How to find the best soft mattress for great sleep in 2022

Medium-firm mattresses are all the rage these days, but softer mattresses still have their place—especially if you’re experiencing uncomfortable pressure points. And since we sleep a third of our lives, getting a mattress that’s right for you is an important investment in your comfort and health.

In a past life, I was a sleep writer for another e-commerce publication and spent many hours sleeping on mattresses, learning about mattress materials and construction, and figuring out what mattresses were generally good for different people. But to help you with the purchase of a soft mattress (and indeed any mattress in general), we’ve also spoken to several other experts about how we sleep. Then we’ve rounded up top rated soft mattresses that we think you should consider in your search.

SKIP Top Rated Soft Mattresses of 2022

Should you get a soft mattress?

Why does your sleep determine how firm your mattress should be? Well, depending on your usual sleeping position, you’ll need other things besides your mattress to properly align your spine — spinal alignment is key here, I’ve learned that in my time as a sleep writer. Side sleepers, for example, need to sink their shoulders and hips further into the mattress to achieve spinal alignment, while back and stomach sleepers need to sink less – otherwise their spines arch. Side sleepers can also experience significant pressure on their shoulders and hips if their mattress is too hard, as these body parts tend to sink deeply into the mattress. This is less of a problem for back and stomach sleepers.

Heavier people (over 230 pounds, according to Sleep Foundation Editor-in-Chief Logan Foley in our Firm Mattress Guide) will sink deeper into any mattress, and heavier side sleepers may sink too far into a very soft mattress. But lighter back sleepers might feel like they’re sleeping on cement with a firm mattress, so it’s a sliding scale. But in general, heavier people might benefit from firmer mattresses than lighter people sharing the same sleeping position.

However, comfort is subjective and not always predictable – two people of the same build, height and weight can have wildly different mattress preferences. While it’s largely a matter of personal preference, comfort can be directly related to sleep health. According to Dr. Seema Khosla, medical director of the North Dakota Center for Sleep, says your sleep may be more fragmented if you experience pain or discomfort while you sleep.

“Sometimes you just hang around in a lighter sleep instead of a deeper sleep,” Khosla said.

Essentially, she said, “you can’t transition into a deeper, restorative sleep.” Therefore, it is important that you find a mattress that is comfortable for you.

How to buy a soft mattress

There is no proven formula for finding the best mattress because mattress preferences are subjective – it’s an imprecise science. I’ve learned to try as many mattresses as possible to see what feels best. Luckily, many online mattress manufacturers offer free trial periods that can last three months or longer, giving you plenty of time to break one in and see if it suits your needs.

Generally, look online for mattresses that seem to fit your preferences, then look for a minimum 90-night free trial and 10-year guarantee. Also, check if the return policies seem bothersome to you — some brands require you to donate the mattress yourself (the company doesn’t collect or ship the mattress) or that you keep the mattress for a certain number of days before returning it.

Top Rated Soft Mattresses of 2022

Using expert advice, my own expertise, and our previous research, we’ve put together a list of highly rated soft mattresses you should know about. According to our guide, every soft mattress we recommend comes with a minimum 90-day trial period and a 10-year or more guarantee.

WinkBed softer mattress

The WinkBed is available in a softer version, which the company rates at 4.5 out of 10 on its hardness scale. According to the company, the “hypersoft foam” on the top is designed to support your body while cushioning and relieving pressure, and the mattress is gel-enriched for its cooling properties. With an average star rating of 4.8 out of 5 from over 7,700 reviews, WinkBeds are 13.5 inches thick and come with a lifetime warranty and a 120-day trial period, plus free shipping. There is no restocking fee for returns.

Saatva Classic Plush soft mattress

We’ve previously featured the Saatva Classic in our firm mattress guide, but this mattress also comes in a softer version, which the company rates at 3 out of 10 on its firmness scale. According to the company, the Plush Soft has “softer foams and extra padding” on the top of the mattress compared to the Luxury Firm and Firm options. You can buy it in both 11.5 and 14.5 inch versions. Saatva offers a 180-night trial period, a 15-year warranty, and free delivery and white-glove room setup in the continental US. They charge a $99 handling fee for picking up returns. On the Saatva website, the Classic has an average rating of 4.9 stars from over 2,000 reviews.

Layla memory foam mattress

This mattress is reversible, with a softer side and a firmer side (we also featured this mattress in our firm mattress guide). While the firmer side (the darker side) listed in the Firm Mattress Guide is rated 7 out of 10 on Layla’s firmness scale, the softer side (the lighter side) is rated 4 out of 10 for firmness. It comes with free shipping in the continental US, a 120-night trial, and a lifetime warranty. Layla does not list a return handling fee. We have contacted the company to confirm. Over 7,000 Layla reviewers have given the mattress an average rating of 4.6 stars.

Helix Sunset Mattress

We featured Helix hybrid mattresses in our firm mattress guide, but that’s where we featured the Dawn, their firmest model, for both back and stomach sleepers. Helix is ​​known for its wide range of offerings: They sell soft, medium, and firm options for side sleepers and back or stomach sleepers, Luxe versions of all six of these, a Plus version for heavier people, and a two-sided version for kids. According to Helix, the Sunset is the softest version intended for side sleepers. It is 12 inches thick and includes two pillows. It comes with free US shipping, a 100-night trial, and a 10-year warranty. There are no fees for returns. If you’re a back or stomach sleeper but like a soft mattress, you might want to consider the Helix Moonlight as well. Helix reviewers gave the mattress an average rating of 4.6 stars from over 1,100 reviews.

Casper Nova hybrid mattress

As the plushest mattress from the popular Casper brand, the Nova Hybrid is 12 inches thick and features a plush topsheet, perforated foam for added cooling, zoned support to aid in spinal alignment, and coils that add support and airflow to the firm. It comes with a 100-night trial, 10-year warranty, and free shipping in the continental US and Canada. There are no fees for returns. It carries an average star rating of 4.5 from 587 reviews on the Casper website.

Tempur-Pedic Tempur-ProAdapt soft mattress

For many, Tempur-Pedic is synonymous with luxurious, slow-sinking memory foam mattresses — the company has said it uses foams originally developed by NASA. This full-foam ProAdapt is 12 inches thick, includes a soft option, and comes at a premium price. The mattress has an average rating of 4.5 stars from over 5,000 reviews on the Tempur-Pedic website. It comes with a 90-day trial period (although you might owe a $175 fee if you return it) and a 10-year warranty.

How can you tell if a mattress is soft?

We spent a lot of time driving home that firmness is subjective. So how can we tell for sure if a mattress is soft, medium firm or firm?

Well, we really can’t. When companies list mattresses with specific firmness levels, it’s relative to the other mattresses they offer and often to the mattress industry in general, as I’ve learned in this space. However, this does not mean that one person will find the same mattress as hard or soft as the next person.

But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t clear structural differences between soft and firm mattresses. In scientific terms, every mattress we recommend contains an element of polyurethane foam, and there are differences between firmer and softer foams. Foams are essentially suspensions of bubbles separated by membranes, and the size of those bubbles, membrane thickness, and chemical composition all play a big part in the foam’s strength, according to Stephen Carr, professor emeritus of materials science and engineering at Northwestern University. He told us that, in general, larger bladders and thinner membranes make for a softer, more compliant foam. The chemical formulation of the foam also plays a role – in fact, Carr gave an example of a “very stiff and crispy polyurethane foam” with large bubbles and told us it was created by changing the chemical composition of the foam.

But it is impractical for most buyers to contact manufacturers and ask for such strength marks. And in the mattress area, there are quality control issues. According to Keith Cushner, founder of mattress review site Tuck and chief marketing officer at OneCare Media, which owns several wellness publications, mattress manufacturers will even ship mattresses with slightly different specs, essentially testing different firmnesses on their unknowing customers to see which Constructions are popular for marketing purposes.

So there is a lot of uncertainty about mattress firmness. In the end, what matters is how it makes you feel.

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