one side is softer than the other. To flip the bed to the softer side for a dual-sided mattress, you’ll want to turn it over so that the original top side now faces down.
If you choose to rotate your mattress, you’ll want to turn it 180 degrees so that the area that supported your head will now support your feet and vice versa. Additionally, regularly rotating your mattress is important because it helps even out wear and tear.
Find Out More: How Often Should You Flip Your Mattress?
Change the Sleeping Position
If you’re still struggling to soften your bed, try changing how you sleep. Certain sleep positions are more compatible with firmer surfaces, including on the stomach and on the back. Sleeping on your back is considered a healthy sleep position, particularly for spinal alignment. While side sleepers may find that a firmer mattress doesn’t have enough cushioning, the robust support could be ideal for keeping your back aligned while lying face-up. Stomach sleeping is the most compatible with a firm mattress, and if you sleep on your stomach safely, it could help you feel more comfortable on your bed.
Making Your Soft Mattress Firm
Check Your Foundation
If your bed is getting older, the first thing you should do is check your foundation to make sure everything is intact and there hasn’t been excessive wear and tear. Without a solid foundation, you’re likely to feel the uncomfortable effects of a sagging mattress.
If you have a boxspring, check to make sure that it feels firm and resilient. If not, it’s time to have it replaced. If you have a platform with slats, check to make sure that none of them are broken or sagging, and that they’re no more than three inches apart. Anything more and the bed won’t have enough support, which will create a sagging or sinking feeling.
Interested in learning more? Check out the signs of sleeping on a bad mattress.
Here’s a cool life hack that’ll only cost you a couple of bucks: put a thin board, like plywood, between the mattress and the box spring. You’ll get a firmer surface, and if you and your partner have different preferences, you can just put the board on one side of the bed.
View Our Comparison: Box Springs vs. Slats
Make it Cooler
As mentioned earlier, memory foam responds to temperature. Since you can make a mattress softer by warming it up, the same is true when you want to make it harder. Cooling the room down to a lower temperature will stiffen up the material and make your bed feel firmer.
Rotate and Flip It
While this tip was mentioned as a way to make a hard mattress softer, it’s usually more effective for making a soft and saggy cushion feel firm again. We tend to sleep in the same area of the bed, and therefore, it’s not unusual for it to have indentations and body impressions that rob your body of support.
By rotating or flipping it, you may be able to find a spot that has the firmness you’re seeking.
Mattress Topper (again)
Although it’s a lot easier to use a topper to make a firm bed soft than the other way around, it is still possible. There are a couple of materials that will subtly enhance the firmness of your mattress, though it won’t be dramatic. The materials you should look for are Dunlop latex and compact wool. Avoid foams, as they can have the opposite effect.
Does your bed have a removable zipper cover? If so, you may be able to take out old, saggy layers with fresh, firm ones. You may need to get the help of a professional and make sure you double-check your warranty. Manufacturers tend to void a warranty if you’ve materially altered their products.
How to Make Your Bed Comfortable
Have you ever had one of those days when you long for the moment that you can get home, crawl under the blankets, and relax? Pure heaven, right?
One of the easiest ways to help a bed feel more comfortable is through a special layering technique:
- Soft flannel sheets: In cooler weather, nothing beats the coziness of flannel sheets. When the weather heats up, you can switch to lightweight cotton sheets.
- Add a memory foam mattress topper: Side sleepers tend to need more pressure relief on their hips and shoulders. A topper made out of memory foam provides the perfect amount of cradling support.
- Add a mattress pad cover: Get a quilted variety that holds your topper in place while doing double duty as an extra layer of padding.
- Get a body pillow: Body pillows can provide something to cuddle with while you rest. For solo sleepers, you can get the benefits of a snuggle partner without the added body heat
Frequently Asked Questions
Does a hard bed cause back pain?
Beds that are too hard or too soft can both cause back pain. In the case of one that is too firm, you’ll find that it can exacerbate discomfort in your pressure points. Conversely, a bed that’s too soft may not give enough support for healthy spine alignment, which can worsen back pain.
Get More Info: Is Your Mattress Causing You Back Pain?
Why does a new mattress feel firm?
Some types of mattresses feel firm when they’re brand new, and they can take some time to settle. This is especially true for memory foam. Some online companies compress their beds in a box for shipping. When a company does this, you’ll find that it will already be soft.
However, if your bed arrives fully intact, expect a bit of an adjustment period that could be 30 days or more. Just like when you buy shoes and have to break them in to get rid of that “new” feeling, the same holds true for this type of product.
Does adding plywood underneath the bed make it firmer?
Yes, placing plywood underneath a bed can help make it firmer. You only need to do this if you have boxsprings. Otherwise, a solid platform frame will have the same effect.
Can I make my memory foam mattress firmer?
Yes, there are a few ways to make a memory foam bed feel firmer. The first is to sleep in a colder room. Cooler temperatures firm up the foam material. The second option is to invest in a firm mattress topper.
Whether you got a new bed that doesn’t match your expectations, or you have an old bed that’s starting to show its age, you can use one or more of these tips and make your sleep experience something that you can look forward to each night.
Jill Zwarensteyn is the editor for Sleep Advisor and a certified sleep science coach. She is enthusiastic about providing helpful and engaging information on all things sleep and wellness.
Based in Los Angeles, she is an experienced writer and journalist who enjoys spending her free time at the beach, hiking, reading, or exploring new places around town.
She’s also an avid traveler who has a personal goal of being able to successfully sleep on an airplane someday.