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TOP 5 Best Extra Firm Mattresses in 2021 – Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

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Written by: Alex Savy
Read 29 minLast updated on August 25, 2021


Sleeping on a cloud doesn’t work for everyone.

In fact, some people would rather lay on a stiffer bed than on a squishy soft mattress. If you are one of them, you may find this guide helpful.

We are going to look at the 5 best extra-firm mattresses and learn what aspects to consider when shopping. So, let’s get started!

A Quick Preview

Plank Mattress by Brooklyn Bedding
Editor's Choice

Plank Mattress by Brooklyn Bedding
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Saatva
Second Best Choice

Saatva
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Winkbeds
Best for Heavier Users

Winkbeds
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Amerisleep AS1
Best for Back and Stomach Sleepers

Amerisleep AS1
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Novosbed
Best Cooling Mattress

Novosbed
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List of 5 Best Extra Firm Mattresses

Editor's Choice - Plank Mattress by Brooklyn Bedding

Plank Mattress by Brooklyn-Bedding-min

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Highlights:

  • flippable design with Firm and Extra Firm sides;
  • comes with an optional cooling panel;
  • minimalist design.

Tired of searching for a mattress that is firm enough to your taste? Or maybe, you aren’t sure which firmness you need? The Plank mattress by Brooklyn Bedding can be a solution in both cases. Its 2-in-1 firmness can help you choose the right feel and will offer unbeatable spinal support no matter what your final choice will be.

According to the manufacturer, the mattress has a Firm (8/10) and Ultra Firm (10/10) sides. The former offers just a drop of sinkage to relieve pressure in your back and shoulders, while the latter delivers a truly floating feel and offers some benefits for your circulatory system.

Now, beds like the Plank typically sleep cooler but you can ask for an additional cooling panel just in case. This panel is made of phase-change materials (PCMs) that can ensure comfortable sleep throughout the year. 

Now, being one of the best extra firm mattresses, the Plank also comes with great edge support. Brooklyn Bedding states that they use the most durable and firmest foams in the industry, so you can expect a sturdy perimeter for a longer time.

Even though The Ultra-Firm side seems pretty hard at first, it’s quite supportive and comfortable to sleep on. And the regular Firm side can offer you a good level of pressure relief and proper spinal support.

Second Best Choice - Saatva

Saatva

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Highlights:

  • offers precise contouring thanks to the coil-on-coil construction;
  • reinforced perimeter;
  • additional lumbar layer for spine support.

Saatva is one of the best extra firm mattresses for a bunch of reasons, with the main being the luxurious quality of materials and high responsiveness.

This is one of the few innerspring mattresses on the market with a ‘coil on coil’ supportive construction — that is, two layers of springs placed atop each other.

The upper layer is the individually wrapped pocketed micro-coils, which are among the latest innovations on the market.  They ensure pin-point conforming and eliminate motion transfer. The lower layer is made of a solid steel coil block. Its main features are increased stability, enhanced edge support, and anti-sagging design.

The brand also tries to make its product suitable for people with specific issues. Thus, the mattress has a reinforced foam pad in the lumbar area to help people with back pain make their sleep more rejuvenating.

So, if you’re a fan of a traditional bed with spring blocks but don’t mind a bit of luxury and comfort, then this model by Saatva will definitely appeal to you.

Best for Heavier Users - WinkbedsWinkbed-P1077807

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Highlights:

  • four firmness levels, including one for heavy sleepers;
  • zoned spine support;
  • breathable materials.

Now, you must know how hard it might be to find the right mattress if you’re a large person...

Well, don’t worry, WinkBeds has you covered.

The Firm Plus model by WinkBeds is on this list of top-rated extra firm beds because it is designed specifically for heavy users.

The construction of this mattress is targeted to support larger loads and can withstand active use even of two heavy sleepers without sagging. The seven-zone support system of coils aligns your spine and provides enhanced support for the lumbar area.

Motion isolation is key if you have another sleeper by your side. In the WinkBeds, undisturbed sleep is achieved by using polyfoam as the base and edge support foam encasement around the coils. These two absorb unwanted motion, compensating for the bounciness of springs and latex.

By the way, the layer of latex is a great component of the entire construction, as it promotes a healthier microclimate inside the mattress. And the breathable Tencel cover quilted with gel-infused foam improve temperature regulation as well.

Overall, if you’re a larger person who loves sleeping atop the bed rather than getting stuck in it, then this is the mattress you need. It’s also a great option for hot sleepers.

Winkbeds-P1077851
Winkbeds-P1077848

Best for Back and Stomach SleepersAmerisleep AS1

Amerisleep AS3

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Highlights:

  • 20-year warranty for extended customer protection;
  • superb support levels to ensure proper spinal alignment when sleeping on one’s back or stomach;
  • plant-based Bio-Pur foam to create a cooler and safer sleep environment.

If you are looking for the best extra-firm mattress and appreciate sturdy support, you might want to consider the Amerisleep AS1. This model would be ideal for stomach or back sleepers who require reliable support and minimal cushioning. The AS1 uses only two foam layers and feels quite rigid. With this mattress, you don’t have to worry about sinking and creating an unhealthy curve in your spine during the night.

However, despite being firm, this mattress can still offer close conforming and high comfort levels. I was testing it sleeping on my back, and I felt moderately cradled. This reduced tension in my back and made me relax much faster. So, if you appreciate close conforming combined with firm support, the AS1 by Amerisleep can be just the right pick for you.

Best Cooling Mattress - Novosbed

Novosbed

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Highlights:

  • washable Tencel cover;
  • adjustable firmness with a Comfort+ kit;
  • great value for money.

Novosbed holds a place in this list of the best extra firm mattresses because it can help you deal even with chronic hot sleeping and will turn your sleep into a blissful experience.

The mattress features a pretty basic all-foam construction with some twists. First, it uses open-cell foams that retain less body heat than traditional memory foam, thus promoting airflow between mattress layers.

Second, Novosbed is wrapped into a removable Tencel cover that feels soft and cool to the touch. Tencel fibers are derived from eucalyptus leaves, which makes the material hypoallergenic and harmless for your skin. Also, the fabric effectively wicks away moisture and prevents you from drowning in your sweat.

Finally, speaking of the supportive properties, Novosbed excels at providing support with some sinkage to relax your pressure points, which is especially great for the supine position.

Novosbed Back Sleeping

Also, the bed has some bounce and doesn’t limit your mobility, which can be an advantage for some.

Overall, Novosbed is a comfortable mattress that doesn’t make you sleep hot and seems pretty long-lasting, so investing in it will pay off in the long term.

How Is Mattress Firmness Measured?

Measuring the mattress firmness usually refers to the overall feeling you get when you first lie on the bed. Thus, defining the firmest mattress might be a daunting task if it’s based on subjective human preferences.

That’s why most mattress brands use a universally accepted firmness scale from 1 to 10 points, where 1 refers to a very soft sinking feel, while 10 is the hardest surface you can sleep on, such as concrete.

According to this scale, all mattresses are divided into three main groups:

  • Soft (3-5 points out of 10). These mattresses are rather plushy and cradling. They offer you generous sinkage and conforming properties.
  • Medium (5-7 points out of 10). These have a more balanced feel and adapt to your body weight evenly.
  • Firm (7-9 out of 10). If you love the feeling of floating atop your bed and don’t seek much cushioning, then this is your choice.

Not all mattress brands follow this scale, though. Some refer to a reversed type, where 10 is the softest feel. So, keep that in mind or refer to mattress reviews when searching for needed firmness.

Pros and Cons of Extra-Firm Beds


Now, let’s talk about the pros and cons that define an ultra-firm mattress among models with different points on the scale.

The main advantages of extra-firm beds are:

  • Lower price. This is because they often have fewer comfort layers than softer models. And fewer layers means the production process requires less resources and costs less.

  • Longer lifespan. Firm beds are sturdier in construction and use denser materials for their core layers. This means they last longer and are less prone to sagging and indentations.
    However, this aspect would depend on the foundation. Even an extra-firm mattress can develop soft sports and lose its supportive properties if it’s not supportive enough. Now, solid foundations usually deliver firm, reliable support. Slatted models must make sure the slats aren’t spaced too far from each other.

  • Better edge support. If you’re a person who shares a bed with a partner or prefers to sleep close to the edge, enhanced edge support is what you should look for. Compared to softer mattresses, most extra firm models have less compression across the entire surface, including the edges.

  • Less prone to odours. Because of the denser materials used, really firm mattresses can release fewer gaseous chemicals. They are also more immune to mildew development, which can also cause a funky smell to appear.

  • Easier to move. Obviously, the more layers inside the mattress, the heavier it will be. That’s why if you buy a queen-sized mattress, larger king, or Cal king, you’ll still be able to move it with less effort than a thicker, softer mattress.


There are a few drawbacks of extra-firm beds you should know about:

  • Minimal pressure relief. Because you don’t have much sinkage or hug when sleeping on a firm mattress, your pressure points aren’t cradled properly, especially if you’re a side sleeper.

  • Sometimes extra-firm mattresses aren’t sex-friendly. The critical factor of the best bed for sex is the balance between motion response and cushioning. Firm mattresses, while being very responsive, might lack proper cushioning, which means that they can make up an uncomfortably hard surface for some people.

  • Lower thickness. Again, the thinner the comfort layers, the thinner your mattress will be. Keep in mind that this just isn’t to everyone’s liking.

  • Not usually compatible with sleeping on one side. This sleeping style is the most common, which means an extra-firm mattress might not work for a very wide range of users. The thing is, when sleeping on one side on a firm mattress, users can experience sore pressure points. Elbows and hips would push against the surface of the mattress instead of being hugged by the comfort layers. This usually causes pressure build-up and often - pain.



Always refer to the overall feel when choosing the perfect bed. The best way to define whether a mattress is suitable for you is to test several options with the needed firmness level.

Is an Extra-Firm Mattress Right for You?

Now, after defining the key features of a bed, you need to make sure it’s the right option for you. Along with personal preferences, you’ll probably benefit from sleeping on an ultra-firm mattress if you’re a:

  • Back sleeper. When sleeping on your back, your spine is in the most relaxed position. You need even support to maintain its natural alignment. 
  • Stomach sleeper. Although sleeping on your stomach is considered the least healthy position, for some people it’s the only way to ensure restorative sleep. So, if you fall asleep on your tummy, you might need a firmer bed that will support your lower back without creating awkward curves. 
  • Person with circulatory problems. An extra-firm mattress keeps your spine in the neutral position, thus reducing the pressure on your muscles, organs, and overall system. And since there are no pinched and squeezed blood vessels, you can maintain healthy blood circulation through the night.
  • Back pain sufferer. Although research mostly shows that medium firmness is best for people who experience back pain (1), some studies found that firmer beds may bring more pain relief than softer ones (2).  The thing is, a firm mattress is likelier to help sleepers maintain a properly aligned, neutral spine during the night. A stiffer mattress can prevent unwanted sinkage and spine curvatures, keeping it relatively straight and thus, preventing pressure (and pain) build-up in certain areas of the back.
  • People with somewhat limited mobility (for instance, due to back or hip pain). Because firmer mattresses aren’t hugging, they aren’t likely to restrict one’s movement either. Additionally, stiff models have stronger edges. This could come in handy for those users who find it a bit difficult to get out of bed. They can rely on the mattress’s edges, press into them, and get a little boost to stand up. With a softer mattress, that would be quite hard.
  • Heavy person. If your BMI is 30 or more, then softer mattresses will probably feel like a hammock for you. A firmer bed with a proper support system will distribute your weight more evenly.
  • Hot sleepers. Sleeping on a firm mattress feels like lying on top of it instead of being cradled by the comfort layers. Therefore, because users aren’t enveloped by the mattress, they usually don’t experience heat retention when using firmer models.

Children may also benefit from sleeping on a firmer bed. As their spine and bones are still growing, they need to be properly aligned to prevent protrusions and scoliosis. Also, infants and newborns are recommended to sleep on firm surfaces to avoid the risk of suffocation and SIDS.

People Who Don’t Have to Sleep on an Ultra Firm Mattress

So, you’ve learned about the types of people who may receive the most beneficial sleep on a firm mattress. Now, you may want to check if you’re falling into any of the three groups of people who certainly need to choose softer beds, according to mattress reviews and science:

  • Lightweight sleepers. Thin people just don’t have enough weight to sink into a firm mattress. Thus, their bed will seem even firmer for them, and even the presence of a pillow top layer won’t help them achieve the desired level of comfort.
  • Older people. This is rather a controversial point. As mentioned above, elderly sleepers might benefit from a firm mattress if they suffer from chronic pains. Yet, the benefits of softer mattresses for older people are their cradling properties and ability to retain heat (due to the fact that thermoregulation impairs with age).
  • Side sleepers. Side sleeping is the most common position among Americans. However, ultra-firm mattresses aren’t the best option to achieve good shut-eye if you’re a side sleeper (3), because you need more cradling for your protruding hips and shoulders. A softer mattress will serve much better for you. I'm a side sleeper, so check the picture below to get to know more about side sleeping on firm mattresses.

side sleeping on firm mattress

If you have acid reflux or suffer from sleep apnea, then your doctor or health practitioner might recommend sleeping on your side. In this case, a firm mattress will not be the bed of choice for you. However, make sure you consult your doctor first.

Checklist for Finding the Perfect Extra Firm Bed

Okay, so you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided that a firm mattress is the bed you want. Here are some other points to keep in mind before making your final purchase:

  • Consider dual firmness. If you have a partner who has a totally different firmness preference, you’ll likely not want to purchase an extra-firm king mattress, unless you’re happy sleeping on the couch. Instead, consider choosing models with different firmness levels on both the left and right side. This allows for the needs of both partners to be satisfied.
  • Add some layers. Remember that your perception of firmness may change as you get used to your new bed.mattress layers to make it firmer Or, you may find the mattress feels too firm shortly after your free trial period expires. In this case, you may be able to alter the feel by adding a mattress topper or cushioning pad. You can add extra layers on top of the cover or place them under the cover if the mattress construction allows you to do that. Some brands offers this solution (Novosbed for example), here how it looks like:  
  • Choose a flippable mattress. If you are still not sure about the firmness you need, search for a flippable bed. These models have different firmness levels on both sides, so you can flip your mattress and use the second sleeping surface if you end up not liking the first one.
  • Find the supportive pillow. A suitable pillow is as crucial for your rest as the mattress itself. For a firm bed, you might want to choose a higher, firmer pillow, especially if you’re a side sleeper. Softer models with a small loft won’t provide enough support for your neck, and you may wake up in pain.
  • Get the most out of your free trial period. If you’re buying a bed online, you can make use of an extended trial period. Most online brands will gladly offer you this option, if you ask. During this period, you can expect a hassle-free refund if you find the mattress isn’t suitable for you. Typically, these trials vary from 90–120 days, which is pretty long compared to the standard return period in a brick-and-mortar store.
  • Check the warranty coverage. After your trial ends, you may still be eligible for mattress replacement or a full refund if the purchased product appears to be defective. Most mattress brands guarantee the sagging depth will be not deeper than the level specified in the warranty conditions. If the mattress sags below that level, you can use the warranty to get a new mattress. Sagging is just one of the possible defects covered by warranty.
  • Consider the edge support. Strong edges may really be helpful if you and your partner require more space or simply like to sleep near the edge. Most firmer mattresses have reliable edges, especially if we are talking about hybrid models. Now, as for foam mattresses, their edges tend to compress more. You might still find extra-firm foam mattresses that have strong edges, but not all of them can support one’s body properly during sleep. So, it’s always better to check the reviews first and see what people have to say about the edge support of the model you are considering.
  • Decide on the cooling components. Even though most firm mattresses aren’t likely to retain heat, some sleepers may require a bit extra to remain cool during the night. Now, innerspring and latex mattresses usually perform the best in terms of thermoregulation. Hybrid models can also sleep cool, especially those with firmer comfort layers. As for the foam, it might be a better idea to choose mattresses that have an open-cell structure. They are more breathable and can keep hot sleepers cool during the night. Another solution could be gel-infused foam. The gel particles trap the excess heat, keeping the sleeper sweat-free.

Remember that any spills or stains on your mattress will void your warranty and you won’t be able to return or replace your bed. For this reason, it’s important that you invest in a good quality mattress protector.

What Is the Best Type of Extra-Firm Mattresses?

Even in the extra-firm category, there are plenty of mattresses to choose from.

That’s why it can often be hard for some shoppers to find the best option among the available models.

However, understanding the differences between mattress types can help users narrow down the list and single out something that would be ideal for them.

So, here are the main types of firm mattresses:

  • Memory foam. Foam mattresses are loved by countless sleepers, and there are many reasons for that. Foam is famous for its pressure-alleviating properties. It’s an adaptive material that fills in the body curves and allows for a gentle hug where needed. As a result, this usually leads to proper weight distribution and reduced levels of pressure. Foam is also quite popular among couples. Such mattresses respond slowly to pressure and don’t offer much of a bounce. Therefore, they can absorb shock from movement effectively, which is crucial for undisturbed partnered sleep. Now, foam is notorious for trapping heat, but it’s not very likely for extra-firm mattresses to cause such issues. 
  • Innerspring. Spring mattresses are among the most affordable options on the market. They are quite resilient and bouncy, which sometimes can be an issue for partnered sleepers (as shock from motion can easily travel from one side of the bed to the other). However, this works great for combination sleepers. They can move and shift in bed without feeling restricted. Innerspring mattresses are also famous for their thermoregulating properties. Because coils allow the air to circulate freely, spring models don’t sleep hot. They also have extra-sturdy edges, which makes getting out of bed easier (and creates more sleeping space for users).
  • Hybrid. This mattress type is ideal for someone who wants the best from the two worlds, as hybrids use both coils and foam (sometimes also latex). Coils serve as a resilient base, while foam or latex are used for the comfort layers. As a result, hybrid mattresses often have a very balanced feel - neither too bouncy nor too cradling. They can be quite expensive, though. Additionally, hybrid models tend to be extra-thick and bulkier than many other mattresses, which makes them difficult to transport.
  • Latex. It is possible to find an extra-firm latex mattress, but the number of options would be a bit limited. Latex is similar to memory foam - it is adaptive and cradling. Plus, it does an excellent job of alleviating pressure. At the same time, latex responds fast to pressure, so it’s not as restricting or hugging as foam. This mattress type belongs to the most expensive category, so shoppers should keep this aspect in mind. That being said, latex mattresses are also among the most durable ones. Another strong suit of this material is its ability to resist bacteria growth and dust mites. This makes latex mattresses a great solution for sleepers who often have to deal with environmental allergies.

F.A.Q.

Are extra-firm mattresses good for the back?

Yes, especially for heavier sleepers. A firmer mattress can keep the spine properly supported and thus, aligned. This is a crucial step towards keeping one's back healthy.

Will an ultra-firm mattress become softer with time?

Yes. As the material of the layers starts wearing off with time, a firm mattress can become softer. However, for quality models, this doesn’t usually happen for many years.

Who shouldn't get an ultra-firm mattress?

Side sleepers are often advised to avoid firmer mattresses. An overly stiff sleeping surface can cause painful pressure points in the shoulders and hips when sleeping on one side. The same rule applies to lightweight users (and all sleep positions).

Final Word

As you can see, even though you know your preferred firmness level of your ideal mattress, there are lots of other points to consider before buying a mattress. I hope that this guide has answered all the questions you might encounter when shopping and has given you several worthy candidates to consider as your next mattress.

Remember that extra-firm mattress definitely isn’t the most common choice. However, some sleepers — such as those who sleep on their stomach or are on the heavier side — may benefit from this firmness level. To make the most of your purchase, be sure to opt for models with denser foams that maintain their shape, or choose hybrids with a solid steel unit that typically feels firmer than individually wrapped coils.

Now, IMO, among all the mattress models, the Plank by Brooklyn Bedding is a solid choice. This mattress offers the luxury of two different firmness levels thanks to its flippable design, while sleeping comfortably cool, which so many users appreciate!

Do you know the firmness level of your current mattress? After reading this article, would you consider swapping it for a different one?

I’m curious to know — which model from this list is the most appealing to you?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

References

  1. Francisco M. Kovacs, Víctor Abraira, Andrés Peña, José Gerardo Martín-Rodríguez, Manuel Sánchez-Vera, Enrique Ferrer, Domingo Ruano, Pedro Guillén, Mario Gestoso, Alfonso Muriel, Javier Zamora, María Teresa Gil del Real, Nicole Mufraggi (2003, November 15). Effect of Firmness of Mattress on Chronic Non-Specific Low-Back Pain: Randomised, Double-Blind, Controlled, Multicentre Trial. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14630439/
  2. S. R. Garfin, S. A. Pye (February 1981) Bed Design and Its Effect on Chronic Low Back Pain--A Limited Controlled Trial. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6453325/
  3. Richard Shaehler, MD (2017, October 25). Considerations When Choosing a Mattress. Retrieved from https://www.spine-health.com/wellness/sleep/considerations-when-choosing-mattress

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