Firmness = support?

I, like many others on this site, have been consumed in the search process for a great mattress. I have decided I am going to purchase from Brooklyn Bedding. My husband and i both like the tempurpedic Cloud Lux, so we are inclined to go with BB cool lux. However, we have been encouraged to go with the cloud Supreme because my husband is 6’3" 235 lbs ( all muscle) and i am 5’3" 135 and he thinks we need the extra support. I dont really like the supreme, as i feel it is very firm, my husband doesnt seem to care which mattress we get, although I think he does like the softer surface. My question is, does firmness equate to support? If the supprt layers are sufficient in the cool lux, which they seem to be, cant they hold his size frame well enough? This issue confuses me and i dont really want to make a mistake. I wonder if I should perhaps get the supreme and put a good gel foam topper on it, but I am not sure if this is a good idea. Any advice you can give me be SO appreciated. Thanks very much!

Hi Lsawilson,

The two main functions of every mattress are to keep your spine and joints inside the range of their neutral alignment in all your sleeping positions and to relieve pressure by redistributing your weight across the surface of the mattress.

Because your body is much more curvy than flat and some parts of the body weight more than others (such as the hips/pelvis) and some parts are wider than others (such as the shoulders) … good support/alignment means that parts of your body need to be “allowed” to sink in more deeply and that other parts of your body need to be “stopped” from sinking in too deeply so that the end result is neutral alignment of the spine and joints. Post #6 here uses an example of floating in the air and slowly sinking onto the mattress surface to help you visualize this.

If you were to sleep on your side on the floor for example there would be no support under the waist because most of your weight would be on your hips and shoulders and the middle part of your body would sag onto the floor and your spine would be out of alignment.

In the same way … if you were to sleep on a thick layer of soft foam on the floor then you would certainly sink in far enough to fill in the gaps in the recessed parts of your body but the heavier parts of your body such as your pelvis would sink down too far before they were “stopped” and your pelvis would tilt which also leads to misalignment of the spine. You can see from the diagram here that a mattress that is too soft or a mattress that is too firm can both provide poor support under different parts of the body. There is more about “primary support” (under the heavier parts of the body) and “secondary support” (under the lighter or more recessed parts of the body) and their relationship to pressure relief in post #4 here.

Heavier body types will tend to sink into a mattress more deeply than lighter body types so their concern is that with a softer mattress (with thick/soft comfort layers over the support core) that the heavier parts of his body will sag and sink down too far before being “stopped” by the firmer support core and he will be out of alignment.

People from the “old school” that think “firmer is better” generally tend to choose mattresses that are too firm and they don’t sink in enough to provide good support under the recessed curves of the body or don’t provide good pressure relief (especially for side sleepers).

People that treat mattresses as a “luxury item” rather than a utilitarian purchase that has a very specific function tend to go by “showroom feel” and “subjective comfort” and often tend to choose mattresses that feel great in a showroom but have comfort layers that are too thick and soft or support layers that are too soft to “stop” the heavier parts of the body quickly enough.

Both can lead to uneven support where the spine is out of alignment. The goal is to have comfort layers that are “just enough” and no more in terms of thickness and softness to provide good pressure relief and fill in the gaps in the sleeping profile and support layers that are firm enough to “stop” the heavier parts of the body from sinking down too far.

Just in case you haven’t read it yet I would make sure you’ve read the tutorial post here.

I would also make sure that you have done some careful and objective testing on the Cloud Luxe using the testing guidelines in the tutorial post to make sure that it’s a good match for both of you in terms of PPP (Posture and alignment, Pressure relief, and Personal preferences) and that he is in good alignment. Testing for “subjective comfort” alone has a lower chance of success than random chance (see this study).

The “best” way to choose a mattress is careful and objective testing for PPP but when you are looking at an online purchase that you can’t test in person then careful testing on a similar mattress along with more detailed conversations with a knowledgeable and experienced retailer or manufacturer that has your best interests at heart is the most effective alternative to good testing on the mattress you are considering (see mattress firmness/comfort levels in post #2 here). Depending on your confidence that a mattress is a good match for you then the return or exchange policy may also be an important part of your personal value equation and the “value” of an online purchase.


I doubt this.